Approximately half of the purchased electricity for the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus will soon come from Michigan-sourced renewable resources, largely due to the launch of three new wind-energy parks.

The university committed to purchase approximately 200 million kilowatt hours per year of electricity produced by the new wind parks in a 2019 power-purchase agreement with DTE Energy. This step, now coming to fruition, will reduce U-M greenhouse gas emissions by more than 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually — equivalent to the annual emissions generated by 12,000 homes.

“I am very pleased that, as a result of these wind farms, the Ann Arbor campus will transition its purchased power away from carbon-intensive sources and toward local, renewable clean power,” President Mark Schlissel said. “This progress aligns with many of the recommendations recently put forward by the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality, and I look forward to taking additional steps to reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions in an innovative, scalable and financially responsible way.”

The new wind parks began operating in April. Two facilities in mid-Michigan’s Isabella County contain 136 turbines with a capacity of 383 megawatts, making them the state’s largest wind parks. The third complex, Fairbanks Wind, is located in the Upper Peninsula’s Delta County and includes 21 turbines with a capacity of 72 megawatts.

Wind turbines like these at a DTE Energy wind park in Michigan will soon be providing about half of the purchased electricity for U-M’s Ann Arbor campus. (Photo courtesy of DTE Energy)

“We are very excited the wind parks are up and running,” said Andrew Berki, director of the Office of Campus Sustainability. “Supporting renewable energy produced right here in Michigan is an excellent way to reduce the university’s emissions while boosting sustainable infrastructure across our region.”

U-M is one of 11 large MIGreenPower customers that will be served by the wind parks. The university signed up alongside Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., the Detroit Zoo, Bedrock Detroit and others seeking to buy Michigan-based renewable energy to reduce their emissions. MIGreenPower is a voluntary renewable energy program, administered by DTE Energy, designed to accelerate the development of wind and solar energy.

This ongoing renewable-energy purchase will help U-M meet its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the Ann Arbor campus by 25 percent by 2025. The university is expected to meet this goal, set in 2011, later this year.

In addition to purchasing electricity from the wind parks, U-M is increasing the capacity to generate energy on campus at the highly efficient Central Power Plant, and is continuing to invest in energy efficiency. These strategies were recommended by the President’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Committee in 2015.

In March, the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality delivered its final report, including 50 recommendations to help the university achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the Flint, Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses, including Michigan Medicine. Recommendations pertain to direct U-M emissions, purchased electricity, and indirect emissions sources, like commuting and food procurement.

The commission designed recommendations to be scalable, transferable, financially responsible and environmentally just. Schlissel praised the PCCN report and said he will respond with initial action steps later this month.