Michigan, more exactly Detroit, is known as motor city and rock city. This history conjures images of black leather, KISS and an awful lot of gasoline. Former Michiganders have complained about how wide the streets are, how little public transportation exists and how cold it gets in the winter. But the state is working to rebrand itself. While not pulling away from its history as a rock and roll heartland, Michigan is trying to diversify its industries, and one of the most attractive industries is the renewable energy industry. It’s also offering incentives for home and property owners to go solar to help foster the industry and meet the state’s renewable energy standard (RES).
Under the RES, all of Michigan’s utilities must source at least 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. And the state has its work cut out for it. By late 2011, only 4 percent of the state's energy came from renewable sources. State leaders are taking the issue seriously. They introduced a 2012 ballott measure that could more than double the requirement to 25 percent by 2025.
Hopefully the performance-based incentives, tax breaks, net-metering law and significant rebates offered by the state’s many utilities to meet their RES requirements will help Michiganders adopt solar and other renewables.
Currently, Michigan's energy mix is — well — mixed. The state’s major electric producers are coal-fired power plants, which provide three-fifths of its power needs; three nuclear power plants supply an additional quarter of its energy. But renewable energy remains a small part of Michigan’s energy market.
The majority of Michigan gets about four hours of direct sunlight per square meter per day, which is less than southern states but enough to warrant solar. The state also has decent wind for turbine generation, though Michigan’s wind capacity is significantly lower than states to its west. As a northern state with cold winters, Michigan also incentivizes insulation and energy efficiency investment for homes and buildings to help reduce their energy use.
The state’s industrial history and position on the Great Lakes make it an ideal location for developing new industries and it could be a great location for wind and solar manufacturing. To that end, Michigan offers incentives to attract renewable industries. Renewable Energy Renaissance Zones provide businesses significant tax incentives to develop renewable manufacturing facilities in the state. Despite such efforts, the state has not yet established itself as a green energy manufacturing capital and faces stiff competition from other states like California, Colorado and Ohio.