2 wind energy parks open across Michigan

Michigan’s two largest utilities opened sprawling wind energy parks in the last month that will play a crucial role in helping the companies meet the state’s renewable energy requirements.

Detroit-based DTE Energy opened a 110-megawatt wind park in Michigan’s Thumb on Friday, while Jackson-based Consumers Energy opened a 100-megawatt wind park south of Ludington on Thanksgiving Day.

The companies are racing to meet Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, a 2008 law that requires all utilities to generate at least 10% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015. Michigan voters in November rejected a ballot proposal that would have required utilities to get 25% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

With those turbines spinning, DTE and CMS now generate about 7% of their electricity from renewable sources, officials said.

DTE and CMS said they are confident they’ll meet the 2015 targets.

DTE started operating its newest clean energy generator, the Thumb Wind Park in Huron and Sanilac counties, on Friday. The park’s 69 turbines are spread out among 15,000 leased acres of farmland in Bloomfield, McKinley, Sigel, Minden and Delaware townships. It’s the first wind park the utility has constructed itself.

The company said it also plans to open the Echo Wind Park on 16,000 acres in Oliver and Chandler townships in late 2013.

Collectively, DTE is spending about $500 million to construct the two wind parks, spokesman Scott Simons said.

“This project certainly puts us on our way to meeting the state’s renewable energy goals,” Simons said. “Not only does renewable energy give us the diversity in our generation portfolio, but it’s also very good for the environment.”

CMS completed its 56-turbine Lake Winds Energy Park on 16,000 acres of leased parcels in Riverton and Summit townships in Mason County. The $235-million park, which finished construction in September and is owned by CMS, opened Nov. 22.

The company is also requesting state permits to begin constructing a 150-megawatt wind park in Tuscola County in Michigan’s Thumb.

“It’s still the early days there, but the project’s on schedule to start serving customers in 2015,” CMS spokesman Jeff Holyfield said. “We’ve got an aggressive plan in place to meet the 10% standard in 2015.”

Wind turbines, which spin a generator to create electricity and feed it back into the grid, will provide most of DTE’s renewable energy. The company said it would use wind energy to get about 800 to 900 of its 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy. Biomass, solar and landfill gas will help provide the rest.

Drivers navigating the rural public roads that twist through wind parks are often surprised by the fact that the turbines are not clumped together.

“One of the reasons for that is to provide as little disruption to the landowners and their neighbors as possible,” Simons said.