Michigan energy use to produce electricity

Michigan uses several energy sources to produce electricity, but a more diverse range of sources is likely.

Electricity generators in Michigan use significant amounts of energy to offer a consistent and reliable supply of electricity to its customers. The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) reports that of the electricity produced in Michigan, the following energy sources are used: 60 percent coal, 26 percent nuclear, 10 percent natural gas and 4 percent renewable. Of the renewable electricity, woody biomass is used to fuel about 1 percent of the state’s production from more than six power plants, hydroelectric makes about 1.4 percent of our electricity through many small facilities, and growing capacity is occurring in methane use from anaerobic digestion and landfills as well as wind and solar.

Public policy has inspired the increase in renewable energy use in electricity generation. Michigan has a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and has mandated that 10 percent of the electricity be produced from renewable sources by 2015. These renewable sources may include biomass, wind, solar, geothermal and municipal solid waste. Most of these sources require the use of significant amounts of land and therefore a strong relationship with agriculture is needed. Wind turbines require large areas of open land to maximize the efficiency of each turbine. Most of the land use is not changed near the turbine but some control of future land use is needed to protect the long term interests of the operators.

Biomass is another renewable energy source that will need agriculture and land owner connections. Of course, the forestry industry is, and will continue to be, a critical supplier of biomass in Michigan. It is clear that northern Michigan locations have the benefit of proximity to large quantities of woody biomass. This proximity is important due to the freight costs of delivering biomass, which is bulky and can be high in moisture content. Southern Michigan locations have less woody biomass nearby but have more cropland. The cropland can supply biomass from crop residues such as corn stover or wheat straw, or could be used to produce a dedicated energy crop such as switchgrass or Miscanthus.

Biomass has generated considerable interest among electricity generators, in part, due to the potential for it to be blended with coal in existing facilities. Since 60 percent of the generators use coal as a feedstock, this potential is vast. Both the generator and biomass suppliers are learning each other’s perspective and evaluating several options which may bring these industries together.

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