Search results for 'wind farms'

Tax Change On Wind Farms Will Shift Millions.

30 Dec 2011

Photo credit: Barrie Barber | The Saginaw News

Wind turbines are considered industrial personal property and are taxed on their market value.  Formerly, each turbine’s Michigan tax liability was based on 100% of its value for the first year and depreciated over 15 years until bottoming out at 30%.  A few weeks ago, the State Tax Commission adopted a new set of equations for determining the value of personal property and turbines are now taxed at 80% in the first year and then drop to 30% within five years.

While good for wind farm owners and operators, the loss of tax revenue may be significant in counties where large wind farms are under development.  According to an article from Capital News Service by Sam Inglot, in Mason County, construction has begun on Consumers Energy’s first wind park. The Lake Winds Energy Park will have 56 turbines and is set to begin generating power in 2013.  The tax change will result in a loss of $7.8 million in once-anticipated tax revenues for the county over 20 years.  The county had expected to generate $29 million over that period.


Study Highlights Pros and Cons of Offshore Wind Farms in MI.

9 Jun 2011


Horns Rev in Denmark - the second largest offshore wind farm in the world.

Yesterday Grand Valley State University’s West Michigan Wind Assessment group released a study about the social issues related to offshore wind, including public acceptance, visibility, noise and tourism.  Here are some of the study’s conclusions that I found interesting:

  • Location.  Locating turbines offshore (rather than on land) offers several important benefits, as well as some significant drawbacks.  Benefits: (i) winds tend to blow harder and more consistently offshore, (ii) offshore turbines can be established closer to large cities, reducing power transmission issues, and (iii) offshore turbines can be larger and rotate faster than land-based models (in part because noise is less of an issue).  Drawbacks: (i) construction costs are much higher for offshore turbines due to the need for elaborate foundations, and (ii) public opposition ranging from economic concerns to aesthetics.
  • Visibility.  Offshore wind farms on Lake Michigan would likely be visible from the shore since the cost of current offshore wind technology limits the placement of turbines to waters less than 100 feet in depth and the Lake’s water get deep pretty close to shore.  How visible?  Assuming the turbines would be located just beyond a six-mile buffer from shore, the group concludes that the turbines would only be visible on clear days, roughly two-thirds of the time or less.
  • Noise.  Although sounds can reflect off water and extend farther than similar sounds on land, the group concludes that the sound of the turbines would be inaudible above background noise at a distance of six-miles from shore.
  • Tourism.  The study concludes that it is difficult to determine the impact, if any, that the turbines would have on tourism.  Some people would avoid a beach with a nearby offshore wind farm; however, some people would seek them out.  The group believes that there is no evidence that existing offshore wind farms in Europe support or hinder tourism.

As we have blogged about before, we all say we want alternative energy, but when push comes to shove does that change when it is in our backyard (or as Arthur pointed out, NIMBY becomes NIML when it comes to windmills)?  That’s the million dollar question.  Hopefully armed with more information from studies like this one, it will open up a discussion about whether offshore wind energy is appropriate for Michigan and the Great Lakes.

John Deere to open 3 large wind farms in Michigan.

29 Jun 2010

Some wind turbine blades measure over 150 feet long (half the length of a football field). Photo credit: f_shields at Flickr.

John Deere Wind Energy announced on Friday that it plans to open three new wind farms in Michigan — two of which will be the largest in the State. The new projects, to be located in Lenawee County, Sanilac County, and Huron County, are expected to increase the State’s wind power capacity by 61% to 374 megawatts (enough to generate electricity for more than 84,000 households).

John Deere’s announcement is a huge boost for wind energy in Michigan; however, the real key is who is producing the wind turbines (each of which contains over 8,000 parts). As the auto industry recovers, it is critical for Michigan manufacturing companies to tap into the renewable energy industry since there is no state in the country better at manufacturing than Michigan.

We are already seeing examples of innovation and diversification. Former suppliers of automotive parts are now making gear boxes and other components for wind turbines. A fiberglass boat manufacturer in Holland is now producing fiber composite commercial-sized wind turbine blades. Hopefully Michigan can establish itself as the wind turbine hub of North America since our economy would sure benefit from having every one of those 8,000 parts manufactured right here in the State.

Big news for big wind

24 Apr 2012

The American Wind Energy Association has ranked Michigan 7th in wind energy jobs and notes that Michigan is in the process of almost doubling its existing wind projects (unfortunately, right now, that only amounts to less than 1% of Michigan’s energy usage).  In the last week,  DTE also announced yet another wind farm.

Last month, the Obama administration and five states (including  Michigan) announced an agreement to begin the process of speeding up  plans for offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes.  The deal is designed to allow state and federal agencies to develop a blueprint to speed regulatory review of proposed wind farms without sacrificing environmental and safety standards.

And then, last week, word was published in publications ranging from the liberal Daily Kos to the Wall Street Journal that Grand Valley State and Michigan Tech were seeking investors to help fund an effort to develop and study floating wind turbines in the Great Lakes.  These turbines would be out of sight of shore to avoid the NIMBY problems that have opposed previously discussed wind farms here and around the country.

Reportedly, the US and UK are working on similar issues to help England (and the US) with wind energy development.

It is certainly an exciting time to be in the wind field.


What did you see on your spring break? 4,000 wind turbines.

4 Mar 2012

Last month, my family and I took a trip to Palm Desert, California.  As we approached, we were surprised by a sight I was totally unaware of – the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm was developed beginning in the 1980s and is one of three major wind farms in California.  Reportedly, the San Gorgonio Pass is one of the windiest places in Southern California.

This wind farm is located in the San Bernadino Mountains and has more than 4,000 separate wind turbines (4,000!) and provides enough electricity to power Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley.  This farm has different types of wind turbine structures which, given its age, I suspect have evolved over time.

Apparently, you can tour the wind farm and while we got some amazing views from the road, I think I will have to put this on my to-do list for next time!

Wind Farm vs Eagles?

9 Jan 2012

Golden Eagle

No energy source is without some negative effects.  There are a number of sources raising concerns  regarding the placement of wind farms and injuries to birds and bats.  Some states, like New York, require this be addressed as part of siting , but not all do.  As this is largely a local or state issue, the federal government doesn’t usually get involved.

However, I was surprised by a recent US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Draft Assessment that would allow the deaths of up to three golden eagles over a five year period, provided that the wind farm developer take steps to foster eagle reproduction to replace those killed.  The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. § 668a, prohibits the “taking” of an eagle (including killing, harassing, or disturbing, the birds or their nests) unless affirmative permitted by the USFWS.

While the Golden Eagle is more rare in Michigan, this past summer, the USFWS estimated that there are more than 1400 Bald Eagles in the State, so this is not a hypothetical concern here as wind becomes the primary focus for utilities trying to meet the State’s Renewable Energy Standard law.

Gratiot County to be home to Michigan’s largest wind farm.

14 Jul 2011

Some wind turbine blades measure over 150 feet long (half the length of a football field). Photo credit: f_shields at Flickr.

In a few weeks, construction is set to begin on the installation of 133 wind turbines in Gratiot County. The 328-foot-tall turbines (reaching 464 feet from the ground when the rotors extend vertically) will be spread across farmland in four townships. The wind farm is expected to produce 200 megawatts of electricity starting in 2012, which will power more than 50,000 homes. As a comparison, Michigan’s other wind farms currently generate only 164 megawatts of electricity combined (103 turbines currently operate statewide). DTE Energy has signed a 20-year lease to purchase $1.1 billion worth of electricity from the farm.

So why building a wind farm in the middle of the lower peninsula and not the touted hot spots in the Thumb or the shores of Lake Michigan? There are actually a number of good reasons. First, the area has flat terrain, few trees, and plenty of good, strong steady wind. Second, the county and its 16 townships created and passed a uniform county-wide zoning ordinance for the development of wind farms saving developers time and money from having to jump through different hoops in each township. Finally, unlike the Thumb, transmission lines in the area have plenty of capacity to carry electricity from the county to southeast Michigan (and that’s where the electricity generated from the turbines will be sent).

The Gratiot County project will be a huge boost for the local economy and municipalities. According to this Free Press article, the wind farm will pay more in taxes in its first year of operation than the county’s 10 biggest taxpayers combined. The farm will also generate millions of dollars in lease payments for landowners.

The wind farm is a major boost for wind energy in Michigan and Gratiot County’s economy. The farm is not only a nice cash crop for local farmers, but it will also provide rural communities and school districts with little industrial tax base with much needed cash. Seems like a win-win.