Michigan boasts more than 1,000 utility wind turbines in operation, and over the past 10 years there have only been three situations involving wind turbine fires. This equates to a fire incident rate of less than a half of one percent of all turbines in Michigan. 

Appropriate zoning and siting practices are designed to protect people and property in communities that host wind turbines. Zoning setbacks are established to create a safe “fall zone” in the unlikely occurrence that a turbine malfunctions and pieces fall from the tower. 

Modern wind turbine technology is very safe and equipment failures are infrequent. When a turbine in Chandler township malfunctioned earlier this week, pieces of the turbine fell close to the turbine tower base. While not a DTE turbine, our team observed that materials fell well within the setbacks established by the township, proving that setbacks based on science work. 

Listen to Matt Wagner, manager of renewable energy development at DTE Energy, talk about how current Michigan setbacks successfully balance safe siting practices and community interest. 

Podcast transcript:

[00:00] [intro music]

Dave Lingholm: [00:01] Welcome to the “Empowering Michigan” podcast. I’m your host, Dave Lingholm. Today, I’m joined by Matt Wagner, who is the manager of renewable energy development here at DTE Energy.

Dave: [00:11] Matt, I’ve heard that there’s a situation recently in Huron County regarding a wind turbine. Could you tell me a little bit about that?

Matt Wagner: [00:20] That’s right, Dave. While this turbine is not owned by DTE, it’s important to highlight some observations based on DTE’s experience. The situation in Huron County involved a turbine malfunction and some turbine materials falling to the ground.

Dave: [00:34] What do you think is the most important thing about this particular situation?

Matt: [00:40] First, it’s important for people to know that modern wind turbine technology is very safe, but as for all mechanical equipment, malfunctions sometimes occur. Proper zoning takes this into account and has proved effective when it matters most.

[00:54] This recent situation is no different. Materials fell well within setback distances required by local zoning. It’s also important to know that, on top of good zoning, wind turbines are monitored 24/7, 365 days a year by trained professional operators, providing us with real-time data on every turbine we operate.

[01:15] Further, DTE maintenance technicians inspect all operational components on each turbine at least two times per year.

Dave: [01:22] For people who live in a community with, in a wind park, what’s the bottom line for them?

Matt: [01:33] The bottom line in Michigan is that current zoning works in communities hosting wind energy parks. It’s protective, while allowing wind projects to be successful.

Dave: [01:41] I know that we only had a little bit of time today. I wanted to give you a chance to tell me if there’s anything else you’d like the public to know about wind turbines and this particular situation.

Matt: [01:50] Sure. Well, I want to close by assuring everyone that DTE is committed to providing safe, reliable, affordable, and cleaner energy for our customers. Zoning that balances good energy siting practices with community interests is a big part of this.

[02:06] [outro music]

Dave: [02:08] Thanks a ton for your time today, Matt. I’m sure we’ll be talking again soon.

Matt: [02:10] My pleasure.