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Thinking Realistically about Michigan’s Renewable Energy Future Part I

image credit: ID 150074683 © Evgeny Malkov |

This is part I of a 3-part series that looks holistically at Michigan’s needs and position with regard to the environment, manufacturing and research capabilities. Too often articles generalize to national needs, or they look at one aspect. State governments and regulators seldom get a state focused, system view of what is needed, so state laws and regulations seem to be patchwork, based on what is top of mind now, instead of what is needed long-term. This article could be replicated for any state, I choose Michigan, because that is where I grew up and make my home. This portion is about the overall need and generation, the two following pieces cover storage, innovation, research, transportation, buildings and equipment. Enjoy.

Introduction and Background

Michigan is a state blessed with both natural resources and many beautiful natural features. This is a mixed blessing as we look for ways to meet the energy requirements in the future. Many people do not want to see, hear, or have to think about where their energy comes from and they definitely do not want energy infrastructure to intrude into their favorite natural areas. But even the most ardent supporter of wilderness areas still wants the comfort and freedom that energy use provides at home, the ability to travel, and access to the complete range of goods and services that require energy to provide.

We could, as a state, shut down manufacturing to reduce our energy use, but that would wreck the state’s economy and drive a large segment of the population out of the state. We could shut down tourist attractions to reduce driving and offer virtual reality visits instead, but again, that would seriously damage the state’s economy. So, for the purpose of this article, we will assume that the state’s economy continues to be based primarily on manufacturing, tourism, and farming, plus the other, less pervasive activities that currently provide jobs for Michigan’s residents.

Michigan uses fossil fuels of some form to power most of the state’s economy; gasoline, propane, coal and other forms of fossil fuel power our homes, stores, offices, factories, and transportation. While the state has some renewable resources and some nuclear power, the vast majority of the energy we use now is still fossil based.

Roughly 1/3 of our current energy from fossil fuels is used for transportation. Another 1/3 generates electricity, which is used for many purposes, including a very small but growing share of our transportation needs. The final 1/3 of our fossil fuel usage is as feedstock or as material for manufacturing, for power and chemicals used on farms, and in other activities.

Technology exists to convert most personal transportation to electric vehicles. Technology also exists to move all or most electricity generation over to renewable sources. Maximum application of the existing and near-future technologies could move electricity  up to 80-90% of the total energy consumed in Michigan and generate renewable fuels (renewable natural gas, bio-diesel, etc.) to become feedstocks, lubricants, etc. that make up the balance of our current energy usage. Most plastics come from fossil sources today, but many could be made from soybeans or other plants in the future.

Seasonality of Power Sources and Demand

In Michigan the sun shines much less in the winter than in the spring, but the state uses much more energy in the winter than in the spring. To allow solar power to replace some fossil fuel sources for electricity and space heating, the extra energy that could come from sunlight in the spring would have to be stored somehow until fall or winter for use.  Or we would have to build extra solar facilities to produce the energy needed in the coldest and darkest time of winter, then turn them off when they over-produce during the spring and early summer.  Either of those options add to the cost and the potential intrusiveness of solar power on our neighborhoods.

The wind blows more steadily than the sun shines during most of the year, but during Polar Vortex and Summer Inversion conditions – the two weather conditions when heating or cooling are most needed -- the wind nearly always decreases or dies completely.  Again, significant amounts of energy storage will be needed to allow wind energy to replace fossil fuels as a reliable source of electric power to Michigan homes and businesses.

Almost all of Michigan’s rivers are suitable for canoeing and kayaking. They don’t offer the hundreds of feet of drop that the mountain rivers on either coast of this continent do, reducing our ability to make massive amounts of energy from hydroelectric plants built into big dams. Many Michigan rivers do offer modest power generation capacity at existing dam locations, but dozens of dams that already exist do not have turbines installed in them to produce energy. Newer, more effective hydroelectric generation at existing dams, especially the dams that already have grid connections because they were originally built to produce hydropower, is a relatively easy step to take to expand Michigan’s renewable energy generation portfolio.

Lakes Michigan and Superior offer the potential to harvest wave energy, although this technology is still experimental. But wave power generating stations would have to overcome significant public resistance, because of their potential conflict with recreational activities like swimming, sailing, fishing, and diving. Similar widespread unhappiness has been displayed anytime someone has seriously proposed wind turbines either in the Great Lakes or along the shoreline. Depending on siting decisions and the exact technology involved, wave power might not be available when the area where the generator is located is iced over.  This is an important consideration given the past decade’s experience with the greater recent frequency of extremely cold winter temperatures and the Great Lakes return to the proportion of winter ice cover reported in the early 20th Century

While forests cover much of the state, clear cutting selected forest areas and replanting on a sustainable rotating basis would not provide more than a fraction of the total amount of energy required by our (not face cords) of wood a year. This amount of wood, if consumed by each household would exceed the production of all the sustainably harvested forests in Michigan by a factor of 5. Though wood can’t meet all our energy needs, we could fairly easily collect and use some of the 300 million cubic feet of wood that dies each year in Michigan forests for either direct heating, pelletizing for heating, or steam generation.


The most productive option for wind power is also the most opposed, offshore wind in the Great Lakes.  That means installing a series of large 10 to 15-megawatt turbines on 500 to 800-foot-tall towers. Models and simulations based on actual wind strength measurements show up to a 50 percent capacity factor. That means the offshore turbines would produce electricity up to 50% of the time if they are customized to work with the offshore winds in their location. With 3 or 4 rows of them running along the shore of Lake Michigan from Michigan City, Indiana to the tip of the lower peninsula, the turbines could produce 6 Gigawatts of energy and over 21 Terawatt-hours of electricity per year, about 8 percent of a totally electrified Michigan. With good design and planning the number of turbines that could be placed may be able to be doubled, increasing the annual energy production to as much as 35 terawatt hours These large turbines offer a chance for Michigan to add a significant number of jobs, building the towers and blades within the state and shipping them from the shore to the installation site. With the fall off in boat production in the state, the existing workforce for boat construction could be repurposed to make the blades, the basic skills of creating a boat hull out of composites and making a wind turbine blade are very similar. With blade lengths of 200 feet or more, building them on the lakefront makes sense from a transportation standpoint. If the initial build out was done over a 10-year period, enough experience could be built to complete for other locations, and the St. Laurence Seaway offers a way to get the structures to almost any location in the world. Installation vessels could be built in the Upper Peninsula at an existing shipyard, bridging the military contracts that normally occupy them. Towers would have to be built in pieces, but if done along the lakeshore they could be created in larger pieces than if they were built elsewhere, reducing cost and assembly time on site. Again, a win for Michigan jobs.

Of course this could only be done, if agreement was reached with the opposition groups within the state and elsewhere, but it is worth the attempt for the amount of low-cost, environmentally friendly power these turbines would produce and the high paying steady jobs they would create in the state.

Smaller wind turbines – 300-400 feet tall – could be installed in Michigan’s thumb area and along the shore in both the lower and upper peninsula. The offshore turbine work and installation vessels would make delivery for near shore work less disruptive than transportation on the highway system for long distances. While these turbines would produce less power each year, they would be designed to take advantage of a slightly different wind profile and provide diversity of location, helping to create a more level supply of power. This type of smaller turbine has the potential to generate  4-15 Gigawatts of power annually, depending on what zoning allows, what the Federal government allows to be installed on Federal lands and where the necessary infrastructure is built to collect, transmit and store the energy from the wind turbines.


Many people assume that solar is the best choice for renewable energy. The panels generally do not move, can be installed on rooftops where they won’t be seen or close to the ground where they can be hidden from most passers-by, making the infrastructure for energy creation mostly invisible. But let’s be honest, there is not even close to enough rooftop area in Michigan to support the amount of solar power we will need to meet the expected demand.

Typical solar sites in Michigan take approximately 5 acres per megawatt of capacity and produce approximately 1250 megawatt-hours per year or about 250 Megawatt-hours per acre per year. Michigan consumes 110 Terawatt-hours per year. As we move more and more of our transportation to electric vehicles, the total number of Terawatt-hours needed to serve Michigan’s population will at least double. More likely the need for electricity will increase by 250-300 percent based on current total energy use in the state;  but let’s  assume that efforts to improve energy efficiency succeed sufficiently to require just doubling our current electric power generation capacity.

With that assumption, for Michigan to become 100% solar would require 1,400 square miles of solar panels, or 700 square miles to provide just 50% of the needed electricity.  This is roughly one percent of the total land area of the state, with forest taking up more than half of the land and cities, inland lakes, and other uses that are not feasible for low cost solar installation taking another ten percent of the state, the reality is that solar will take approximately 2.5 percent of the available open land in the state. Many farmers would probably welcome the income from turning some of their least productive fields into solar power “farms”

The best place for solar in the state, based on maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are along the Ohio border. The good news is much of the state’s population is in reasonable proximity of this area, and the transmission lines from Ohio transit this area. The bad news is there is not enough transmission or distribution infrastructure in this area to move the power, and it is some of the best agriculture land in the state, with fresh produce in competition with solar. Some of this area is also used by airlines for routes in and out of the state and airline pilots have complained of glare from solar panels when there are large sized arrays. These issues will need to be worked out, and the siting of solar will be based on where land and infrastructure is available, zoning restrictions, and other factors, rather than a pure technical production potential.

Solar, like wind has a major play in the sustainable future. Michigan has solar photovoltaic production facilities and there are jobs associated with them. Solar installation jobs are mostly low paid, manual labor jobs; they offer entry level positions to able bodied individuals for the period during which solar is being installed in a small region, and then they end. It is the factory jobs, the skilled electrician jobs and the distribution control and monitoring equipment operator jobs that Michigan needs to focus their future on, not the manual labor installation positions. Michigan’s universities would do well to determine how to automate in a factory as much of the manual labor as possible to take costs out and improve the overall quality of the installed solar.

When it comes to distributed solar on rooftops, ideally Michigan would create a socially just program that puts some solar on the roof of every residence. Based on existing load of an average house, 2 kilowatts of solar on each single-family house’s roof would provide the best technical answer and meet the majority of the daylight load for an average household in Michigan. This amount minimizes export back to the grid and the need to increase infrastructure size just to support solar generation. Apartments, condominiums and houses should all be included in this kind of a program, though there isn’t enough roof area on many multi-unit buildings to provide all the power they will need. The solar should be provided as part of the electric service on each dwelling unit. The regulatory mechanism remains to be decided on how to do this fairly for all residents of the state, regardless of income or ownership.

In the next part of the series the article will look at energy storage, both batteries and Michigan’s unique position in pumped storage – including new research in using mines and natural features, Michigan’s place in Electric vehicle manufacturing and research, and our built environment and needed changes. All critical components both the Michigan’s economy and to a sustainable system.  I hope you will come back read it too. Thank you.

Doug Houseman's picture

Thank Doug for the Post!

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 8, 2020 7:07 pm GMT

Doug, sources show Michigan coming in dead last for solar capacity factor in the lower 48. As an Illinois native, I believe it - months of leaden gray skies during Midwest winters were a fixture of my childhood.

You mention nuclear only briefly, when Fermi, Cook, and Palisades produce the vast majority of Michigan's carbon-free electricity. Power that's available 24/7/365. Why?

Doug Houseman's picture
Doug Houseman on Jan 9, 2020 1:47 am GMT

Palisades is done in 2022, Cook does not look like they (at least based on public information) are going to ask for another license extension (current extensions expiring in 2034 & 2037), and Fermi will probably disappear prior to 2050. DTE has a license to build a Fermi III, but the costs are out of this world to build with the current regulations. 

Don't get me wrong, I would love to see nuclear flurish, but it is so unlikely that I just realistically can't see it.

While you might see 2050 as long-term, I don't most utility assets are built for a 40-60 year life and 2050 is only 30 years away. 

Right now even small modular nuclear has to deal withe security and regulatory regime - that is likely to get worse not better - so as much as I would like to see 6 GW of nuclear in Michigan, I can't realistically see it by 2050. 

I hope I am wrong on this, but the paper looks at a world without nuclear because we need policy that will carry us more than 30 years into the future. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 9, 2020 5:02 am GMT

Doug, I'm more bullish on nuclear than you are, for the reasons you say I shouldn't be. We do need policy that will carry us more than 30 years into the future. Coal won't do it, and renewables in Michigan? Not a chance. If Michigan is going to take climate change seriously, it's going to need dispatchable, carbon-free electricity that can power industry 24/7/365, and there's really only one option.

No doubt there is tremendous energy in the waves of Lakes Michigan and Superior, just like the solar energy striking the Earth each day from the Sun, just like the cataclysmic forces shifting tectonic plates around the Ring of Fire. Doesn't matter, until the energy can be economically captured and put to use. As it turns out, harnessing these gargantuan forces is often significantly more involved than it might seem.

Consider the comical failure of multiple attempts to harvest wave energy around the world over the last two decades. There is exactly one (1) wave generator, currently in operation off the coast of Sweden in the North Sea, that claims 3 MW of capacity  (no generation figures are available). Maybe you have reason to believe it would be both possible and practical to reliably harvest 1000-2000 times that much energy off the shores of two freshwater lakes in Michigan. To me, that makes getting new nuclear plants funded, approved and built look like a walk in the park.

Doug Houseman's picture
Doug Houseman on Jan 9, 2020 12:11 pm GMT

Bob - I did not say that harvesting wave energy would be easy, I also indicated in Michigan that the seasonality is problematic. 

I too would like to see nuclear, but when you look at the Federal reguluatory environment and the likely government leanings on the Federal level, the red tape to build, operate and maintain a nuclear plant is going to put it in the uneconomical basket. I wish this was not so. Canada is more pragmatic, and if we were smart we would build a transmission link to the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario and help them build 4 or 8 more reactors (there are 8 there today, several not running, but able too.). 

But I just can't figure out a way around the Federal rules to build in Michigan, short of making Michigan a Province of Canada. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 9, 2020 3:15 pm GMT

Understood, Doug, but your post is titled "Thinking Realistically about Michigan’s Renewable Energy Future". Harvesting 6 GB of reliable electricity from the waves in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior is not only unrealistic, it's impossible.
I'm aware of the red tape to build new nuclear, and have spoken with several individuals who are directly involved with licensing challenges. I've read communications between manufacturers, utilities, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the Dept. of Energy. It would be convenient to assume some kind of conspiracy is afoot, that fossil fuel / renewables interests are expending political capital to block new construction. That may be, but as usual in DC, the reality is more complicated.
More significant is the NRC being underfunded. Incompetence of reviewers is abysmal, many of whom have a limited understanding of both physics and engineering. One can look at the general trend of the Trump Administration and blame lack of government oversight, and be closer to the truth.
If it's possible to generate 2 billion watts of electricity with no carbon emissions by splitting the atom, I have to believe it's possible to send the idiot in the White House packing in November, and restore some sanity to energy policy, to government oversight, to environmental protection. But maybe I'm wrong.

Doug Houseman's picture
Doug Houseman on Jan 9, 2020 5:57 pm GMT

Yes, harvesting wave energy is unrealistic, which is why there is no value for harvested energy in the article. It is mentioned as a possiblity and then I note that there are barriers (social, and technical) - and do not assign a future value - nor even mention potential. 

President Obama when he was a candidate said "I fully support nuclear, once we have solved all the issues we have today." The 2020 candidates have all said the same thing. Back then one of the first things that President Obama did was to shutdown work on Yucca Mountain. Since the long term storage of high level waste could not be solved, only projects that were licensed before he took office could proceed. I suspect that this will be true with the next administratoin. Of 11 policy directors for candidates that I have talked to - none of them expressed real support for nuclear, and they all echoed President Obama's statements. 

I find the NRC folks I deal with to be competent and realistic. They also admit that much of what they are required to do is redundant. I admire their willingness to continue in the agency. 

I just don't see nuclear in our long term future. Too many environmental groups are dead set against it. 

Wonderful Op-Ed yesterday in the NYT on Germany's decision and how wrong it was. Very honest take on the impact. 

I am with you Bob, but I am sorry, I just can't see it from a political/social stand point. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 9, 2020 7:15 pm GMT

A lot is riding on the projected 2025 debut of NuScale's SMR in Idaho. In conversations with the company's chief engineer, he is optimistic about DOE's support for their design and the company's timeline. The design represents a quantum leap in affordable, safe, clean energy, using technology that has been well-understood for decades in a smaller, mass-produced package.

Obama's support for nuclear, though often expressed, mostly amounted to naught. His presumed deal with NV Sen. Harry Reid to shut down Yucca Mountain in exchange for his endorsement for President was regarded as a sell-out by both pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear elements alike. Pro, because it stifled the potential for future growth. Anti, because it left spent fuel sitting at 60+ different plants nationwide instead of storing it responsibly underground.

At least we briefly agreed on something, before resuming our quarrel moments later.

Doug Houseman's picture
Doug Houseman on Jan 9, 2020 9:41 pm GMT

We have made the string too long for me to reply to your latest post. 

Small Modular Reactors (SMR) are a great idea, but...

Less power out, so less revenue to spread operating costs over. Most of the operating costs are NOT to operate and maintain the reactor and associated plant, but to deal with the Mountains of paperwork, security requirements and other regulatory requirements. 

I would love to see dozens of SMR, but I can not make them work without serious releaf from regulation. 

Again I considered SMR in the development of this white paper, and could not find a reasonable path past the regulator hurdles. I wish I could.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 8, 2020 10:30 pm GMT

Lakes Michigan and Superior offer the potential to harvest wave energy, although this technology is still experimental. But wave power generating stations would have to overcome significant public resistance, because of their potential conflict with recreational activities like swimming, sailing, fishing, and diving.

Interesting that you bring this up-- I've long figured that wave power would be more or less supplemental power generation for coastal communities and would never be of great enough scale to really make a difference. Perhaps it would be one thing if that was the key to unlocking clean energy deployment across the state, but given the smaller benefit it's understandable that residents would be less than enthusiastic about giving up their water resources. 

Doug Houseman's picture
Doug Houseman on Jan 9, 2020 1:53 am GMT

There is tremendous energy in the waves of Lake Michigan and Superior - and in both cases the wave run toward Michigan (e.g. harvestable). 

Fresh water makes wave harvesting equipment much easier to build and maintain. Zebra mussels on the other hand make some of the maintenance and life span harder. 

Rough estimate is if we were to like the shore of Lake Superior that is in Michigan waters, we could probably harvest 3-12 GW of power. Not a trivial number. The issues are seasonality and moving that energy from the UP to anywhere else (not just in the state). 

There is minimal investment in Great Lakes wave energy (about what was spent last year on researching Leapord Frogs. This is an area that the Naval Architecture Department of the University of Michigan should be looking at, in cooperation with Michigan Tech, but the reality is they are not, and probably will not - no ones is handing out grants to do this research.

No one will until there is a state policy that makes it a reasonable risk to be able to install the systems. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 9, 2020 1:15 pm GMT

Wow, that's definitely a higher capacity than I would have imagined-- certainly not trivial. Thanks for sharing this information, Doug. 

Hans Hyde's picture
Hans Hyde on Jan 9, 2020 3:01 am GMT

Good discussion. Looking forward to the second part and your thoughts on Luddington PS scale addition possibilities.

Something to consider also with the potential of a Great Lakes based offshore fleet, in addition to cabling collection networks laying ships, could be the further deployment of subsea connections (1 GW sized) across the lakes (namely Michigan & Huron - to Bruce NPP).

if I'm not mistaken, most of the old/retired coal plants have existing deep water ports where coal was once received, so potential brownfield sites for shore based manufacturing - blades, towers nacelles. 

PS if I'm not mistaken, the new dual 345kV 'thumb loop' was built to add 4-5GW of capacity.

Doug Houseman's picture
Doug Houseman on Jan 9, 2020 12:19 pm GMT

The thumb loop was added to off take wind energy in the thumb, now many townships have moratoriums on new energy projects until they "sort out the zoning and impacts". So wind development in the thumb has slowed down. There is well organized opposition to more wind in that area. 

Some of the coal plants have lake frieghter depth dock areas, you could not pull an aircraft carrier or a large ocean going container ship into them, but you could dock any reasonable service boat/ship for off-shore wind at them. The issue is that that trained labor force is on the west side of the state and the coal plants are mostly on the east. Much of Lake Huron is too deep for fixed base wind turbines, but Michigan is perfect, and has a better profile for wind (more days/more hours of not too slow/not too fast wind). 

I will let you read part II to see what i have to say about storage. 

Hans Hyde's picture
Hans Hyde on Jan 10, 2020 8:13 pm GMT

I was thinking SeawayMax sized and see Cobb & Sims (on Lake Michigan) as well as Karn (Saginaw Bay) all have SeawayMax sized ports/berths, so not only good locations for a laydown yard, but also interconnection points.  I see Luddington is also SeawayMax accessible, as is Charlevoix, so generally MI has decent/good existing resources/harbours for offshore activity.  I contrasted to NY/Lake Ontario which only has Oswego (at best) unless one goes into Ontario.

Anything in the UP is gonna be problematic simply from the lack of transmission.

I agree on the Bruce - Thumb connection, as well as some links across Lake Michigan.

Too bad none of the 765kV came to Michigan (excluding the connection to Cook NPP).

Ned Ford's picture
Ned Ford on Jan 10, 2020 9:34 pm GMT

I'm a little disappointed by the lack of economic perspective here.   When you know the costs of the various renewable options you see just about everything drop out except onshore wind, utility scale solar, and efficiency.   That's all we need.   I've done the same exercise for Ohio repeatedly over the last decade, and Ohio is nearly identical to Michigan in many ways.  

I did something you might want to replicate or take a look at my work:   I took the hourly load data for MISO for 2017, when they had 17,225 MW's of wind generation, and increased it by various amounts to see what the coincidence with actual load was.   When MISO has 6.5 times the amount of wind generation it presently has, it  will generate 50% of it's total electricity, with 0.7% of that potential generation occuring above demand.   At 9.5 times the current amount of wind, MISO will generate 72% of its total electricity with a little less than 9% of the wind being generated above consumption.

This presumes the use of natural gas to conform to load, but MISO (and Michigan and Ohio - which is far behind the national average for natural gas) all have enough to take us through a transition to 100% renewables.

The primary reason this is worth looking at is because it is cheaper than not doing it.   Probably a lot cheaper, like 20 - 30% lower total energy costs, and hardly any costs for capacity management up to the 70% mark.

Of course the stronger Michigan's efficiency programs, the lower the cost, the faster the carbon reduction and the more jobs are created.

Michigan, like Ohio, has enough wind potential to generate about 2.5 times its current electricity consumption.   Of course we don't need that much, but how much we need depends on whether you are thinking that utility scale solar is a stronger or weaker partner, and whether you are examining the electric sector, or the opportunity to replace all fossil fuels with renewable electricity.  I favor the latter and advocate a target of 160% of current electricity by 2040, which puts us on track to finish the job by 2050, possibly before 2045.

As I say so often, the answer may or may not be what I advocate, but efficiency, wind and solar are unquestionably important, and we need a lot more than we have at present.

I haven't looked at the solar outlook for Michigan.  I'm pretty sure that the lower insolation in Michigan doesn't kill the potential for utility scale solar, but may mean that in the end we want more wind and less solar.  Again, the best way to find out is to have enough of it to make some practical assessments of the actual performance.  Utility scale solar is probably available in Michigan at less than 4 cents per KWh today, and its value as a contribution to peak, or alternatively, its value in combination with storage as a peaking resource, makes it pretty clear that there is a role there.    Since I look at all resources from the cheapest to the most expensive, I don't actually spend much time on rooftop solar (or nuclear, of course).

Ohio had a wind project in 2012 producing electricity at 4.2 cents per KWh.   I'm sure Michigan and Ohio can beat 3 cents today with the right combination of factors.   For every community that hates the thought of wind turbines there are a dozen who will love the new jobs, the new tax revenues and the stability of the impact of a new wind or solar farm.   And it's not all that frightening.  Both states need about 1.5% of their total space for wind and solar, and the wind space can be used for its original purpose because the wind equipment only requires about 5% of the land.

I'm trying to do that calculation from scratch to compare with other similar efforts.   So far it appears to require less land than I thought, but I'm not finished yet.   Dual use solar farms are coming, and they may provide benefits we haven't thought about yet.

Economic Dispatch used to be something we talked about all the time.   I'm not sure why it has fallen so far out of favor, but the real world still loves cheap energy.   And wind and solar are the winners in 2020.


Doug Houseman's picture
Doug Houseman on Jan 11, 2020 12:18 am GMT

Ned -

I appreciate your comments.

I have done the economics. But the focus of the paper was not on the economics because they change constantly, and if I were to have put them in with the level of support they required, this would not have been a 3 part series, but a 10 part series.  Note that your numbers likely contain the Production Tax Credit, which is not sustainable if we are to 100% wind and solar, and probably do not contain the storage or over build to meet the total energy requirement of Ohio. And it is the cost of storage (except pumped storage) that is the killer cost issue. I suspect your numbers are also just replacing current electric use - very different than what I am writing about. 

I done the land calculations too, and with the issue of "ice spears" that Ontario has experienced, at least in the winter, much of the land close to the wind turbines is not good for allowing animals out (and in the UP we had our cattle out 365 days a year - so no most farmers to not put the animals in the barn for the winter). It is also not good for housing or other buildings. So, no in Michigan all but the base of the turbine is not available for any use, it is available for grain farming, but there will be an area around the turbine that may not be able to grow mature grain because of the tip vortex of the blades - the right tower height and blade design can mitigate that issue though.. 

The wind profile off-shore in Lake Michigan at the altitude that a 10MW wind turbine would reside at is a better match to Michigan's annual energy consumption profile. 

Note: I said energy consumption profile, becaues I am assuming that all fossil fuels will disappear. So the MISO profile does NOT work for determining the load profile for the state, you have to include Natural Gas, Propane, Gasoline, Diesel Fuel and a host of other choices.

Finally - Ohio's total energy profile is different than Michigans...and...the solar profile is a better match than Michigan's - Michigan tops out at about 14.5% total load factor for solar, and Ohio in the Southwest of the state can hit 16% - and while that does not sound like a huge difference it is, because much of the difference is in the winter, where Michigan solar will produce about 1 KWH per installed KW per day in the last half of December. For a 4 KW total home load (all electric with heat pumps - that stop being useful at roughly zero), That means about 96KWH a day or 95 KW of solar for that home, if you are doing day/night shifting. 

Ohio tends to be 2-5 degrees warmer than Michigan (on average) than Michigan - and so the heat pumps work efficently for far more hours in the winter, making an average Ohio home a 3.25 KW if it was all electric (Yes, Cleveland has worse weather than Michigan - but it just a portion of the state). 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 12, 2020 3:48 pm GMT

Ned, with last year's HB-6 legislation, Ohio finally ended the state's failed Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

After 12 years and $billions spent by ratepayers the RPS, together with "Renewable Energy Certificates" which double-counted their actual contribution, succeeded in increasing the renewable share of Ohio's energy mix by a whopping 3%.

Wasted money, wasted time, and Michigan is paying attention.

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