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MPSC backs DTE’s plan to support wind farm

The Michigan Public Service Commission has approved Detroit Edison’s plan to buy $1.1 billion worth of power and renewable energy credits from Invenergy Wind, paving the way for the building of the state’s largest wind farm.

Chicago-based Invenergy plans to install 125 General Electric wind turbines on 30,000 acres near Breckenridge, west of Saginaw. The project is expected to start operating in late 2011 and will be able to generate 200 megawatts of wind energy, which can power 54,000 homes.

The new wind farm will help expand Michigan’s wind energy industry. The state has lagged many others in the amount of wind power it produces, with a total of only 143 megawatts of capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

So far, the largest wind farm in the state is in Huron Country in Michigan’s Thumb. Owned by John Deere Wind Energy, it generates 69 megawatts of power using 46 wind turbines. John Deere is planning to open three other wind farms in the state to provide power to Consumers Energy in 2012. The projects are to be able to generate a total of 230 megawatts.

Invenergy is one of the largest wind-energy developers in the country, with 19 wind farms in North America and Europe.

“We and other developers are looking at Michigan as a place that has a lot of good wind resources,” said Joe Condo, the company’s vice president and general counsel. “We are hopeful we can do more in the state.”

Construction of the Invenergy wind farm is expected to begin late this year. Detroit Edison’s 20-year agreement with Invenergy includes an option for the utility to purchase a minority stake in the wind farm, which will employ 15 full-time workers.

Under state law, Detroit Edison must generate 10% of its power from renewable sources by 2015. It is already buying wind-energy and renewable-energy credits from a 19-megawatt wind farm near Cadillac that is owned by Heritage Sustainable Energy of Traverse City.

The utility plans to purchase 600 megawatts of renewable power by 2015 so expect more wind-energy purchase agreements, said company spokesman Scott Simons.

Detroit Edison is also preparing to build one or more wind farms in Huron County that will produce a total of 100 to 200 megawatts of power.