DTE Electric Company, which happens to be our largest electric company, is not telling us the entire truth when they speak about their renewable energy portfolio and the output from it.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy just published a report that exposes what DTE and other utility companies are doing.

The example they gave is concerning a wind park in Huron County named Pinnebog.  DTE proclaims that this wind park provides enough electric energy to power 24,000 Michigan homes.  Sound impressive does it not?

The dirty little secret they are not telling you is that this wind park can only produce enough energy for this homes to last approximately 36 percent of the time, or 8 hours and 36 minutes per day.  The other approximately 15 hours and 24 minutes per day they must provide carbon producing energy to power these homes.  They stated in their report the following:

The Michigan Public Service Commission says that wind power has a 36 percent “annual capacity factor.” This means that if a home relied solely on wind turbines, it would only have power 36 percent of the time, or 8 hours and 36 minutes per day.

When Michigan citizens hear that this wind park provides energy to 24,000 homes I assume they believe that this energy is supplied 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.

The news only gets worse when we speak of solar energy.  In their report they stated the following about solar energy:

Solar panels are even less productive, with a capacity factor in Michigan of just 13 percent. This would give a homeowner power for 3 hours and six minutes a day. The rest of the day, including from sunset to sunrise, DTE must provide electricity generated by coal, gas, nuclear or hydroelectric facilities.

What does this mean?  Well, due to these intermittent renewable power sources the state of Michigan’s other electric utilities:

must maintain just as much capacity in conventional sources — coal, gas, nuclear and hydropower — as they would need if no wind turbines or photovoltaic solar cells existed here.

Is this what you thought renewable energy meant to you?

Did you think we still need to keep the same amount of capacity even though we were spending 10’s if not 100’s of millions of dollars on renewable sources?

I am not advocating that we stop exploring renewable sources of energy, I can’t wait until the day that we have reliable and cheap renewable energy.  What I am saying and hoping is that the state of Michigan and our utility companies start utilizing truth in advertising and fully explain their new programs and their outputs, because in the end we are the ones who pay for it.