Wind Energy Delphi Project
In 1999, the US Secretary of Energy launched the Wind Powering America (WPA) initiative. WPA is a regionally-based effort designed to increase the use of wind energy in the United States. The WPA’s goals include:
- meeting 5% of the nation's energy needs with wind energy by 2020,
- doubling the number of states that have more than 20 megawatts (MW)
of installed wind capacity by 2005, and
- tripling the number of states with installed capacity, and raising the installed capacity goal to 24 MW by 2010.
The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) estimates that Michigan can potentially develop 16,500 megawatts (average annual generation) of wind energy. Developing this potential means Michigan could produce significantly less air pollution than if all new generating capacity were based on coal or natural gas.
Michigan is proceeding to develop renewable energy policies. The Energy Office of Michigan, in their 2004 Annual Report to the Michigan Public Service Commission on Michigan's Renewable Energy Program, is recommending that the State of Michigan adopt the following policies:
- Set a goal of installing 800 MW of wind power by the year 2010.
- Adopt statewide policies to encourage the development of wind energy in Michigan.
- Adopt a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that requires 1.0% of all energy sold within the state of Michigan be generated from renewable sources (including wind) by December 2006.
- Increase the RPS requirement by 0.5 % each year to reach a total of 10% by 2015.
While the Energy Office has been developing these recommendations, developers have begun evaluating potential locations for utility scale wind farms, and many local stakeholders have voiced concerns over how wind energy will be implemented. Local stakeholders cite conflicts with existing wind developments in different parts of the US as reason for concern. In Altamont Pass, CA wind turbines kill approximately 1,000 birds each year. In Nantucket Sound, MA residents are fighting development because they are concerned about damage to the viewshed. In Mackinaw City, MI, the noise from a turbine is disturbing residents’ sleep.
NREL based their estimate on the availability of wind resources and necessity of excluding certain areas from development. Their estimate also includes an assumption about the size of setbacks, i.e., buffer areas between wind turbines and neighboring properties. However, many local stakeholders cite the above mentioned conflicts as reasons for needing larger setbacks to mitigate the turbines’ impact on rural residents and wildlife.
From the developers’ point of view, increasing the setbacks would reduce the amount of wind energy that could potentially be developed. This would also increase the cost of development. So the size of the buffer areas is subject to heated debate.
Presented with complex economic, environmental impact and technical data, and many different viewpoints on how to proceed, the Energy Office of Michigan asked LTU to conduct a Delphi Inquiry.