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Renewables First

Michigan is a Midwestern Clean Energy Leader

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Renewable energy has undergone significant change in the last ten years. The U.S. now gets 18 percent of its electricity from clean energy – a significant amount of which comes from the Midwest, now a central hub for wind and solar generation. As generation increases, Michigan has taken action to meet the demands of the upper Midwest. Developments in the state’s wind and solar sectors have positioned Michigan as a leader in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Ranking 13th in the nation, wind energy in Michigan is reaching new heights. In 2018, over 500,000 homes were powered by wind and the state currently has an installed capacity of 2,190 megawatts (MW) of wind power. There are 805 MW under construction and another 311 MW in advanced development. Further bolstering Michigan’s clean energy economy is its 26 manufacturing facilities that make products for the wind industry. Wind has also generated $3.7 billion in capital investments for the state, as well as an impressive $32.5 million in annual local tax payments and about $5 million in annual land lease payments for rural landowners.

Michigan’s growing renewable energy sector has been a welcome change for the state’s economy, as well as its environment. Wind power generation creates no emissions and uses virtually no water. Michigan’s wind sector helped to save 904 million gallons of water and avoided 1.9 million metric tons of CO2 — the equivalent of taking 411,000 cars off the road.

Michigan’s solar sector is also projected to skyrocket. Although it only ranks 35th in the nation for installed solar energy with 180.97 MW, Michigan is projected to add an astounding 1,455 MW over the next five years. The cost of solar has dropped 88 percent since 2009, making it one of the lower-cost sources of electricity generation in the nation. Currently, Michigan’s electricity is made up of 0.23 percent solar energy, enough to power 29,698 homes. Michigan’s solar industry employs 3,876 citizens through its 254 solar companies, 85 manufacturers, 107 installers and developers and 62 other related companies. The solar industry has invested $352.13 million in the state, and this is likely to increase.

As America’s energy sector transitions to a clean energy economy, states across the nation are preparing for a future with huge growth in clean jobs. Michigan is a leader in clean energy jobs, ranking 5th in the nation with 126,081 jobs. Renewable energy is the third largest employer in Michigan with 11,427 workers, a four percent increase from the previous year.

Renewable energy accounted for eight percent of the state’s electricity in 2018, most of which came from wind, which has been Michigan’s largest source of clean energy generation since 2013. This is expected to expand as utilities make pledges to reduce their use of fossil fuels. This year, Consumers Energy set the very first “net-zero” emissions goal. This means a “combination of eliminating and offsetting carbon dioxide emissions to achieve zero carbon emissions attributable to the company.” The utility – like many other major utilities in the Midwest – plans to close its last coal plant by 2040, and its latest long-term Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) will invest in solar energy.

As the state welcomes more clean energy projects, ratepayers will continue to benefit from low-cost clean energy, new jobs will emerge in urban and rural communities, and businesses will continue to grow. Michigan’s robust clean energy sector is a great example of why renewable energy is just smart for the Midwest – and there will be plenty more benefits to look forward to.

Holly Fritz
Holly Fritz

Holly covers Public Education for Clean Grid Alliance. You can reach her via email at hfritz@cleangridalliance.org.

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