Street Talk: Lake Winds generating, but how much is hush-hush?


West Michigan’s first commercial wind farm, the Lake Winds Energy Park built this year near Ludington by Consumers Energy, officially went on line Thanksgiving Day, but just how much electricity it is producing is a trade secret. The Business Journal wanted to know precisely how it was doing since they flipped the switch.

“As a general policy matter (for competitive reasons because we purchase power on the wholesale market), we don’t provide output data for our power plants,” replied Consumers spokesman Dan Bishop in an email.

Lake Winds, with 56 1.8-megawatt wind turbine generators spread out over several square miles of high ground more than a mile inland from Lake Michigan, is designed for peak production of 100 megawatts — roughly enough electricity to power 49,500 homes.

CE said it has invested $250 million in Lake Winds.

"Consumers Energy thanks Mason County and area governmental officials, in particular, for making today’s ‘start-up’ possible,” said Bill Schoenlein on the big day. He is manager of hydro and renewable generation for CE.

White Construction Inc. of Clinton, Ind., which has had prior experience in wind farm construction, was the lead contractor for the project. Bishop praised the safety record achieved by White Construction and the sub-contractors.

The turbine towers are approximately 295 feet tall and the blades attached to the generating nacelle on top of each tower are 160 feet long. They are designed to move at 16 rotations per minute or less, for normal operations. The turbines were made by Vestas-American Wind Technology, which Consumers deemed the most efficient turbine for the Lake Winds wind speeds.

“As I believe you’re aware, Consumers Energy is Michigan’s leading supplier of renewable energy,” Bishop told the Business Journal. “The addition of Lake Winds bumps up our renewable supply from 5 percent to 7 percent. Additional purchases of renewable power by the end of 2012 will increase that to 8 percent — on our way to meeting the 10 percent requirement in Michigan’s energy reform law.”

Consumers is planning to build a second wind farm in 2014, this one in Tuscola County in Michigan’s Thumb. The $250 million Cross Winds Energy Park will produce 150 megawatts at peak output and is expected to go on line by the end of 2015.

Swirling ideas

Southwestern Michigan corporate giant Whirlpool pulled its Innovation Team together to brainstorm next-generation product development, but they, in turn, asked high school kids to help out. In fact, they reached past the state line and went to Goshen, Ind., students at Penn High School. (That should make Chief Recruiter Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder happy.)

The company challenged 100 students to develop ideas for products and services to address the needs (and wants) of Gen Y and Millennial consumers age 17 to 30. The students fired back with formal presentations Nov. 29. The rest of the story … is super secret.

Celebrate like a Mayan

Amidst the busy holiday season, add one more important marker to the end of the year … or world — a world in which anything can morph into a promotion. Case in point: Two local business owners inspired one another to offer a Mayan Just In Case Kit, containing water, matches, chocolate, a notebook, pencil, first aid supplies and other emergency essentials.

Languages International owner Beverly Wall decided the nature of her business is a nice fit to create an educational opportunity around the ancient Mayan calendar (or calendars), which does not extend past Dec. 21, 2012, a detail some have interpreted as the end of the world.

NASA scientists had a thing or two to say about that and last week compiled a detailed information series debunking the ultimate pessimists.

It all makes Wall grin, and in an email she explained, “Our customers like to follow what’s happening in the world of foreign language. This was a different twist to what we normally offer every month, and we were able to tie in a Special End of the World Special for any Spanish work done during December.” Wall’s company provides language services for businesses.

Business friend Scott Seifferlein, owner of, had an idea for a promotion of his own. “I actually got the idea from Bev. I was looking for a way to get in the conversation already going on in the consumers’ minds this season. And Beverly Wall, whom I must say is a very sharp marketer, helped me create a Mayan promotion similar to the one she is doing with Languages International.”

Seifferlein, self-promoted as a golf guru, speaker, author, golf coach and darned good guy to thousands of West Michigan golfers, asked Mayan-minded future customers to call (616) 802-4969.

What the frack?

Everybody loves a good movie, and West Michigan Environmental Action Council is sponsoring a screening of the Matt Damon drama “Promised Land” with a showing Friday, Jan. 4, at Celebration Cinema North at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7). Tickets will be available at the box office or online at

Then, beginning in February, WMEAC will sponsor four environmental documentaries at Grand Rapids Public Museum the first Tuesday of each month: “Urban Roots”(Feb. 5), “Seeds of Freedom” (March 5), “The Last Mountain”(April 9) and “Power Surge”(May 7). All museum screenings will begin with introductory remarks at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. There is a $5 suggested donation for each GRPM screening, which are followed by an expert speaker or panel discussion.

“Promised Land” is focused on the controversial topic of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking. Directed by Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”), Damon’s character is a corporate salesman intent on acquiring drilling rights for the properties of a rural town’s local citizens hit hard by economic decline. His efforts are complicated by the objection of a respected schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook) and a grassroots campaign led by John Krasinski (“The Office”).

Belly laugh

Ever laugh so hard you were certain you were going to pee your pants? Well, funny as that may sound, not everyone sees it as a joke.

The doctors at Female Pelvic Medicine and Urogynecology Institute of Michigan, a division of Grand Rapids Women’s Health, wanted to spread some cheer during the 2012 holiday season. They decided their female health awareness campaign, called “Laugh Don’t Leak,” was the perfect pairing with Dr. Grins Comedy Shows at The B.O.B. to subtly enlighten women about a common problem women face: stress incontinence.

The shows will take place during January and February and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the National Association for Continence. See for information.

“We thought that having this special ladies night at The B.O.B. would be entertaining for all women and also enlighten them about procedures to help with stress incontinence, a common problem. This awareness campaign is meant to let women know there is treatment for leaking with a variety of options that are tailored to each patient. They don’t have to live with incontinence issues,” said Jason Bennett, one of the partner physicians at Female Pelvic Medicine and Urogynecology.

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