Friday, March 6, 2009

Pinwheels on Lake Michigan

Offshore wind farms on the Great Lakes is nothing new, but it's been decided a post of this subject will be planted:

The Michigan Wind Energy Conference wrapped up at Cobo Center Wednesday with a look at offshore wind projects in the United Kingdom and their potential in Michigan, along with breakout sessions on small and community windpower projects.

Chris Jenner and Johnny Lewis of England's RPS Energy offered a comprehensive overview of their company's work on offshore wind power in Europe, specifically the United Kingdom, covering the challenges and successes of the technology.

Peter Mandelstam, founder and president of Bluewater Wind LLC of Delaware, gave a detailed presentation on the potential of offshore wind in the United States, including the Great Lakes.


Why? Because they offer stronger and more consistent winds than other shoreline areas, relatively shallow water depths even miles offshore, no significant water use conflicts, accessible transmission and ports, large available project area footprints, and little opposition from the public if the turbines are built more than 10 miles from shore (which makes them too small to see from the beach, for the most part).

According to cleantechnia:

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.

- Brewskie

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