As Consumers Energy announced that its newest wind farm had cleared its first hurdle, it also touted the $29 million in property tax revenue that it is expected to provide to Mason County over the first 20 years of operation. The Mason County Planning Commission approved a special land use permit application for the $232 million Lake Winds Energy Park project last week.
What was left out of the press release was that the project is expected to receive $72 million in federal tax credits from the federal stimulus program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Consumers Energy spokesman Dennis Marvin said the $72 million in federal tax credits is expected to come over a 10-year period.
Critics of wind energy projects say government subsidies such as the $72 million that Lake Winds will receive are necessary because the power source itself is too expensive.
“Lake Winds and other mandated 'renewable' power will simply make energy more expensive for everyone,” said Pat Michaels, a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute, in an email. “Wind and solar are particularly poor producers of energy, consuming large tracts of land and producing very little dependable power. If sufficient backup generation is not available to account for the facts that the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine, then new backup power must be constructed.”
“This is an expensive loser for the people of Michigan, and mandating 10 percent of power from such sources will only create further losses,” Michaels wrote.
Consumers Energy expects Lake Winds to be operational by the end of 2012. Fifty-six 1.8 megawatt wind turbines will use about 9,300 acres of land in Mason County. The Lake Winds Energy Park is part of the electric company’s plan to meet a state requirement that 10 percent of their energy come from Michigan-based "green" projects by 2015.
To help pay for the higher cost of renewable energy, Consumers Energy customers pay a $2.50 monthly renewable energy surcharge that was approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. That charge will drop to 65 cents per month in September.