Are we destined to see offshore wind farms cropping up all over the Great Lakes?
Presenters at the Michigan Wind Conference, which closed Wednesday in Detroit, think so. The bountiful prevailing winds and relatively shallow depths make the lakes excellent locations for farms, speakers told the more than 1,000 people attended the event, according to WWJ radio.
“Offshore wind is the next wave — lots of puns, folks, I warn you,” said Peter Mandelstam, founder and president of Bluewater Wind, LLC, of Delaware. “The Northeast and the Great Lakes are natural markets.”
Mandelstam also said the Great Lakes offer no significant water use conflicts and accessible transmission and ports. There’s also little opposition from the public if the turbines are built more than 10 miles from shore, he said.
Offshore wind farms are much more common in Europe than they are in the U.S. And the lakes have their own set of construction and maintenance challenges because they freeze almost completely in the winter and saltwater farms usually don’t encounter the same level of ice. Ice floes and ridges formed when lakes freeze could damage the turbine towers, some studies have cautioned. But an official with the Trillium Wind Power Corp., which is building a 700 megawatt wind farm in Canadian waters in Lake Ontario told the New York Times last month the problems can be overcome with barriers around the turbines and other defenses.
Michigan has been planning to capitalize on its wind power potential for some time. New York has ambitious plans for wind power as well. Building wind farms offshore seems to be a convenient way to deal with the NIMBY issue that many terrestrial wind farms create. Let’s see if more companies begin looking at the Lakes for their projects.
Photo credit: Phault’s Flickr stream, via a Creative Commons license.
Dave has over a decade of experience in journalism covering a wide variety of topics. He spent 7 years on the business beat for the Rochester (N.Y) Democrat and Chronicle, covering technology issues including the state's growing green economy. When he's not writing, you'll find Dave enjoying his family, being a bit of a music snob, and praying that the Notre Dame football team can get its act together. He lives in Rochester.