“I have a conditional opinion, I suppose,” he said.
McNeil said areas he’d look at include how in-lake windmills would impact recreation, and how they would impact tourism and the beauty of the area.
“If it was a mile or two offshore, that would be really bad,” he said. “If they're doing it 45 miles offshore in the dead center of the lake, that’s not somewhere people go very often.”
Amanda Henry, a photographer who frequents the Grand Haven area, said she would be supportive of a wind project.
“I don’t think there would be much of a negative environmental impact, being that wind energy doesn’t use fossil fuels, meaning there wouldn’t be air pollution,” she said.
Federal officials recently announced a deal with five states to speed up consideration of proposed offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes. The agreement is between the federal government and Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania.
Arn Boezaart, director of the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center at Grand Valley State University, said the purpose of the proposal is to have a streamlined process that's predictable and less burdensome to developers.
“It’s a significant agreement where they’ve agreed to move forward to identify a regulatory process to accelerate offshore wind development, and how that process could be unified and streamlined when the time is here,” Boezaart said.
Currently, there are no wind turbines in the Great Lakes.
The most recent local proposal came in 2010 when Scandia Wind Offshore proposed placing a 500-megawatt project off Grand Haven’s coast. The project would have been located 6 miles offshore and would’ve included up to 100 turbines as tall as 450 feet.
Grand Haven Mayor Geri McCaleb said she was “very skeptical” about any proposals to place windmills off the coast of Grand Haven.
“It’s just something we have to be really, really careful with,” she said.
McCaleb said she was worried about potential environmental impacts of putting wind turbines in the lake.
“(Offshore wind) is not something we’ve talked about since I’ve been back on council as mayor,” said McCaleb, who was elected mayor five months ago.
Most recently, the city of Grand Haven adopted language for wind turbines in the city in August 2011. As a special land use, small structure-mounted, small tower-mounted and medium wind energy turbines would need to come before the city's Planning Commission for approval.
Like the city, Ottawa County Commissioner Denny Swartout said the county has not developed a stance one way or another in regards to offshore wind development. He noted county officials did listen to the proposals from Scandia in 2010.
“All of us came away with a clear feeling that there wasn’t a lot we could do until the federal and state government established clear parameters and guidelines,” Swartout said. “Until they come to grips with this, there isn’t anything the county has any say or jurisdiction over.”
In 2008, the Ottawa County Planning Commission developed a model wind ordinance that communities could use when developing their own ordinance language.
Meanwhile, researchers are busy collecting data to help developers and policy makers determine where the best location would be for wind power. A buoy collecting wind data on Lake Michigan is conducting a three-year offshore wind assessment study.
“We’re demonstrating new technology and capturing data that has never been captured before,” Boezaart said.
The $1.5 million WindSentinel buoy is equipped with a laser to measure offshore wind conditions. Data, transmitted online, is evaluated and analyzed by GVSU researchers.
“The WindSentinel buoy captures 120 different data points,” Boezaart said.