All posts by ThumbWind

Author of a fun loving and event blog covering topics of the Upper Thumb of Michigan , the wind energy capital of the Great Lakes. Offering great trove of information on Wind Energy, Cheeseburger in Caseville, Saginaw Bay, Sailing,

Intermittent Wind & Sun?…Technology Rips that Argument a New One.

All of Minnesota’s electricity generation needs can be met by wind and solar sources combined with improvements to the state’s electric grid system and energy efficiency policies, according to a report released. “Renewable Minnesota: A technical and economic analysis of a 100% renewable-energy based electricity system for Minnesota” was researched and written by Dr. Arjun Makhijani and Christina Mills of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) in Takoma Park, Maryland and Dr. M.V. Ramana of Princeton University.

Researchers reviewed the energy production demands and compared to production potential from Wind and Solar methods and found that Minnesota can meet 100% of its energy needs from renewables. In a study published March 2012 the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research based it model on Minnesota energy usage from 2007.

Photo via ktylerconk

Major components of their analysis are the use of energy storage technology and smart grid technology. The storage technology that they assumed is compressed air energy storage (CAES), which has been used commercially for decades with coal-fired power plants in two locations: Germany and Alabama. Compressed natural gas storage in caverns and aquifers is also a standard technology. CAES is only one option for commercial scale storage technology, and because it has a proven track record, they used it as the placeholder technology for the storage capacity needed.

The major findings of this study concluded.

A renewable energy-based electricity sector is technically feasible, using available and proven technologies. If this is supplemented with an intelligent grid with two-way communication and more efficient use and integration of distributed generation and storage resources, this can help reduce the costs of implementing a renewable energy-based electricity sector.

There are ample renewable resources in Minnesota. There is more than enough wind and solar energy potential to meet the entire 2007 demand of Xcel Energy’s customers every hour and to accommodate growth in the foreseeable future. These technologies are already commercially available. While we have not examined the subject in detail here, there is evidence that the requisite amount of utility-scale storage technology can also be installed within the state.

An efficient, renewable electricity system can be achieved at an overall cost comparable to the present total cost. The added costs of renewable energy generation, as compared to the current generation from mature and fully-depreciated fossil fuel and nuclear generation facilities, can be offset by increasing the energy efficiency of household and building appliances. The net costs of electricity services – lighting, cooling, running appliances, etc., would be the same as today, but partitioned between generation, storage, efficiency, transmission and distribution.

Energy efficiency lowers the effective cost of electricity services and electricity bills.

The full study can be found at


49-49 Vote Split Senate Rejects Stabenow’s Tax Credit Extension for Wind Power

The United States Senate voted down an amendment to the Surface Transportation Bill on Tuesday that would have given a one-year extension to the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind power. That tax credit — 2.2 cents per kWh of wind energy produced — this credit is set to expire at the end of this year.

Further Thumb Growth in Wind  Doubtful

Without this bill providing tax credit’s to an emerging technology its highly unlikely that future growth in renewables will proceed.  The Michigan Thumb region is  anticipating investments exceeding  over $500 million in the Thumb Loop Project to offer up to 2,500 potential wind turbines the capability to transport for energy transmission to market. The failure of this bill may put in jeopardy the total project investment along with 1000s of leases secured by wind farm developers over the past several years.

Thumb  Could Lose Anticipated Tax Revenue

Efforts by State Rep Kurt Damrow to introduce the Alternative Commercial Energy Systems (ACES) could also be put in jeopardy if the PTC extension does not pass this year. ACES was viewed as a response to replacement for the personal property on tax wind developments which reduced local tax revenue. ACES would effectively replace a portion of those lost revenues.

The senate vote on the Surface Transportation Bill was 49 to 49 and fell along party lines, with Republicans opposing the amendment. It needed 60 votes to pass.

Tundra Swans Migrate Through Maze of Wind Turbines in Michigan’s Thumb

Tundra Swans
From has received several reports from our readers noting the annual migration of Tundra swans across the Thumb. One reader noted. “Tuesday night around 8pm there were hundreds, possibly even 1000 or more, migrating Tundra Swans in the field on the southeast corner of Champagne and Kinde, flying northwesterly towards Rush Lake in groups of a dozen or so, not more than a couple hundred feet off the ground.”

The tundra swan passes through the Thumb region on their migration routes. Shortly after ice thaws, hundreds to sometimes thousands of tundra swans can be seen resting in Great Lakes marshes. The Saginaw Bay area is considered one of the best sites to see a tundra swan migration stop, a migration that takes them approximately 4,200 miles.

According to CBC News in Canada concerns over wind turbines in the migration path are making headlines in Canada. A waterfowl specialist says wind turbines could spell danger for Tundra swans and the economy in Lambton County Ontario.

Dr. Scott Petrie said building industrial wind farms in Grand Bend, Ont., will scare the birds from their annual migration stop. He said the province isn’t considering how the 250 turbines proposed for the area will affect wildlife.

Tundra Swan Migration“By putting the turbines in inappropriate places, it actually is tantamount to habitat loss. You wouldn’t put an office tower next to a coastal wetland, why would you put a wind turbine there?” he said.

Petrie said turbines could also hurt Grand Bend economically. If the Tundra swans avoid the area, so will birdwatchers, he said. Every March birders come out to see the approximately 10,000 swans as they migrate north.

Zephyr Wind Development plans on over 250 wind turbines to be placed near Grand Bend Ontario. Grand Bend is almost directly across Lake Huron from Huron County and shares the same migration route.

Anyone with digital pictures of a Tundra swan stop sighting in the Thumb is invited to send them to We will update this post with your shots.

Great Lakes Ice Coverage Lowest Since 1979

Ice coverage over the Great Lakes declined an average of 71 percent over the past 40 years, according to a report from the American Meteorological Society. The report, entitled “Temporal and Spatial Variability of Great Lakes Ice Cover, 1973–2010,” used historical satellite measurement from 1973 to 2010 to measure ice coverage in the Great Lakes.Only about 5 percent of the Great Lakes surface froze over this winter, the least since satellite photos first were taken from space. That compares to winters that saw as much as 94 percent ice coverage, last seen in 1979.

Global Warming & Weather Patterns Combine for a 1-2 Punch

The lead researcher and an ice research climatologist Jia Wang, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor noted, “We are seeing the impact of global warming here in the Great Lakes — but the natural variability is at least as large a factor,” he argued.

Jia Wang
Jia Wang - NOAA

Mr. Wang warned, that the loss of Great Lakes ice cover will have a significant impact on the Great Lakes ecosystem. The study’s authors are concerned that the loss of Great Lakes ice could diminish water levels and increase algae blossoms, which could impact water quality and eventually lead to shoreline erosion.

Mr. Wang warning comes just has researchers are looking at severe algae blooms occurring regularly in Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay. (See’s earlier post “Algae Bloom in Michigan’s Saginaw Bay Seen from Space”)

 The reports timing falls after an earlier article posted on that snowfall over the Great Lakes this year may mean lower water levels in the months ahead.