Grand Valley Study Finds Pros, Cons Of Offshore Wind In Lake Michigan

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If there’s ever to be offshore wind generation in Lake Michigan, chances are you’ll be able to see it from shore.

That’s one of the findings of the West Michigan Wind Assessment project team at Grand Valley State University, which issued a report Wednesday to address the benefits and concerns related to offshore wind, including public acceptance, visibility, noise and tourism.

Currently, there are no offshore wind farms in North America, but several have been proposed for the Great Lakes.

Erik Nordman, principal investigator of the project and assistant professor of biology at Grand Valley, said the study reveals public perception of the Great Lakes shoreline.

“We found there are different expectations and uses of the shoreline, from power plants to recreation to relaxation,” said Nordman. “This information can help open up a discussion to understand the different values of the Great Lakes and whether offshore wind energy is appropriate.”

The study showed:

* Water depths in Lake Michigan increase rapidly with distance from shore so offshore wind turbines are likely to be located within view of the shore.
* A wind farm located six miles offshore in Lake Michigan would be visible about 64 percent of the time based on average weather conditions.
* Sound from an offshore wind turbine can reflect off the water and travel farther than similar sounds on land, although it is unlikely that any sound would reach the shore six miles away.
* Permitting an offshore wind farm is complex — it took the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts nine years to secure a permit. However, the permitting process in Michigan’s Great Lakes is different from that for federal waters along the continental shelf.

Some advantages of offshore wind:
* More consistent wind
* Proximity to large cities and energy centers
* Larger and more efficient turbines
* Located where noise is less likely to disturb people

Some drawbacks to offshore wind:
* Construction and maintenance costs
* Public acceptance
* Could negatively affect people’s connection to a landscape

The West Michigan Wind Assessment is a Michigan Sea Grant-funded project which is analyzing the benefits and challenges of wind energy development in coastal West Michigan. For more information on the study visit www.gvsu.edu/wind.

In a separate study, Grand Valley’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center will conduct a three-year offshore wind assessment study in Lake Michigan beginning in the fall of 2011.

For media interviews contact Erik Nordman at (616) 331-8705, or Grand Valley News and Information Services at (616) 331-2221.

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