Wind Energy Solutions In Michigan

In 2008, Michigan passed a Renewable Portfolio Standard in hopes that it will help the State make major advances in renewable energy development over the next decade. This requires electric utilities to have generated at least ten percent of their energy from renewable sources or negotiate tradable renewable energy certificates by 2015.  So let’s see if they’ve managed that through, for example, wind energy solutions in Michigan.

In order to accomplish this, research was and is still going to be needed to find new sources of energy. One source that has been recently proposed and can be easily accessed is wind energy. With the development of wind energy, Michigan has the capability to create jobs, help boost the economy and become the leader in renewable energy.

There are two kinds of wind energy, onshore and offshore wind energy. Onshore wind energy is hard to generate due to the constant changes in the wind and tends to be not efficient. For example, some days are not as windy as others. Wind in the summer sun tends to be almost non-existent in Michigan, causing the turbines not to produce energy to its maximum capacity. This will cause people to end up paying more for their electricity.

But offshore wind energy has been documented to be more efficient. Winds tend to blow harder and more consistently over water than compared to land. Constructing turbines in the water would enable the turbines to produce energy at its maximum capacity. It would also be more convenient to place turbines next to cities on the coast, which would help in decreasing transmission issues.

Michigan happens to be in a very convenient location. It is surrounded by the Great Lakes, which can provide a consistent source of wind. This makes the Great Lakes the perfect place to develop offshore wind energy farms. Currently, Michigan produces nearly 60% of its energy from coal and about 25% from nuclear power. If we are to meet the standards set by 2020, offshore wind energy development seems like an easy and convenient way to help get there.

The Michigan Great Lakes Wind Council was established in 2009 to examine the Great Lakes for offshore wind energy development. The 29 council members were appointed by the Governor. In September 2009, the council came up with its first report. It identified almost two dozen criteria to identify the least and most desirable areas in the Great Lakes area. In October, the Governor told the council to go on with its work and identify and map out potential areas to lease for wind energy developments and gather data on public opinions concerning wind energy development.

It also extended the council’s service through 2010. In October 2011, the council’s definitive report was submitted that stated around one-third the almost 40,000 square miles of Michigan-owned bottomlands of the Great Lakes can be considered favorable for the sustainable development of wind energy. The council stated that new digital marketing technologies would be needed to convince the public of the necessary steps towards acceptance of the projects.

The council identified 5 main WRA’s (Wind Resource Areas): northern Lake Michigan, southern Lake Michigan, central Lake Superior, southern Lake Huron, and central Lake Huron. The final part of the report stated rules and guidelines that should be followed regarding the activities of wind energy development in the Great Lakes. The projects are expected to add a considerable number of new jobs to the Michigan employment market, most jobs that require at least a high school diploma.

Permitting of wind energy development on the Great Lakes is not an easy task and can take many years. Permitting would involve at least five federal agencies and three state agencies like the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Conflicts would arise between agencies on who can regulate what. Currently, there are no guidelines for offshore wind development leases. The Council did make policy recommendations for developing wind energy. They recommended that the state collect rent and royalties from wind projects, similar to oil and gas leasing on public lands.

When comparing Michigan to other states and locations across the world, Michigan is far behind. Texas currently produces the most wind energy than any other state. Michigan only has five turbines and one currently under construction. If Michigan is to start generating wind energy there are two places they can look for help. One is Denmark and the other is Cape Wind. Denmark currently has three huge wind farms and Cape Wind is the first place approved in North America to develop a wind farm. So it’s time for some fresh and new initiatives.

Before the development of wind energy farms, the government has to take public opinion into account. Studies have shown that citizens are more concerned with onshore wind farms then offshore wind farms. Citizens are also concerned that turbines could cause too much noise and ruin the aesthetic features like coastal areas. Research has shown though that if turbines are placed six miles or further from the coast then the noise would not be heard and the turbines would only be able to be seen on a very clear day. People tend to be more supportive of wind farms after they are constructed and realize the wind farms are not as bad as first thought.

In conclusion, wind energy development can be easily achieved, more specifically offshore wind energy. More research is needed before construction can begin but Michigan has taken the right steps, in the right direction. The technology is already available to start generating wind energy in the Great Lakes. Public opinion toward wind farms needs to be taken into consideration. Currently, residents are split on the issue and are especially concerned with the beauty of the Great Lakes being maintained. Also, there is still no permitting process that has been approved for leasing lands. In the long run, these farms can produce thousands of jobs and help Michigan become a leader in renewable energy.