Michigan has over 38,000 square miles of state owned Great Lakes bottomlands. However, due to current limits with wind turbine technology, wind farms are restricted to areas on the Great Lakes where the water is less than 30 meters deep. For wind energy to be practicable, wind farms must be close to existing transmission facilities, so that energy generated from the turbines can be distributed to consumers. Construction of a wind energy facility requires heavy machinery and a wind farm site needs a transmission station nearby and underground lines for transmission of power.
For terrestrial wind farms, a developer typically secures access to land through easements or lease agreements and pays royalties to the landowner. The developer’s role is to secure capital for construction, permits from the local zoning board and a contract with a power purchaser. Permitting decisions do fall under state authority, but are typically exercised through local zoning boards. Ordinarily the federal government has a role only if the wind farm is on federal land or uses federal dollars.
Energy and Utilities Law | Environmental Law | State and Local Government Law
Katherine Brady-Medley & Nick Schroeck, Offshore Wind Energy Development in Michigan’s Great Lakes: Current Law and Proposed Legislation, 29 Mich. Env. L. J. 8 (2011).