Wind turbines are seen at the Harvest Wind Farm in Oliver Township, Mich., in Huron County in the state's rural Thumb region. (Al Goldis / AP)
Bad Axe, Mich. — Huron County at the tip of Michigan’s rural Thumb region is becoming a wind power mecca, with an expected doubling of the number of turbines by 2014.
The largely agricultural county is about 100 miles north of Detroit. It has Lake Huron to the west, north and east, which gives it some of Michigan’s best wind power potential. The county had 160 turbines at the end of 2012, according to county building Director Jeff Smith in Bad Axe.
“By sometime next year, we should have 328 wind turbines in Huron County because of what has been approved and what is under construction,” Smith told the Huron Daily Tribune. “Ninety-eight turbines are currently under construction.”
Eighty-eight of the planned turbines will come from two new wind parks, Pheasant Run Wind I and II, Smith said.
The Huron County wind turbines are part of a growing state effort spurred by a 2008 law mandating renewable energy generation. The Michigan Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act signed by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm requires state electricity providers to generate at least 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015.
The state’s top providers, DTE Energy Co. and CMS Energy Corp., are on track to reach the 10 percent mandate, Smith said.
Wind parks in Huron County should bring in an average of 542.4 megawatts of energy production a year, Smith said. The new parks mean that 10 of Michigan’s 21 wind farms will be located in Huron County, according to the state.
Michigan produced about 980 megawatts from wind in 2012, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s annual market report.
“We’re behind a lot of states on wind production in the country,” Smith said. “But we’re on track to meet the standards put in place by the federal government.”
Huron County residents at first met wind turbines with some skepticism, Smith said, but he said the trend in the area seems to be moving forward for renewable energy.
“The first projects came through with about a 60 percent” of people backing them, Smith said. “The latest projects that have been approved tend to be at participation levels with landowners around 85 to 90 percent. That’s where the turbines are located.”