November 29, 2012

Wind farming in Calhoun County? It could happen

Written by Andy Fitzpatrick | The Enquirer | November 28, 2012 |

Could the sight of huge windmills lazily turning in the wind someday dominate the horizon in Calhoun County?

According to Mark Clevey, Consumer Education and Renewable Energy Program Manager for the state of Michigan, there is no specific reason as to why not.

Really, he said, it comes down to a number of elements working together to create the right conditions.

“I guess it’s viable anyplace,” Clevey said Wednesday.

In March 2011, power company Detroit Edison Co. accepted bids for a solar and wind farm, including one from Starr Commonwealth in Sheridan Township and Patriot Solar Group in Albion, as well as others in a bidding group. Starr Commonwealth owns the property the farm was proposed to be placed on, and Patriot would act as the group’s general contractor.

That farm would create enough renewable electric energy to power more than 28,500 southeast Michigan homes and reduce carbon emissions at a rate of 283,000 tons annually, the Enquirer reported at the time.

A potential utility wind farm has a few requirements. An area where a company can place several turbines together to create a high density of power generation is one. Another is being able to build the turbines high enough to capture wind.

In Michigan, the strongest winds blow near the coasts of the Great Lakes, which are also places where strong winds are lower and there are few obstructions such as trees and buildings to block the flow. Inland, such as in Calhoun County, a wide open space and permissive construction height zoning are needed to capture higher-altitude winds.

Clevey pointed to Gratiot County, north of Lansing and west of Saginaw, as an example of an inland county that normally wouldn’t be considered a great wind farm location, but managed to become home to one anyway.

He said the county had the site access and ability to build the high towers that were needed.

Of course, Clevey said, economics also plays a role.

“Is there a customer who is willing to buy the results that are going to come out of this wind farm, and are they going to pay enough so it’s worthwhile for everybody?” he said. “The question is, can you put the pieces together in Calhoun County and make it work?”

For a map of showing typical wind speeds across the state, go to this story at

URL to article: