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U. S. ponders use of offshore wind turbines in Great Lakes; But There Are Environmental Issues At Stake

Imagine sections of the Great Lakes dotted with rows of gleaming, 12-storey turbines, blades whirring in the stiff breeze as they generate electricity for homes and businesses onshore. It's only an idea -- for now. But U. S. government regulators are bracing for an expected wave of proposals for offshore power generation ...Despite its allure as a plentiful source of clean energy, they say, offshore wind power could affect the aquatic environment and commerce.

Imagine sections of the Great Lakes dotted with rows of gleaming, 12-storey turbines, blades whirring in the stiff breeze as they generate electricity for homes and businesses onshore.

It's only an idea -- for now.

But U. S. government regulators are bracing for an expected wave of proposals for offshore power generation in a region that never seems to run short of wind.

Despite its allure as a plentiful source of clean energy, they say, offshore wind power could affect the aquatic environment and commerce.

State and federal officials are taking initial steps toward writing rules, as conservation activists watch closely.

Jennifer Nalbone, navigation and invasive species director for the advocacy group Great Lakes United, says "this is our last frontier, our wild west."

"Renewable energy is the direction we want go, but you don't want to enter it blindly," she said.

Insiders reported on the situation during the International Submerged Lands Management Conference in Traverse City, which began Monday and was continuing through Wednesday.

They said anchoring large wind farms on Great Lakes bottomlands would have implications for commercial and recreational navigation, water quality, fish... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Imagine sections of the Great Lakes dotted with rows of gleaming, 12-storey turbines, blades whirring in the stiff breeze as they generate electricity for homes and businesses onshore.

It's only an idea -- for now.

But U. S. government regulators are bracing for an expected wave of proposals for offshore power generation in a region that never seems to run short of wind.

Despite its allure as a plentiful source of clean energy, they say, offshore wind power could affect the aquatic environment and commerce.

State and federal officials are taking initial steps toward writing rules, as conservation activists watch closely.

Jennifer Nalbone, navigation and invasive species director for the advocacy group Great Lakes United, says "this is our last frontier, our wild west."

"Renewable energy is the direction we want go, but you don't want to enter it blindly," she said.

Insiders reported on the situation during the International Submerged Lands Management Conference in Traverse City, which began Monday and was continuing through Wednesday.

They said anchoring large wind farms on Great Lakes bottomlands would have implications for commercial and recreational navigation, water quality, fish habitat and even flight patterns for birds and aircraft.

Wind power developers are wondering what kinds of regulatory hurdles they will encounter once they propose offshore projects, said John Cherry, a University of Michigan researcher studying the subject for the Great Lakes Commission.

"It's an unknown, so there's a huge amount of risk," Cherry said. "Everybody would like to be the second program to do it. The first will be a regulatory trailblazer."

Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Ireland have installed offshore turbines, and Germany has approved nearly two dozen projects expected to go online soon. Denmark's largest wind farm has 80 turbines roughly 36 metres high, planted 12 to 20 kilometres off the coast.

The United States has no offshore wind production, although projects are in the works for Atlantic waters off Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island. A feasibility study is under way for a possible wind farm in Lake Erie near Cleveland.

A Michigan State University study released this month said Michigan's portion of the Great Lakes could produce nearly 322,000 megawatts of power from wind -- a huge sum equal to roughly one-third of all electricity now generated countrywide.

Harnessing that much power would require placing nearly 100,000 turbines in the lakes, a remote prospect. Still, the study illustrated wind power's considerable potential for the region.

"There is interest in the Great Lakes, and I know some companies are looking there," Laurie Jodziewicz, manager of siting policy for the American Wind Energy Association, said in a phone interview.

The lakes would present unique challenges, such as ice cover in winter, she said. Developers also worry about excessive regulatory hoops with eight states and two Canadian provinces having jurisdiction. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers also might get involved.



Source: http://chathamdailynews.ca/...

OCT 29 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/17686-u-s-ponders-use-of-offshore-wind-turbines-in-great-lakes-but-there-are-environmental-issues-at-stake
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