Producing clean, renewable energy is nothing new at Consumers Energy.
Expanding renewable energy is part of Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan, a comprehensive plan to meet the energy needs of customers for the next 20 years.
Environmentally friendly and naturally replenished, renewable energy is produced by resources such as wind, biomass, biogas, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric plants.
In 2014, Consumers Energy supplied about 8 percent of its electric sales from renewable resources. Wind energy, hydroelectric and waste wood make up the bulk of our renewable energy portfolio, while solar and biogas also are included in the mix.
Lake Winds ® Energy Park
Consumers Energy began operating Mason County's 100.6 MW Lake Winds® Energy Park at the end of 2012. Consumers Energy received approval of its Special Land Use Permit with Mason County for the wind farm in 2011.
Cross Winds ® Energy Park
At the end of 2014, Consumers Energy began operating its second utility owned farm, the 111 MW Cross Winds® Energy Park. The wind farm is located in Akron and Columbia Townships, in the heart of Michigan’s Thumb in Tuscola County. More than $100 million of the $250 million total investment was directed to Michigan-based vendors or suppliers.
Consumers Energy’s new wind energy supplies represented an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in Michigan’s infrastructure. The new wind farm facilities also create thousands of dollars in new tax revenue for the areas where they are located along with other economic benefits.
Renewable Energy Pioneer
Electric power was pioneered in Michigan along its idyllic rivers, and today we continue to operate 13 hydroelectric plants on five waterways. Built between 1906 and 1935, these historic and consistent contributors helped pioneer renewable energy in Michigan. With a combined generating capacity of about 130 megawatts, they can serve about 70,000 people.
Consumers Energy supports customers’ desire for renewable energy with several programs. Currently the company’s standard supply service provides customers with electricity that meets Michigan’s 10 percent renewable portfolio standard. The program is more fully described in our Renewable Energy Plan.
- 2005: The Green Generation program (also called the Renewable Resources program or “RRP”) facilitates the purchase of renewable energy by voluntary contributions from customers who enroll in the program. In 2014, 78 percent of the renewable energy supply in this voluntary program came from wind generation and 22 percent was from biogas sources.
- Established a Net Metering program that allows interconnected customers to self-generate renewable energy and “store” that energy for their own energy use at a later time.
- Launched a feed-in-tariff program (Experimental Advanced Renewable Program or “EARP”) that provides long-term premium fixed priced contracts with customers interested in generating electricity with photo voltaic (solar) technology or closed cycle anaerobic digestion technology.
- 2014: Proposed a Solar Garden Program where customers subscribe to the solar energy program and receive bill credits for the energy produced.
Customers have the option to self-generate electricity with generators located on their own property, either in isolation of the company’s distribution system or, with a generator interconnection and operation agreement (“GIOA”), in parallel with the company’s distribution system.
To date, the Net Metering program and the feed-in tariff program have resulted in approximately 10 megawatts (MW) of new solar energy.
Harnessing a New Generation of Wind Power for Michigan
A balanced use of energy resources is central to Consumers Energy’s commitment to Michigan’s future. With this in mind, the company supplements its existing electric generation capability with up to 3,600 gigawatt hours (GWh) of renewable energy per year.
A significant amount of this new renewable energy supply comes from wind-generation installations or “wind farms.” Consumers Energy has added about 500 MW of renewable energy resources to its portfolio since 2008. Consumers Energy has built new renewable energy projects for half of this, and purchases renewable energy from third-party producers to meet the other half.
Wind Farm Concept and Technology
Just as conventional fossil-fueled power facilities with several generating units can operate from a single site, wind-generation operations also are contained in distinct locations.
A 100-megawatt (MW) wind farm, for example, typically includes 40 to 100 individual wind turbines clustered in a distinct area. Consumers Energy built two wind farms and contracts with seven other wind farms. A typical wind turbine can generate enough electricity to power 400 homes or more.
Wind turbine towers generally stand over 330 feet tall. Each turbine blade is about 150 feet long. The wind farm’s output is fed into the electric transmission system along with power from conventional sources and ultimately distributed to customers’ homes and businesses. Variations in output due to fluctuating weather conditions — low wind or no wind days — are managed by the utility’s load-balancing procedures.
Wind Farm Sites
Consumers Energy completed an evaluation of potential wind farm sites across the state, with a focus on:
- Locations that have the best wind speed and direction
- Local ordinances that favor or don't discourage wind energy development
- Access to the state's electric transmission system
- Minimal impact on the surrounding area
In Michigan, many of the optimal sites are located in agricultural and other rural areas. In addition to growing crops, Michigan farmers also have an opportunity to harvest clean, renewable energy to meet future energy needs and help improve the environment. Since 2008, Consumers Energy secured more than 80,000 acres of easements in Mason, Tuscola and Huron counties to build and operate wind generation farms. The company set up 10 meteorological towers — six in Mason and four in Tuscola — to gather data such as wind speed and direction to help determine the best locations to place wind turbines. Consumers Energy began operating Mason County's Lake Winds® Energy Park by the end of 2012. The company’s second wind farm, Cross Winds® Energy Park, located in Tuscola County, started operating at the end of 2014.
The designs for Consumers Energy wind farms are in accordance with local zoning, permitting and building codes, as well as comply with all applicable federal, state and local requirements to protect human health and the environment.
Clean Energy Plan
Developed in response to Michigan’s 21st Century Energy Plan released in January 2007, Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan provides a comprehensive framework to meet the energy needs of the company’s 1.8 million electric customers for the next 20 years.
The plan calls for meeting the growing electric needs of customers through:
- Energy efficiency
- Demand management
- Expanding renewable energy
- Utilizing existing generating resources
- Public and Environmental Impacts
The company will comply with all applicable federal, state and local requirements to protect human health and the environment.
Consumers Energy is working hard to meet future environmental regulations while also bringing competitively priced electricity to customers to help spur Michigan’s economic recovery.
Studies show Michigan’s air is the cleanest it has been in the modern era. Between now and 2017, Consumers Energy will invest more than $1.6 billion at its existing coal-fired plants to further control emissions.
Consumers Energy has reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 80 percent and nitrogen oxides emissions by 70 percent from previous levels at its coal-fired power plants.
The company will continue its voluntary management program to cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Including wind energy in its Balanced Energy Initiative will allow Consumers Energy to further improve Michigan’s air quality.
Consumers Energy’s plans for new wind energy supplies represented an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in Michigan’s infrastructure. The new wind farm facilities also create thousands of dollars in new tax revenue for the areas where they are located plus bring other economic benefits.
Lake Winds Energy Park Economic Impact Report
Cross Winds Energy Park Economic Impact Report
Updated June 2015