A map prepared for Michigan’s Great Lakes Offshore Wind Council shows areas of high wind power production potential in the state’s offshore waters.
One of the first proposals for a major offshore wind project in America’s freshwater has surprised Michigan regulators and begun to stir opposition from onshore property owners. But the company behind the proposal says it has the potential to help right Michigan’s struggling economy with new jobs and leadership in wind energy development.
First disclosed last month, the Scandia Wind proposal to install 100 to 200 wind turbines two to four miles offshore in Lake Michigan for a 1,000-megawatt project comes after a September report by the state’s Great Lakes Wind Council. That report outlined high potential areas in the state’s Great Lakes for wind power, while recommending turbines be placed as least six miles offshore.
The state report said 20 percent or 7,874 square miles of the 38,000 square miles of state-owned Great Lakes bottomlands has a depth of 30 meters or less, which it said is optimal for offshore wind development. The report identified 537 square miles as most favorable for the sustainable development of offshore wind energy. In the most favorable area, the Council said, the potential exists for 298 million MWh to 426 million MWh of production.
The Scandia wind turbines, proposed to span a 15-mile offshore distance between Ludington and Pentwater on Lower Michigan’s West Coast, would rise about 450 feet above the lake surface. Turbines in the company’s Aegir Project would be 3.7 miles off shore at the project’s northern end, but closer to shore heading south toward Silver Lake State Park.
The nearby Ludington Pumped Storage Facility would provide a link to the state’s electric grid.
The state Wind Council report called for changes in state law and policy that have not happened yet. State regulators didn’t expect major offshore proposals for several years.
“The lesson is that we have to have the appropriate regulations in place,” said Skip Pruss, director of the state Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, “because when a proposal like this comes up, we’re not ready for it.”
One of the attendees at a public information meeting in Ludington on December 15 called the proposal “shocking.” Added Pentwater resident Mary Stiphany: “Would anyone put these in the Grand Canyon? This is our Grand Canyon, our beautiful spot.”
Area residents are primarily concerned about aesthetic issues, but also raise concerns about bird and bat migrations. The shoreline area is in the heart of one of the state’s most popular tourism areas.
“A wind farm such as the Aegir Project, on a scale of 1,000 megawatts in size, could contribute to positioning Michigan as a leader in wind energy,” Scandia says in promotional materials. “We believe there is a ‘first mover’ advantage in the Great Lakes – an opportunity for Michigan to become an industrial hub for the entire region.”
Scandia is partnering on the project with Havgul Clean Energy of Norway.
More meetings to gauge public opinion are scheduled in area communities on January 18 and 19. Another meeting of the state Great Lakes Wind Council is scheduled on January 19 in Lansing, the state capital.
Map image credit: State of Michigan Great Lakes Offshore Wind Council.