wind energy

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Lansing is turning to a new source for its electric power.

"Thank you all for joining us on this breezy, lovely day in downtown Lansing…perfect for the announcement that we’re here to make," [Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero joked, as high winds spun three small scale wind turbines on the plaza in front of Lansing city hall.    The turbines are part of a one year trial.

John DeGray is with Windstream Technologies, an Indiana company developing  small corkscrew shaped wind turbines for residential and business use.

The Glosten Associates

One major investor could make all the difference for a group hoping to test a prototype of a floating offshore wind farm in the Great Lakes. The group needs about $3 million to apply for a federal matching grant to support testing the floating wind farm concept.

Mike Perini / Michigan Radio

Winds whipping across the state yesterday with gusts of up to 55 mph brought down big trees and downed power lines.

The Associated Press reports the winds caused the death of a women in Van Buren County when a tree hit her van.

And the Lansing State Journal reports on an injury to a second grader:

Strong winds knocked a tree down onto a second-grader during recess at DeWitt’s Schavey Road Elementary Monday, school officials confirmed today.The student was taken to the hospital and is recovering, said Superintendent John Deiter.

Today, crews are working to bring power back to homes and businesses. An estimated 38,000 customers are without power.

More from the Associated Press:

DTE Energy Co. says that about 31,000 of its 106,000 electrical customers that lost power due to Monday's winds are without service early Tuesday. And CMS Energy Corp. says that about 7,000 of its
96,000 affected Consumers Energy customers are powerless as of Tuesday morning.

The winds caused the death of a woman when a tree hit her van in Van Buren County's Bloomingdale Township.


Today's real-time Wind Map is showing some strong northeasterly winds flowing across Michigan's Lower Peninsula, and southeasterly winds across the U.P.

There's a gale warning in effect until midnight in the open water forecast for Lake Michigan where waves of 8 to 12 feet are a possible. The map above is showing waves of around 9 to 10 feet.

The Associated Press reports on winds gusts topping 50 mph in parts of the state "knocking down some trees and threatening the possibility of other damage."

The National Weather Service issued wind advisories for the Lower Peninsula and parts of the Upper Peninsula. Temperatures were expected to drop in northern Michigan, bringing with it the possibility of snow and ice. Snow accumulations of a few inches are possible in the western Upper Peninsula.

The Grand Rapids Press reports on power outages in West Michigan:

More than 10,300 Consumers Energy customers in West Michigan are without power this afternoon because of strong winds, according to a spokesman for the utility.

And the winds coming off of Lake Michigan near Ludington caused damage. The Ludington Daily News reported on power outages with winds that gusted to 49 mph.

Consumers Energy reported 116 customers without power in Mason County and 236 customers without power in Oceana County. Consumers Energy spokesman Tim Pietryga said there were about 5,600 customers without power at 9 a.m. today, most of them along Lake Michigan.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees has approved a plan that will increase the East Lansing campus’ reliance on renewable energy sources.

The plan approved this morning will require MSU to get 40 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and other alternative energy sources by 2030. Renewables account for about two percent of MSU’s power right now.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan State University is in the midst of a debate over how much the school  can rely on alternative energy sources to power its East Lansing campus.   

The university’s Board of Trustees meets Friday to vote on an energy plan for MSU. 

Earlier this week, MSU students used a giant inflatable inhaler to dramatize their concerns about the university’s large coal fired power plant located just south of campus. 

The students want MSU to commit to turning completely to wind, solar and other alternative energy sources for the university’s electricity needs.

screencap of Michigan's current surface winds /

Looking for a strong visual argument for the untapped potential of wind power in the Great Lakes? Wondering why it's been rather blustery the last few days?

NPR science correspondent and Radiolab co-host Robert Krulwich might have found just the thing you're looking for (or at least something guaranteed to keep you mesmerized by your internet browser for a while).

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Wednesday state regulators and researchers will head about 35 miles west of Muskegon, near the Michigan-Wisconsin border in Lake Michigan. There they’ll survey the bottom of Lake Michigan to make sure there are no historic artifacts in the way when a floating research platform drops anchor there (likely) later this week.

Arn Boezaart heads the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center. Last year the center operated the buoy only 4 miles offshore. This year it’ll collect first of its kind data that’ll likely determine whether an offshore wind farm is viable in the middle of Lake Michigan.

Boezaart says there was a lot more interest in offshore wind data when the project began two-and-a-half years ago.

“The times have changed, the political winds have changed. So we’re just minding our business and going forward with the research work that we’re charged to do," Boeazart said. “We’ll let other people figure out how the public policy questions and politics of this play out.”

Mariusz Paździora / wikimedia commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Federal officials say a deal to speed up consideration of proposed offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes should cut red tape and open the way for more clean energy production.

Officials announced the agreement Friday between the federal government and Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania.

There are no wind turbines in the Great Lakes now. But one project is in the works for Lake Erie.

Nancy Sutley of the White House Council on Environmental Quality said there's "tremendous" potential for wind energy development in the region. She said it's hard to know when other offshore wind proposals may arise, but government agencies should have an efficient system in place to evaluate them.

Photo by Bob Allen/Interlochen Public Radio

by Bob Allen for The Environment Report

Big wind farms generate not just power but a lot of controversy. There’s been quite a debate in northern Michigan recently about the effects on safety, health, property values and the landscape. Smaller scale projects called community wind are designed to avoid those criticisms. But there are still roadblocks.

Northport is a picturesque village that sits near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. For the past two years, a group of residents there, mostly retirees, has been working to put up one small wind turbine.

Doug McInnis says the opportunity just about fell into their laps.

“There was this unique spot. There was a hill. And it’s near right where you want to put the energy. We’re right near a substation. I mean all these things come together and it just says, hey, this is a natural.”

The village owns the hill that rises just behind its new sewage treatment plant. From the hilltop, the turbine will supply half the electricity for the plant. It will be a fraction of the size of new commercial turbines.

State maps show that Leelanau Township has the best sites for wind energy in the Lower Peninsula.

McInnis says the group wants to do something now that will benefit their community for years to come.

“People are concerned about the future generations. And if we don’t start thinking and moving in other directions I don’t know what’s going to happen. It ain’t gonna be good.”

When President Obama talked to the nation this week, he pointed out a guy from Michigan in the audience.

“When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried at 55, no one would give him a second chance. But he found work at Energetx a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession the factory only made luxury yachts. Today it’s hiring workers like Bryan who said I’m proud to be working in the industry of the future.”

Last spring, Energetx Composites expected to increase its workforce from 40 employees to 300 sometime in 2012. We wanted to check in to see how things are going.

Chris Idema works in business development for the Holland-based company.

“You know, I can’t really comment on a specific number but we are definitely in growth mode right now, we are hiring and we expect to do so over the next several months.”

He says the biggest obstacle to his company’s growth is uncertainty in the market. Idema points to a federal tax credit that he says gives the wind industry some stability. That credit expires at the end of this year. It’s not clear what Congress will do about it.

Consumers Energy /

Consumers Energy is wrapping up the initial phase of its first wind farm. Construction of the 100 mega-watt farm began last fall. Consumers plans to have the wind farm operating by the end of this year.

The project is known as the Lake Winds Energy Park. Since construction began last fall, workers have built about half of the large bases for 58 utility sized wind turbines.

user vaxomatic / flickr

A coalition of business, labor and agriculture groups is backing a ballot campaign to boost the state’s renewable energy mandate.

Michigan utilities are already required to get 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2015. The proposed constitutional amendment would boost that to 25 percent, by 2025.

"There’s 20 other states that include and Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa that have already adopted measures similar to the initiative, without significant increase in utility costs for consumers," said campaign spokesman Mark Fisk.

A spokesman for DTE Energy says it would be difficult to comply with the 25 percent mandate without a significant increase in rates. The proposed ballot language says utilities could not increase rates by more than one percent a year to comply with the mandate.

A state elections board is expected to decide whether to approve the ballot language this week.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

An 8-ton research buoy that’s been floating around Lake Michigan collecting detailed data about wind conditions offshore has been brought back on land for the winter.  With the mild winter the buoy stayed about four miles offshore for twice as long as researchers expected; 58 days instead of 30. 

Turning data over to researchers

Arn Boezaart heads the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center that’s operating the buoy from Muskegon. He’s been able to see 10 minute averages of wind conditions in real time. But now that the buoy is back on land, he’s got data cards with wind data for every second the buoy was out there; plus data on bats and birds that flew by.

 “I literally keep looking at this plastic bag in my brief case with this data card sitting in it and thinking ‘people don’t realize how valuable this is,” Boezaart said. “I sort of feel like I’m carrying gold bars in my case here. This is really first of its kind data.”

Wind power could feature prominently in Michigan energy production if voters amend the state constitution to include a new renewable energy standard.
cwwycoff1 / flickr

Consumers Energy will take a big leap toward meeting the state’s renewable energy mandate next year.

State law requires utilities to get ten percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

Consumers Energy spokesman Dan Bishop says the utility will build 56 wind turbines in Mason County.  The project is called Lake Wind Energy Park.

"When Lake Winds begins producing electrons late next year in 2012, we will move from 5 percent to 8 percent, heading us towards the 10 percent requirement of Michigan’s law," says Bishop.


Muskegon County has reached an agreement with developers to build a large-scale wind farm at its waste water treatment plant. The 11,000 acre site sits less than 15 miles away from the Lake Michigan shoreline. The county also rotates growing corn, soybeans and alfalfa on the land. This week the county board agreed to lease the plot to add wind farming to the mix.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

An eight ton research buoy is out gathering wind data in Lake Michigan. The $1.3 million buoy launched in Muskegon Friday will collect detailed wind data over the next ten years.

Chris Hart is an Offshore Wind Manager at the U.S. Department of Energy.  He says there’s only three of these high tech bouys in the world. This was the first one launched in the United States. He says the data will be more detailed than anything they have now.

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By Bob Allen for The Environment Report

Officials in Mason County have given the green light to the first large scale wind farm near the Lake Michigan shore. Consumers Energy wants to have fifty-six turbines built and running before the end of next year. But some residents say in its rush to get going Consumers and the County are downplaying a serious threat to public safety.

Natural gas pipelines run through the site of Consumers Energy’s wind park south of Ludington.

A group of residents says at least half a dozen of the windmills are within falling distance of a gas line. And they say if a turbine falls it could cause a pipeline to break with the risk of an explosion.

Jeff Kubina / flickr

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, is in Michigan today. She’s visiting for a ribbon cutting at Ventower Industries in Monroe. It’s a company that will be making towers for wind turbines.

The Monroe facility will serve as Ventower's main U.S. operation.

35 employees will start work this week, and as many as 300 could eventually work there.

Scott Viciana is the company’s vice president. He says the plant is built on the site of a former industrial landfill.  So first, they had to clean up the land.

“We stumbled across less (sic) concerns in the end than we thought potentially we could.”

Ventower got state and federal tax credits to clean up the brownfield site.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says that makes it a double win for the environment.

"What we see here today is a return to use. A return to use for a site that will preserve green space, but also support a clean energy economy."

Ventower officials say the Monroe site is ideal because it can ship parts by road, rail, and a Great Lakes port.

Residents in Manistee and Benzie counties are receiving surveys in the mail this week. The survey will ask questions about wind energy.

Christie Manning is a visiting professor at Macalester College in Minnesota. She’s supervising the survey.

“To understand what it is about wind energy development that creates a sense of pro or anti in individuals; what are the various factors that tip a person to feel one way or the other?”

Township officials will use the survey results to help them with future zoning decisions.

There’s also an online version of the survey that’s available to anyone who lives in Michigan.

Photo by Suzy Vuljevic

There’s been a lot of outside interest in Michigan’s coastal wind supply. There have been multiple proposals for land-based wind farms in Michigan. But only a couple of companies have set their sights offshore.

One company in particular has met some tough opposition.

Scandia Wind came to Michigan last year looking to install 50 to 100 wind turbines in Lake Michigan. They had plans to site a wind farm six miles outside of Mason and Oceana counties.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The recession forced many small manufacturers to find new products to make in an attempt to survive.  That was particularly true throughout the industrial Midwest. One Michigan yacht manufacturer is taking risks in new industries to keep its factory open and employees on the job.

warrenski / Creative Commons

The City of Holland is buying the option to lease more land it wants to use for a wind farm. City Council approved the lease agreements Wednesday night to spend $40,000 for roughly 860 acres of land south of Holland. The area has been identified as one of the best in the state for wind energy potential.

The city has been collecting more detailed wind data since last fall. If everything goes smoothly, Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra says wind turbines could begin to go up as soon as next year.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder is honoring a West Michigan company for diversifying its business. Snyder presented Energetx Composites with his first “Reinventing Michigan” award. The award is part of a campaign promise to highlight more business success stories in the state.  

Energetx is a spin-off of Tiara Yachts. Luxury boats sales crashed during the recession.  In 2008 the company realized they could use the same strong but light-weight material used to make yachts to make other things, particularly parts for wind turbines. 

Business owners and politicians are trying to figure out how to make Michigan a manufacturing hub for things like advanced batteries, wind turbines, and solar panels.

They’re gathering at the Clean Energy Manufacturing Workshop in Ann Arbor today and tomorrow. The workshop is being put on by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy along with Ann Arbor SPARK.

Steven Busch will be paying pretty close attention.

He’s with Energetx Composites Company in Holland. It’s a spin-off company of Tiara Yacht. Before the economy went south, their main business was building high end yachts. Now, they make blades for wind turbines.

“The basic manufacturing process is very similar. We have the expertise on how to handle large, big, bulky things.”

He says they’re planning to stay in Michigan.

“Michigan offers the best engineering and manufacturing skill set probably in the world. Geographically, the Great Lakes are a great opportunity as a place to be able to ship products over the water.”

Busch says he’d like to see more training programs at universities and community colleges – and more retraining programs for former auto workers who want to get into the business.

Michigan’s thumb region will soon be dotted with new wind farms.  DTE Energy says the project will cost about $225 million.

The 50 wind turbines to be built in Huron and Sanilac counties should generate enough energy to power about 100,000 homes.

DTE's Scott Simons says while two West Michigan lawmakers recently opposed building  wind farms in the Great Lakes, the Thumb plan has Lansing’s stamp of approval.

"I would think the legislature is behind these kinds of projects, and we're going full steam ahead toward meeting the renewable energy goals that have been set by the Legislature," Simons says.

 DTE customers will pay for the wind farms with a small surcharge on their monthly bills.

Phault / Creative Commons

A bill introduced in the state house would ban wind farms in the Michigan’s portions of the Great Lakes.

The bill was co-signed by Republican State Representative Jon Bumstead. His district includes communities along the Lake Michigan shore, north of Muskegon.

Wind energy takes off in Michigan

Mar 21, 2011
user eXtension Ag Energy / flickr

Rick Wilson, the project manager for Heritage Sustainable Energy, is our guest this week as our “What’s Working” series continues. Based in Traverse City, Heritage Sustainable Energy is a wind power company that has been managing the installation of wind turbines in both the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan. Heritage is in the process of installing and expanding wind farms in the state, and is already producing roughly 40 megawatts of power.

warrenski / Creative Commons

There’s been a lot of talk in West Michigan lately about how wind power could boost the region’s economy. The area, particularly along the Lake Michigan shore, could be home to several potential wind projects.