Feds, 5 states to push for Great Lakes wind farms

The Obama administration and five states announced an agreement Friday to speed up consideration of plans for offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes, which have been delayed by cost concerns and public opposition.
AP Wire
Apr 1, 2012

Under the deal, state and federal agencies will craft a blueprint for speeding regulatory review of proposed wind farms without sacrificing environmental and safety standards. The Great Lakes have no offshore wind turbines, although a Cleveland partnership announced plans last year for a demonstration project that would place five to seven turbines in Lake Erie about 7 miles north of the city, generating 20-30 megawatts of electricity.

Offshore wind projects have been proposed elsewhere in the region, including Michigan and New York, stirring fierce debate.

Critics say they would ruin spectacular vistas, lower shoreline property values and harm birds and fish. New York Power Authority trustees last September abandoned a plan for private companies to place up to 200 turbines, each about 450 feet high, in lakes Erie and Ontario. The Canadian province of Ontario in February 2011 ordered a moratorium on wind energy development in its Great Lakes waters to allow more study of environmental issues.

Supporters describe the lakes’ winds as a vast, untapped source of clean energy and economic growth.

“The goal ... is to cut through red tape so we can efficiently and responsibly evaluate offshore wind projects that have the potential to create American jobs and reduce pollution in our communities,” said Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Administration officials said the region’s offshore winds could generate more than 700 gigawatts — one-fifth of all potential wind energy nationwide. Each gigawatt of offshore wind could power 300,000 homes while reducing demand for electricity from coal, which emits greenhouse gases and other pollutants, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

Public resistance and logistical problems would pose formidable obstacles to approaching those levels, along with technical challenges such as preventing damage to turbines when the lake surfaces freeze in winter. Yet harnessing only a small portion of the Great Lakes’ offshore wind could generate thousands of jobs, officials said.

Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania signed the agreement. The other three states with Great Lakes coastlines — Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin — declined invitations but could join the partnership later, an administration official said.

The agreement is modeled after another between the U.S. Interior Department and 10 Eastern states designed to support wind energy production in the Atlantic and encourage investment in new offshore wind technology.

“This agreement will enable states to work together to ensure that any proposed offshore wind projects are reviewed in a consistent manner, and that the various state and federal agencies involved collaborate and coordinate their reviews,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said developing offshore wind energy would “promote economic development and create jobs, while reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources.”

Among 10 federal agencies taking part are the Pentagon, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Developers would need state and federal approval to establish offshore wind farms. State governments own the Great Lakes bottomlands within U.S. territory, while a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be required to erect the turbines and all 10 federal agencies would review the plans. The agreement will encourage the agencies to avoid “a hodgepodge of different processes” causing needless delays, said David Poneman, deputy secretary of the Energy Department.

The deal “should lower yield costs and improve processing of permit applications, as each government unit learns from others’ experiences,” said Tim Rylan, president of Apex Offshore Wind in Charlottesville, Va., which is considering a Lake Erie project.


Use your head

"Administration officials said the region’s offshore winds could generate more than 700 gigawatts"..."Each gigawatt of offshore wind could power 300,000 homes". Could somebody please explain something to me? It states in this article that that offshore wind energy produced in the Great lakes region could produce enough energy to power 210 million homes. There are currently about 115 Million households in the U.S. and 70 million single family homes, Which means that this article implies that wind power generated offshore in the great lakes could produce enough power to sustain almost twice as many households as there are in the entire United States and 3 times the power needed to run every single family home in the U.S. Could someone knowledgeable on the subject please explain how much energy you can get from a single turbine, how much energy an average home uses, and how many turbines would be needed to produce enough energy to power 210 million homes as this article states? I find it very hard to believe that wind turbines in the great lakes waters could produce that much. I would be very curious to know how the energy will be stored as well, so that their would not be a need for coal or other sources to meet the demand from those homes. If it can't be stored, then the needs of those homes won't be met. I like wind energy, I just don't see the practicality and cost effectiveness at this point. so I am willing to listen if someone could clarify the above math from the article...

Use your head

I think I found my own answer so this has become a point for other readers rather than me seeking information. Based on current Wind turbine technology from the American Wind Energy Association, a very large turbine under very favorable conditions can produce power for about 500 homes. According to this article, there would be 420,000 turbines erected in the great lakes to produce the power they speak of. This means there would be 4.5 wind turbines for every square mile of water surface over all of the great lakes and because Canada has not approved this use, there would be more like 9 wind turbines for every square mile of water surface across all of the great lakes to produce the energy stated in this article. In other words, the article states how much energy "could be generated" but this is likely hundreds of thousands times what actually "would" ever be generated....In short, the article is certainly a far stretch of the truth if not complete misinformation.


Use your head your math is correct but it doesn't take into account that most wind turbines do not produce more than 50 % percent of their rated capacity depending on the wind density of the site. It is a myth that the great lakes have any more wind density than the land that surrounds them. It is free of course of ground friction ( topography, trees, and buildings) but this is less of a factor when you consider the installed height of the average 2 megawatt turbine. Also never mind the fact that no data exists for wind density on lake Michigan at the 100 meter level. The GVSU wind measuring buoy is plagued with inaccuracy due to the experimental nature of it's measurement method (laser) which is not truly developed technology. They can't stabilize the beam in rough water conditions which just happens to occur on the days where the wind speed might be relevant. Due diligence would indicate that no less than two years of data would be required to suggest it would be worth the huge extra cost of deployment in the water as well as the unknowns of water freezing effect on these sites. A large ice shelf would take them down by the dozens. Without government grants these sites would never occur as well as no normal investment process would tolerate the risks. They also falsely talk about jobs, but after these sites are installed not many people are required to operate them and those that will remain will be a highly specialized group of people that move from site to site for maintenance and likely will not even live in MI. Do you know of a lot of high steel workers and heavy lift helicopter pilots out of work in MI. The turbine business is not a sham but it is not practical in many applications and the average law maker is not educated enough about them to make sound decisions regarding their return on the taxpayer dollar. Also whenever there is connection between big business ( construction companies and utilities) and DOE grants, history teaches us that the taxpayer is almost always the loser.

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