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Blog item: Wind Power in Michigan - A Sample Shirtsleeve Calculation

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3 comments, last: Oct-29-2008   Add a comment   Author:  newculture (Aug-9-2008)
Categories: Economic/Financial, Renewable Energy Sources, Sustainable Living

Click for larger image; average wind speeds in Michigan

Michigan used 112,556,739 megawatthours of electricity in 2006.

How many wind turbines would it take to generate that much electricity?

The largest wind turbine can generate about 20,000 megawatt hours per year.

If this were the case, there would need to be 5,628 of them to generate the same electricity.

The total amount electricity generated from wind in the entire world is 244,000,000 megawatthours, so it is certainly possible to generate that much energy from wind.

Currently, the largest wind farm in the USA can generate up to 735.5 MegaWatts, which would be about 1.5 million megawatthours for 30% efficiency.

In general, a rule of thumb 2.5 MWH average per wind turbine would probably be reasonable for the largest wind turbines for class 6 wind in Michigan. That is about 21,900 MWH per year. This would be slightly more than 5,000 wind turbines.

The cost for on-shore appears to be in the three million dollar range per turbine for installation.

The number of turbines would depend on where the electricity were used. Since Michigan has about 10 million residents, the per person electricity use is about 11 MWH per year. A single wind turbine of the type discussed above could provide enough electricity for approximately 2,000 people.

Let's look at a few counties in north-west Michigan:

  • Manistee County, population 25,000 would need about 13 wind turbines.
  • Benzie County, population 16,000 would need about 8 wind turbines.
  • Leelanau County, population 22,000 would need about 11 wind turbines.
  • Grand Traverse County, population 86,000 would need about 43 wind turbines.
  • Mason County, population 29,000 would need about 15 wind turbines.

For the T. Boone Pickens wind farm at Pampa Texas, the 667 turbines of 1.5 MW capacity from GE are being installed for about two billion dollars. That provides a total of 1000 MW capacity from the wind farm. For a 30% load factor, it would generate about 300 MWH average. That equates to 2,630,000 MWH per year, which would be enough for 240,000 people. This equates to about $8,000 per person.

  • Manistee County = $200 million
  • Benzie County = $128 million
  • Leelanau County = $176 million
  • Grand Traverse County = $688 million
  • Mason County = $232 million

Of course, it may be higher or lower, this is just a very, very rough calculation to give a ballpark figure. It does not figure in transmission lines, maintenance, or energy storage requirements.

Take Manistee County for example, a single person using 11 MWH per year, paying $8,000, with a life of the turbine at 20 years. This is equivalent to 3.6 cents per kilowatt hour. With the added costs of transmission lines, maintenance and storage, the cost would probably be double that, around 7 cents per KWH.

 Seven cents per kilowatt is less than most people pay today, plus it is a local energy source that keeps the money local and reduces dependence on imports from elsewhere.


Related reading:
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  For Base-Load Wind Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels: CAES (Aug-31-2009)
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  Wind Technology Company Puts Ex-Auto Industry Em... (Apr-19-2009)
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  Saving Michigan: A Plan for Success (Dec-21-2008)
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  The Pickens Plan: As Good As It Seems? (Oct-17-2008)

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Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Oct-29-2008)   Web site
Thanks for posting that.
Comment by: robert (Oct-29-2008)   

Here are the two new ones in Michigan (by McBain). I was told they are the largest ones in the country. 450ft.
Comment by: monica (Monica) (Aug-23-2008)   

Aaron, great article! Thanks for doing all of that consolidating of info - am forwarding this to a variety of friends.

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About author/contributor Member: newculture (Aaron Wissner) newculture (Aaron Wissner)
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Member: newculture (Aaron Wissner) Aaron Wissner is a teacher, educator, organizer and guest speaker. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, with emphasis on mathematics, science, and education. Mr. Wissner has taught and consulted for sixteen years in public school, in areas ranging from mathematics, science, computers, to leadership and television news production. He is the founder and organizer of the grassroots Local Future Network, a non-profit educational outreach organization dedicated to saving Earth through culture change.

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