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Neighbors make waves over turbines; State officials, residents caught off guard by plan

At a public meeting last week, residents of Ludington and Pentwater were unhappy, saying the spinning blades would ruin their vista and shoo away tourists and the money they bring to the area. There also are environmental concerns about how the noise and low-frequency hum the turbines make might affect bird and fish migration patterns. ..."It was shocking," said Mary Stiphany of Pentwater.

Offshore wind power, in the form of giant turbines sticking 450 feet above the waves of the Great Lakes, is coming sooner or later, experts say.

And Scandia Wind, a Minnesota firm partnering with a Norwegian wind developer, is pushing for sooner.

Scandia has proposed a 1,000-megawatt wind farm between Pentwater and Ludington along the shore of Lake Michigan. The plan has caught state officials and residents off guard.

Several companies have been sniffing out offshore wind farm possibilities in Michigan, but Scandia was the first to jump in and publicly announce its plans. The turbines would be visible all along the shore, which takes in Silver Lake and Mears state beaches, Little Sable Lighthouse and Pentwater Harbor.

The firm wants to build foundations on the lake bottom, which is owned by the citizens of Michigan, and place 100 to 200 turbines -- 5 to 10 megawatts each -- on top.

The total size would make the wind farm bigger than any proposed new coal plant in Michigan and nearly as large as the Fermi 2 nuclear plant.

At a public meeting last week, residents of Ludington and Pentwater were unhappy, saying the spinning blades would ruin... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Offshore wind power, in the form of giant turbines sticking 450 feet above the waves of the Great Lakes, is coming sooner or later, experts say.

And Scandia Wind, a Minnesota firm partnering with a Norwegian wind developer, is pushing for sooner.

Scandia has proposed a 1,000-megawatt wind farm between Pentwater and Ludington along the shore of Lake Michigan. The plan has caught state officials and residents off guard.

Several companies have been sniffing out offshore wind farm possibilities in Michigan, but Scandia was the first to jump in and publicly announce its plans. The turbines would be visible all along the shore, which takes in Silver Lake and Mears state beaches, Little Sable Lighthouse and Pentwater Harbor.

The firm wants to build foundations on the lake bottom, which is owned by the citizens of Michigan, and place 100 to 200 turbines -- 5 to 10 megawatts each -- on top.

The total size would make the wind farm bigger than any proposed new coal plant in Michigan and nearly as large as the Fermi 2 nuclear plant.

At a public meeting last week, residents of Ludington and Pentwater were unhappy, saying the spinning blades would ruin their vista and shoo away tourists and the money they bring to the area. There also are environmental concerns about how the noise and low-frequency hum the turbines make might affect bird and fish migration patterns.

Fighting the plan

"It was shocking," said Mary Stiphany of Pentwater. She and other residents already are organizing to fight the plan.

The developers said they won't build the project without local support but urged residents to examine the benefits of the project.

Steve Warner, chief executive officer of Scandia, said the project could take a decade to complete, in stages of 200 watts each, but he hopes to see blades spinning in four to five years. Despite some opposition, Warner told the Free Press he is encouraged by the feedback so far.

Building the $3-billion wind farm would require 2 million hours of labor just to build its foundations, he said, creating jobs.

"Scandia caught lots of people by surprise," said Arnold Boezaart, director of the Michigan Alternative Renewable Energy Center and a member of the Michigan Great Lakes Wind Council, a group appointed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm last year to make recommendations about offshore wind development.

"There was a presumption that the world would wait for the council to do its work," he said. "But in a free enterprise system, that doesn't prevent someone from saying, 'I'm ready to go.' "

Wind council report

The wind council presented a report this fall with recommendations, such as putting turbines no closer than 6 miles from shore and proposing changes in legislation that hasn't even been introduced yet.

Scandia's plan would put turbines 2 to 4 miles offshore, closer than the recommendations. But so far, there are no laws guiding offshore wind developments.

"The lesson is that we have to have the appropriate regulations in place, because when a proposal like this comes up, we're not ready for it," said Skip Pruss, director of the state Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth and a member of the wind council.

Other states, from New York to Ohio, are moving quickly on offshore wind power.

But Pruss said he hadn't expected any Michigan offshore proposals for another few years. No one has put up any towers off Michigan's shores to measure the wind speed there. Maps of winds in the Great Lakes come from satellite and other data. Boezaart's center plans a measuring station offshore in 2011.

Pruss said Michigan is excited about offshore wind projects but doesn't want to rush the process.

"We need to be very deliberate and careful," he said.

Birds and fish

Siting offshore wind farms requires figuring out the effects on bird and bat migrations, commercial and recreational shipping, and fish and fish habitat. Determining payments for using the lake bottom need to be worked out, and state, federal and possibly local permits would be required.

Warner said Scandia's Norwegian partners already have done several offshore projects in Norway and are familiar with those issues.

But the tougher issue may be public acceptance.

Local residents at the Ludington meeting with Scandia were alarmed when the company showed computer drawings of how turbines would look from shore. The turbines would need to be 12 miles offshore before they would disappear from the horizon, Pruss said.

However, Warner said the lake is too deep to put turbines that far out.

"There's no getting around the fact that you'll see offshore turbines," he said. "We're not trying to hide that fact."

The turbine sounds would not be audible, a problem neighbors cite with land-based wind farms in the Thumb.

Warner said Scandia will continue meeting with local governments and residents.

"So far, it's a concept," he said. "We need to hear whether locals want it."

The Scandia turbine project at a glance

• Partners would be Scandia Wind of Minnesota and Havgul Clean Energy of Norway.

• 100 to 200 turbines, generating 5 to 10 megawatts each, totaling 1,000 megawatts.

• Built 2 to 4 miles offshore, with each rising about 300 feet to 450 feet above Lake Michigan.

• Foundations for turbines would be on the lake bottom.

• Developers chose the location because it is near Ludington Pumped Storage Plant, a hydroelectric plant that can store excess power and is owned by Michigan's two major utilities.

• Scandia also chose the site for its nearness to the electrical grid that provides power to the Detroit and Chicago areas.

• The turbines would be visible from the shore.

Source: Scandia Wind


Source: http://www.freep.com/apps/p...

DEC 23 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/23765-neighbors-make-waves-over-turbines-state-officials-residents-caught-off-guard-by-plan
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