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FACT FRIDAY: Busting the Top 4 Wind Energy Myths

Wind power has been growing in Michigan for years. Today, more than 20 wind farms operate across the state. Nationally, Michigan ranks in the top 15 states in terms of wind potential.

Wind farms strengthen our state’s energy independence, but the reaction to these large-scale wind projects is often mixed.

Those who are skeptical about wind energy have often been misled by opponents that are more concerned with protecting the status quo than doing what’s best for Michigan.

Myth: Noisy Neighbors

One of the most persistent myths about wind turbines is how much noise they make.

Fact: Quieter than you Think

In reality, most wind turbines are located at least 300 meters or more from residences. At that distance, the noise from a wind turbine only reaches 43 decibels. That’s roughly the same amount of noise most refrigerators make when they are running, and less than the average air conditioner.

Myth: Bird Killers

Another popular myth is that wind turbines decimate local bird populations.

Fact: Cat's Out of the Bag

This myth is, well, for the birds. While it is true accidents can happen when our aviary friends cross paths with a turbine, the number is exponentially lower compared to other fatalities! In fact a 2014 study found that 6.8 million bird fatalities each year occur from collisions with cell and radio towers, and 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds fatalities are from house cats, while aviary deaths caused by wind turbine number only in the thousands.

Myth: Waste of Land

Some people think wind turbines displace farms and end up damaging the land around them.

Fact: Room to Spare

It’s true that wind farms require a lot of space because turbines must be spread out in order to work effectively. However, the actual percentage of land that is disturbed to construct a turbine is minimal, and the majority of the land around them once construction is finished can continue to be used for many productive activities—from raising livestock and agriculture to hiking trails and highway infrastructure. Farmland is also not damaged when wind turbines are installed. In fact, some research even indicates wind turbines improve agricultural productivity for farms that have them. In addition, a survey by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that large-scale wind facilities in the United States use “between 30 and 141 acres per megawatt of power output capacity.” That’s a lot of power output relative to the amount of space a turbine fully occupies.

Myth: Expensive and Unreliable

Some people believe the myth that wind energy is expensive and an unreliable source of power.

Fact: Costs are Falling as Reliability Rises

From 2011 – 2016, the costs of wind-generated electricity dropped by 66 percent. Advancements in technology are also helping spur the development of more efficient, more powerful turbines that produce more energy in the same amount of space. Just as important, Michigan has long pursued an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, and having wind power combined with a wide array of other energy sources only increases our capability to ensure we are generating power in the most cost-effective, reliable, sustainable way at all times. Facts are important when it comes to finding out what’s true and what is just a bunch of hot air! Wind turbines and wind energy are here to stay in Michigan and are helping us achieve a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.

Facts are important when it comes to finding out what’s true and what is just a bunch of hot air! Wind turbines and wind energy are here to stay in Michigan and are helping us achieve a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.

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A Cleaner Energy Future: Natural Gas and the NEXUS Pipeline

Our future energy generation will include a range of fuel sources like solar, wind, nuclear, and, increasingly, natural gas. AMP has already touched on the many ways natural gas and the NEXUS pipeline will positively impact Michigan. Today, we’re drilling down to the safety and environmental benefits of this natural resource.

A Shift from the Past

Local Michigan energy companies have made significant strides in moving toward a 21st Century energy mix. We are finding innovative ways to replace the energy capacity Michigan and the rest of the Midwest are losing as old coal-fired plants retire. Increasingly, local energy providers are investing not only in wind and solar projects but also in natural gas to generate the electricity we need as a state.

A New Energy Source for a Cleaner Energy Mix

How much cleaner is natural gas than coal-generated electricity? Here are some natural gas facts that highlight the benefits:

  • Natural gas releases approximately 50 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than coal and 20 – 30 percent less than oil.
  • Compared with other fossil fuels, natural gas results in “negligible amounts” of other emissions, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury.
  • Technologies used to capture and store CO2 from coal-fired plants are being adapted to help reduce emissions from natural gas-powered plants even further.

Natural gas is also highly efficient as an energy source. “About 90 percent of the natural gas produced is delivered to customers as useful energy,” compared to roughly “30 percent of the energy converted to electricity” by conventional energy generation methods.

Natural gas has significant environmental advantages contributing to better air quality and protecting public health. In fact, as of last year, “America is at a 27-year low in its carbon emissions almost solely because natural gas has been replacing coal.”

Consider how much natural gas has offset coal as part of our energy mix over the past eight years. In 2009, natural gas was only eight percent of our state’s energy mix—today that figure has climbed to 18 percent. That’s more than a 100 percent increase, representing nearly one-fifth of our energy mix in 2017.

Michigan’s unique geography makes natural gas particularly feasible as an energy source to replace coal. And Michigan’s local energy providers are already moving forward with natural gas infrastructure investments that will enable us to maximize this important resource to keep energy reliable and affordable in Michigan.

Do you have questions about the benefits of natural gas for Michigan? Email us at info@allianceformichiganpower.com.

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6 Tips to (Efficiently) Survive Summer Temp Spikes

Summer temperature spikes can put a strain on our electric grid and on your energy budget. Try our tips and tricks for managing summer temps and becoming an energy efficient all-star!

  • Invest in a programmable thermostat or use your regular one wisely.

    A programmable thermostat can save you an estimated 10% a year by adjusting the temperature for you so you’re not using the A/C as much when you’re not at home while keeping a more constant temperature all day, which is more efficient than constantly adjusting up and down. A general guideline is to keep your thermostat set to 78 degrees in the summer when you are home and raise it 5 to 10 degrees when you’re away. “Each degree you raise the thermostat can save up to 3-5% on cooling costs.” If you have a regular thermostat, try setting it a few degrees warmer than you normally would.

  • Take advantage of your ceiling fans to lower the temperature and keep air circulating throughout your home.

    Using your ceiling fans to supplement your A/C during the summer can lower your home’s temperature by an average of four degrees. That will also help prevent your A/C from kicking on every 30 minutes just to stay cool and let’s air circulate, preventing it from becoming muggy or stagnant.

  • Make energy efficiency fun for the whole family.

    The family that saves together stays together! Get your kids involved in the action and help them learn energy efficiency tips they can use now and in the future. The Michigan Agency for Energy has some great tips on helping kids learn to be energy efficient, including turning off lights and electronics, unplugging devices and appliances when they’re not in use, using water wisely, and more.

  • Use shades or film on windows.

    While Michigan’s summer nights can still get fairly cool, the days can be uncomfortably hot, and glass windows magnify the heat. Have the shades open in the morning when temps are cool to help warm the house naturally, but don’t forget to close them or use films on windows to filter the direct sunlight and prevent the temperature from rising too much. “Pay particular attention to west-facing and south-facing windows, where more sunlight enters” and can cause temps to climb more quickly.

  • Go natural when you can.

    Another good tip to cut energy use in the summer is to take advantage of natural daylight. Turn your home or office lights off during the day when rooms are naturally lit by the sun. Also, when the temperature cools in the evenings, consider turning off the A/C and opening your windows.

  • Keep your HVAC system finely tuned and maintained — and use it smartly.

    Change HVAC filters more often during the summer months. Check your air filter monthly, especially during the summer, and if it looks dirty, change it. “A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool, wasting energy.” Also, have a professional check out your system periodically to keep it well-tuned. Another good HVAC tip is to shut off vents in unoccupied rooms to save 5-10% on your cooling costs.

Looking for more tips to help you beat the Michigan heat while saving energy? Try these resources:

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Here Comes the Sun: Top 5 Benefits of Large-Scale Solar

June 21 may have marked the first official day of summer, but for some parts of Michigan, the weather’s just starting to heat up. With the sun out in full force, it’s a good time to talk about this clean energy resource — and how Michigan’s local energy providers are making it work for our state, where the sun doesn’t always shine as brightly as in some other parts of the country.

Large-scale solar offers a number of benefits over smaller solar projects, for both economic and practical reasons:

  • Powering entire communities. Large-scale solar projects can include thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of solar panels. That means instead of just providing power for one home, business, or building, large-scale solar projects help provide power for thousands of local households and businesses, including those that can’t install their own solar panels.

  • Achieving economies of scale. A 2015 study found that large-scale solar projects “are significantly more cost effective.” In fact, the cost of generating energy via large-scale solar is “roughly one-half” the cost per kilowatt-hour of creating the same amount of energy via rooftop solar because of the sheer scale on which large-scale solar arrays absorb sunlight, as well as “greater solar electric output resulting from optimized panel orientation and tracking” of large-scale solar systems.

  • Supporting local jobs and economies. Solar energy jobs are booming in Michigan, driven in no small part by the large-scale solar projects built by local energy providers, who are by far the largest investors in solar power in the state. Large-scale solar projects by their very nature require more labor — and involve more industries, including manufacturing, construction, engineering, etc. — which supports more Michigan jobs and puts more money back into local communities.

  • Producing even cleaner clean energy. Large-scale solar projects help lower carbon emissions more efficiently. Comparisons show that generating 300 megawatts of power via large-scale solar “avoids approximately 50% more carbon emissions than an equivalent amount of residential-scale” (rooftop) solar generation.

  • Expanding access to solar. Many people can’t access solar power via rooftop panels. They may not be able to afford installing and maintaining their own solar panel system or they may live in an apartment or condo complex where they’re unable to do so. Large-scale solar projects help more consumers connect to solar power, giving more people — including low-income Michiganders — access to cleaner energy to power their homes and businesses.

Remember that the sun is not just working to infuse some vitamin D into your system, but is also being harnessed by Michigan energy companies to infuse more clean energy into our electric system. Large-scale solar is revitalizing our energy mix and helping us secure a cleaner energy future.

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Supply Chain Spotlight: Spectrum Construction Services

Michigan’s energy supply chain extends far beyond the local energy providers that generate and distribute power to homes and businesses. A broad range of other businesses across the state play crucial roles in keeping energy affordable, reliable, and sustainable for all of us.

From companies that help maintain power plants, to businesses that provide welding services, to the contract service providers, construction and engineering businesses, and many more, literally thousands of businesses large and small across our state are supported by Michigan’s energy sector.

Today, we’re spotlighting Spectrum Construction Services.

Spectrum Construction Services

Based in Fenton, Spectrum Construction Services is a wireless communications contractor specializing in civil, electrical, and wireless tower construction. Kevin Hill founded Spectrum Construction in 1999 after working as an apprentice in Ann Arbor. The son of an electrical contractor, both Michigan and electrical contracting run in his veins.

Installing and maintaining cell towers is no small task, and delivering power to cell towers is a critical service that requires highly specialized skills. Once a location is established for a cell tower, energy companies turn to specialized businesses like Spectrum Construction Services and their experts to design and install the electrical system that supports the tower. The key to a successful installation is preventing service interruption.

Just about every component of a cell tower requires electricity, from the antenna, remote radio head, amplifier, and microwave dish, to the cell site router and base station transceiver system. The electric system to support this highly sensitive technology includes not only power conduits, circuit breakers, and meters, but also backup systems. Many towers also have monitoring systems in place that report the conditions of a tower, including its current power status, to its operator. Without reliable power, these towers couldn’t deliver the communication services we now rely on daily. Cell and smart phones, gaming, e-commerce, and a plethora of other daily tasks all depend on a smoothly functioning wireless communication network.

Having started his own business, Hill also understands the importance of choosing Michigan when it comes to energy policies that can either promote job growth or limit it. “As a Michigan business owner,” Hill says, “I believe it is critical for us to be self-reliant and provide jobs in our state...As an entrepreneur, I understand how important it is to our economy that we maintain control of our own energy decisions here in Michigan. As long as this is the case, jobs stay in the state and revenue flows throughout our communities.”

Hill is just one of hundreds of local business owners involved in the energy supply chain who are speaking out in support of Michigan energy. AMP is proud to showcase companies like Spectrum Construction Services that play such an important role in powering Michigan and local communities across our state.

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