wind turbine installation

Michigan's solar and wind companies employ 10,000 workers; the clean energy industry could support 21,000 in-state jobs by 2020

Michigan is building on its historic auto manufacturing strengths to grow its renewable energy industry, providing new employment for the state's highly skilled workforce. Michigan's clean economy is helping power the state's recovery, employing more than 76,000 workers.[1] As Michigan expands its clean energy production, the renewable energy industry could support nearly 21,000 jobs in manufacturing alone by 2020, if the industry sources components from local manufacturers.[2]

Clean, renewable energy is also providing reliable, inexpensive power for consumers and businesses: electricity generated from wind is nearly one-third cheaper than that generated from new coal power plants.[3]

Michigan's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), passed in October 2008, is helping the state transition to a clean energy economy. The RPS requires electric utilities to generate at least 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources, or to negotiate the equivalent using tradable renewable energy certificates, by 2015, and all but three of Michigan's 72 utilities are on track to meet the target.[4]

The renewables map shows current and future facilities generating energy from wind, solar, biomass and biogas in Michigan.

Wind Energy

wind turbine installation

Courtesy of LM Wind Power

There's enough offshore wind energy in Michigan to power more than 9 million homes

Michigan is a strong global player in the wind power industry. The state is home to 121 companies that supply wind components[5], employing 4,000 workers.[6] Many of these companies retooled existing factories to supply parts to the wind industry, creating new jobs and hiring former auto industry workers.[7]

Astraeus Wind, founded in 2007, manufactures wind turbine components for domestic and international wind farms, and employs more than 30 highly skilled technicians in some of the highest-paying jobs in Eaton Rapids, MI.[8] Other wind power component manufacturers and developers, such as Ventower, Danotek, and EnergetX, are also injecting money and labor into Michigan's economy.

Michigan vaulted from a capacity of 2.4 megawatts (MW) of wind power in 2007 to 287 MW in 2011, enough to power more than 120,000 homes.[9] The state has 26 additional projects announced or under development, which will amount to an additional 3,000 MW if all projects come to fruition.[10]

With strong gales whipping off the shores of Lake Michigan and Huron, Michigan could economically generate at least 22,000 megawatts of offshore wind power.[11] That could nearly double the state's electricity consumption, and power more than 9 million homes.[12]

Solar Energy

Michigan's solar power industry grew at a nearly 16 percent annual rate between 2003 and 2010

Between 2003 and 2010, the solar industry was one of the fastest growing segments of Michigan's economy, increasing at a rate of 15.8 percent each year.[13] Today, 121 companies in Michigan manufacture components for the solar market, employing 6,300 workers. Former auto workers founded Applied Energy Technologies in 2009, and the company has already grown from grown from two to nearly 50 employees.[14]

At the end of 2009, Michigan had 1,041 kilowatt's worth of installed solar photovoltaic systems. There's still room for growth, however. Researchers estimate the state's total solar resource potential is 3,500 gigawatts.[15]

Biomass Energy and Cellulosic Ethanol


Credit: Gretz, Warren - NREL Staff Photographer

Cellulosic ethanol, which is made from crop waste left over after harvest, helps protect the environment and food supplies while improving the economic welfare of workers and communities.

Crops grown specifically to produce cellulosic ethanol, such as switchgrass, willow and hybrid poplar, all grow nicely in Michigan's climate and soils -- and make Michigan's biomass potential even greater. The state could be producing 4 million dry tons of sustainable feedstock (existing rotation crop growth that doesn't provide food or soil cover) annually for bioenergy, which means more than 50 million gallons of ethanol, or enough fuel to power more than 80,000 cars each year.[16]

Biogas Energy


Michigan ranks among the top 10 states for potential biogas production from dairy operations

Biodigesters on Michigan's dairy farms are producing nearly 17,000 megawatt-hours of power annually. Potentially, Michigan could produce 246,000 megawatt-hours of power, which puts Michigan in the top 10 states for potential biogas production from dairy operations.[17]

Michigan's dairy operations produce more than 26 million tons of methane emissions each year from livestock waste. Turning some of that gas into electricity would reduce waste and be profitable for at least 107 of the state's dairies, according to the EPA's AgStar program.

By capturing manure, biogas recovery systems can drastically reduce or eliminate untreated waste runoff from factory farms. But in the end, strong environmental protections and government oversight of feedlot operations are needed to ensure that the risks of polluted runoff are mitigated.

Biogas can also be produced from other organic waste. In Fremont, Michigan, NOVI Energy is developing a community digester that will produce 3 megawatts of electricity from agricultural and food wastes.[18]

Learn More

The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy & Efficiency lists federal, state, local government and utility incentives for renewable energy projects in Michigan.


  1. [1] http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Series/Clean%20Economy/26.PDF
  2. [2] http://www.mieibc.org/files/files/EIBC%20Hill%20study%20fullFINAL-Web.pdf
  3. [3] http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/23469, http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mpsc/implementation_PA295_renewable_energy2-15-2012_376924_7.pdf
  4. [4] http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=MI16R, http://www.freep.com/article/20120712/BUSINESS06/207120463/1002/business
  5. [5] http://www.mieibc.org/files/files/EIBC%20Hill%20study%20fullFINAL-Web.pdf
  6. [6] http://elpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/ELPCMichiganSolarandWindReport2011.pdf
  7. [7] http://www.awea.org/_cs_upload/learnabout/publications/5088_1.pdf
  8. [8] http://www.onearth.org/blog/astraeus-wind
  9. [9] Households powered based on 40% capacity factor for wind and 15% capacity factor for solar and Michigan average household energy consumption via http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3
  10. [10] http://www.snl.com/interactivex/ea_pp_capacity_content.aspx?UseParent=0&M=1&St=MI&Y1=2003&G=1&F=1&Y2=2018&RTO=0&N=0&ListComps, http://www.snl.com/interactivex/PowerProjectDetail.aspx?ID=MI&Location=1&Terminated=0&Region=USA&SortExp=FuelType%20ASC
  11. [11] Adelaja, S. and C. McKeown. 2008. Michigan's Offshore Wind Potential. Michigan State Land Policy Institute. September 30, 2008; Flowers, L. 2008 Wind Energy Update. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. June, 2008. The LPI study calculated available power by multiplying mean wind speeds by expected power output of a 3.6 MW turbine. A more-traditional measure of capacity is in nameplate capacity (MW), which is presented in this study. Although it is unlikely that a wind resource would ever generate at full nameplate capacity (requiring all turbines to move at maximum output), the measure is a useful metric. Total power output (in MWh) is found by multiplying the capacity by the capacity factor, or average percent of capacity obtained in a year. Power available for peak load is found by multiplying by the effective load carrying capability (ELCC) rate, or percentage of capacity reasonably expected during peak periods.
  12. [12] Michigan electricity generation capacity via http://www.eia.gov/electricity/state/michigan/; households powered based on 40% capacity factor for wind and Michigan average household energy consumption via http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3
  13. [13] http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2012/07/10/michigans-largest-solar-array-now-plugged-in-atop-ikea-canton/, http://www.nhbpi.com/admin/Skasg%C3%A9%20Press%20release.pdf, http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Series/Clean%20Economy/26.PDF
  14. [14] http://www.e2.org/jsp/controller?docId=29022
  15. [15] http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dleg/Solar_Chart_309619_7.pdf, http://www.nrel.gov/gis/re_potential.html
  16. [16] Froese, Robert. 2007. Michigan Department of Agriculture.
  17. [17] http://www.epa.gov/agstar/documents/biogas_recovery_systems_screenres.pdf
  18. [18] http://www.novienergy.com/news/1382
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