DTE Energy is searching for wind power in less windy parts of the state. The utility has signed lease agreements for 22,000 acres in Branch County near the Indiana border.
DTE’s other wind farms are mostly in Michigan’s thumb.
Michael Sage heads up renewable development for DTE. He says ten years ago, wind speeds had to get up to 15 to 17 miles per hour to turn a wind turbine. Newer turbines need less than half as much wind.
“So the improvement in technology has now opened up areas that previously maybe were not considered good for wind but are good now,” he said.
Sage says DTE is no longer looking to Michigan’s lakeshore for its next wind project. He says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended that wind turbines stay at least three miles from the Great Lakes shoreline.
“There was a significant amount of migration, of bird traffic, that goes and follows the coastline of our Great Lakes and so we are adhering to that recommendation,” he said.
But Sage says leasing the land is only the first step. DTE still needs to get permission for the wind farm from local townships, the right permits, and to determine the best location for the farm. Sage says that could take anywhere from three to 10 years.
Landowners in Sherwood Township in Branch County have expressed concerns about lighting strikes and how wind turbines might affect the landscape. Sage says people are unlikely to get hurt if they stay a safe distance away from the wind turbines.