Power Alert: Michigan’s Renewable Energy Costs Decline

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Michigan has seen a 43 percent decrease in wind energy costs over the past four years due to growing private sector competition and advances in technology, says Scott Viciana, vice president of Ventower Industries, a Monroe-based manufacturer of wind towers.

“Longer blades are capturing more wind, getting more energy, driving investment, and bringing down the cost of energy,” says Viciana, noting that the cost of wind is now less than half the cost of coal, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission. “Wind and renewables are a part of the proven and effective energy portfolio in Michigan, and contribute to the way we build technologies.”

Viciana says Ventower supplies OEMs and wind developers, with a focus on regional projects. Presently, the Thumb region in Michigan is home to several of the state’s largest wind farms, which generate enough electricity to power more than 340,000 homes. Viciana says that number will increase with the opening of Consumers Energy’s Cross Winds Energy Park in Tuscola County this year.

The average price for solar panels has also dropped — down 60 percent since 2011 — says the U.S. Department of Energy. And as prices are decreasing, investments are increasing. Overall, private companies in Michigan have invested more than $2.2 billion in renewable energy since 2008, says a recent report by the Michigan Public Service Commission.

Grand Rapids-based Coffman Electrical Equipment Co. is another firm making strides in Michigan’s renewable sector. The company, which has been noted for building a mobile micro grid for Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, is looking to develop more standardized products for the government, especially for FEMA, says Greg Mulder, a power development specialist for the firm.

“We are trying to develop a different type of model, so people can buy these things easily,” Mulder says.

Under the Granholm administration, Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, passed in October 2008, requires electric utilities to generate at least 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources, or to negotiate the equivalent using tradable renewable energy certificates, by 2015. Overall, renewable energy accounts for roughly 7 percent of the state’s annual energy output.

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