Wind And Solar Boom In The “Great Lakes” State

State Economy

The population of the “Great Lakes State”, Michigan is approximately 9.99 million people[1]. Michigan is the 10th most populated state in the United States.

In 2020, Michigan’s economy was ranked 14th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the automobile, aerospace, cybersecurity, agriculture, and tourism industries[3].

Environment Policies

In 2008, Michigan enacted a mandatory Renewable Energy Standard that all utilities sell 15% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2021[4].

In 2016, Michigan established a renewable energy goal that all utilities sell 35% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2035.

In May 2021, utilities[5] used coal (36.9 %), nuclear power (30.9 %), natural gas (19.4 %), and renewable energy (12.8 %) to generate electricity in Michigan. Wind, hydropower, and biomass are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in the state.

Michigan’s use of expensive coal and nuclear power contributes to the state’s above average cost of electricity. In May 2021, the average cost of residential electricity in Michigan was 17.69 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 13.71 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Michigan include:

  • 5 MW Wind Project – In April 2021, Michigan electric service company, DTE Energy commissioned the Isabella I and Isabella II Wind project at a site approximately 75 miles north of the state capital, Lansing.
  • 200 MW Solar Project – In September 2021, Illinois power company, Invenergy commenced work on the Calhoun Solar project at a site approximately 50 miles southwest of Lansing. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2022.
  • 168 MW Wind Project – In April 2020, DTE Energy commissioned the Polaris Wind project at a site approximately 40 miles north of Lansing.
  • 150 MW Wind Project – In December 2020, Michigan utility, Consumers Energy commissioned the Gratiot Farms Wind project at a site approximately 50 miles north of Lansing.
  • 79 MW Solar Project – Illinois solar company, Ranger Power is continuing work on the Assembly Solar III project at a site approximately 40 miles northeast of Lansing. The solar project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2021.
  • 72 MW Wind Project – In April 2021, DTE Energy commissioned the Fairbanks Wind project at a site approximately 250 miles northwest of Lansing.
  • 72 MW Solar Projects – In August 2021, California solar company, Borrego commenced work on three solar projects in the state which will have a total capacity of 72 MW. The projects are scheduled to be commissioned in 2022.
  • 20 MW Solar Project – In June 2021, British utility National Grid commissioned the Bingham Solar project at a site approximately 15 miles north of Lansing.
  • 20 MW Solar Project – In June 2021, National Grid commissioned the Temperance Solar project at a site approximately 75 miles southeast of Lansing.
  • 20 MW Solar Project – In December 2020, Consumers Energy Grid commissioned the Bingham Solar project at a site approximately 25 miles southwest of Detroit.
  • State Renewable Energy Project – In April 2021, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that all State of Michigan office buildings and facilities will run on renewable energy by 2025.

Conclusions

Commercial coal mining began in Michigan in 1859[6] at a site approximately 35 miles south of Lansing. Coal was initially used to fuel steam engines for the railroad, forges, and furnaces.

Michigan’s last commercial coal mine[7] closed in 1952. Most of the coal used to fuel Michigan’s power plants is now brought by rail from Wyoming and Montana.

In 2010, 58.7 % of Michigan’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[8]. In May 2021, 36.9 % of Michigan’s electricity was generated from coal. Why the decrease?

  1. Economics The cost to generate power from wind, solar, and hydropower is significantly cheaper than coal. The cost to generate power from coal-fired plants is over twice the cost of wind or solar.
  2. EnvironmentCoal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was reported to have contaminated the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[9].
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 40% to 45% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

Michigan utilities have been slow to abandon the use of coal. Michigan utility, Consumer Energy has stated it doesn’t plan to close the utility’s five coal-fired power plants until 2040.

Michigan’s utilities will barely meet the state’s mandated Renewable Energy Standard of selling 15% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2021.

The compelling economics of low cost, reliable renewable energy has created a wind and solar construction boom in Michigan. The “Great Lakes” State is now cooling on coal.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

[1] Michigan Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Michigan  – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Michigan State Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

[6] U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement

[7] Michigan State University, History of Coal Mining In Michigan

[8] U.S. Energy Information Agency, Michigan Electric Power Consumption Estimates 1960 – 2018

[9] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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