The state's new renewable energy report is available in draft form, but to some, what it says is secondary to how it is being described by the wind energy industry, which is financed in part by taxpayer subsidies.
A final version is scheduled to be released Nov.4, which coincides with the American Wind Energy Association's Wind Forum at East Lansing.
The draft report is already generating some sparks. Wind energy advocates claim the report paints a rosy picture of the future of wind power in Michigan. However, those who claim wind energy is neither cost-effective nor the best way of cutting emissions, say the report is not a positive one for wind energy producers.
"The findings in the report were, in reality, not positive for the future of wind energy production in Michigan," said Kevon Martis, director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, a non-profit organization focused on the impact of industrial wind turbines in the region.
Martis points to three examples where he says the draft report is being misrepresented by wind energy advocates.
First, he said wind energy advocates claim the study concludes that a 30 percent mandate is possible.
"What the study actually said is that 30 percent is 'technically' possible, but there would be a number of hurdles to overcome," Martis said.
Michigan currently has a 10 percent government imposed mandate that is supposed to be reached by 2015.
Second, wind energy advocates ignore the study's finding that the health impacts of wind turbines are real. Additionally, he said, they ignore the study finding that the required setback distance from homes should be increased to an extent that establishing future wind plants (or wind farms) could become problematic.
"This was a very significant finding in the study," Martis said. "In fact, the study recommends the setback distance be increased to two kilometers, which is a mile and a quarter. We agree with this completely."
Seventeen Michigan residents have filed a lawsuit pertaining to health issues associated with windmills, alleging dizziness, sleeplessness, headaches and other symptoms from the noise. A panel of experts appointed to work on the noise issue recommended a decibel level limit, but state officials ignored them and disbanded the group before it could write its final report. The head of a wind association discussed the recommendations with state officials and then told them to "delete these types of emails because of the possibility of FOIA requests," according to an email Michigan Capitol Confidential received through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Third, Martis said, the state report agrees with the IICC analysis that it is economically ignorant to compare the price of wind energy production with that of coal plants.
"The two are not interchangeable," Martis said. "It would be like trying to compare my Edsel with a goat."
The federal government says the vast majority of Michigan is "poor" or "marginal" for wind power.