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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Local Wind Turbines 4

Today's topics are the mandates and the methods.

I'll bookend this post with two views that startled me considerably when I first noticed them. These are the wind turbines that I can see from my yard!

wind turbines

Tonight I went to a forum sponsored by the local environmental group. It was a debate on the proposal that's on the Michigan ballot about wind energy. It was excellent in terms of information and respectful disagreement.

This proposal says that 25% of Michigan's energy must come from renewable sources by 2025, and it will be locked into the state Constitution so that no one can weasel out of compliance. To protect consumers, it says that rates cannot rise more than 1% per year. But there is no plan for how to do this, and the energy companies had no voice in the feasibility.

What the TV ads don't seem to bring up is that there already is a mandate in Michigan that says 10% of Michigan's energy must come from renewable sources by 2015. This plan was worked out in 2008 by a bipartisan committee with input from energy companies. Proponents of the new proposal say the switch to renewables is not happening fast enough.

Those who wrote the 2008 legislation say that the plan will be reviewed in 2015 when it expires, analyzed to determine what worked, what didn't, etc, and a new goal will be set.

I learned so much tonight (and I thought I already knew a lot about this issue) that I'm tempted to go down several bunny trails, but I realize most of you aren't nearly as interested in this as I am.

So far, the only commercially viable renewable energy source in Michigan is wind. That's why this proposal is being generally interpreted as wind turbines.

I did learn something I didn't know at all. All of the components of turbines CAN be made in Michigan. The proposal, however, does not require that this be done. Interesting, eh?

I thought this next point was true, and it was verified, that most of the traditional generation plants in the state are past (some are WAY past) their expected lifetimes, and need to be replaced. Most are coal-fired, but are likely to be replaced with natural gas. Michigan has ample natural gas (no jokes please).

Even if a lot of wind power comes on line, the regular plants will have to be replaced because they are more reliable than wind. People expect electricity whenever they want it, and what if a high-use day is also one with no wind?

Both presenters at the forum agreed that it will take about 3100 more wind towers in Michigan to reach the 25% goal. The proponent tried to make it sound like that wasn't much. He said "that will place turbines on about 6% of farmland in the state." Wait, what? That would mean that every rural county in the state would have about as many turbines as Mason County, or more. There would almost have to be some placed in Lake Michigan. There would be nowhere at all without turbines in view. Six percent of farmland is a HUGE amount of space.

OK, I think I'll stop there. Not sure if I'll continue this another day. There are things I could say, but I'm probably boring everyone not from Michigan to death.

I'm trying to avoid saying stuff that can't be demonstrated, such as significant jobs will/won't be created.

wind turbines

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Brian, CSX Loco Engineer said...

Just a belated comment about the rail transport of the parts by Marquette Rail Corp.

They have to be on the rail car so that the narrow part is facing northward. If they don't do that, they don't fit across the trust bridge over the Grand River that is about 200 to 300 feet north of Grand Rapids Amtrak station. Even then the train has to inch around the curve because it is a tight fit.

Secondary Roads said...

That 6% of nearly 10 million acres of Michigan farmland is more than 930 square miles. As you say, that's a huge impact.

FWIW, 62.7 M acres comprise Michigan.

spinninglovelydays said...

I thought I knew a lot about alternative energy resources from reading a Time Magazine special edition on this topic about a decade ago; I don't know why I can't come up with an intelligent comment about it, lol... Those turbines bring to mind parts of Don Quijote (when he thought the windmills were giants and he fought them). I bring it up hoping that alluding to a literary classic will make this comment less ditsy, hehe. Also that, seeing its length, others will think I contributed something of value, :D. I hope you're well, Joan! Glad to read in FB that Steve's okay after Sandy. :)

Ann said...

I can't imagine 6% of farmland being filled with those turbines. What a way to spoil the country side.

Sharkbytes said...

Brian! I am tickled that you found this blog post, and gave us another piece of information. I hope you are one of the engineers that has taken trains past my house, and that I've waved to you. I'm a serious railfan.

Chuck- Thanks for figuring that out. It's WAY too heavy use.

Hi Ivy- it's nice to see you again. Hope your life is lightening up a bit.

Ann- They really make a big impact.

Carolyn said...

I'm not from Michigan but am very interested in the topic, would enjoy as many posts as you care to write! Thanks for a great blog!
Carolyn (in Rhode Island)

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