The June 6 Midland Daily News carried a story with the headline “Breckenridge Wind Farm Completed, Fully Operational.” The story presented the wind farm quite favorably, indicating it would make a significant contribution to Michigan’s economy. I believe that there is more to the story that your readers should know or at least ask some questions.
This wind farm has 133 operating mills, generating 212.8 megawatts of electricity. This is about 20 percent of the generating capacity of a “standard” commercial generating facility, be it coal-fired, nuclear or gas turbines. The mills are spread out over 50,000 acres in nearby counties. That is a little more than 78 square miles. In order to generate power equivalent to a single conventional plant, we would need about 667 mills on nearly 400 square miles of land. That’s the equivalent of 11 townships. Do we really have that much land available? And do we really want to have windmills everywhere we look?
A subject that was not mentioned in the article was the subsidies that undoubtedly have been paid by the taxpayers to build this wind park. I’m not sure what the exact amount of subsidy we taxpayers put forth, but I’m sure that without it, the wind farm would never have been built.
DTE is part owner of the wind farm and will purchase the power output, presumably adding it to their current grid. Of course they will purchase the power, not because it is economical compared to existing alternatives, but because they are required by law and regulation to purchase it. The article doesn’t say so, but the cost of wind power, including capital costs, is much higher than, say, power generated by our local gas turbine plant. All of DTE’s customers will see an increase in their utility bills, but this is not mentioned in the article.
Wind power has a place in the power provision mix, but it will be a long time and require a number of technical breakthroughs before it is competitive with the power generated by our current mix of generating facilities. I suggest that somebody write a follow-up story so that we can know how much subsidy went into this project and how much a typical customer is likely to see his monthly energy bill increase.
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