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No wind power on our waterways

Let’s build a wind farm. We’ll put windmills just offshore of a major city and disfigure the view of a beautiful lake. We’ll see if winter’s ice will knock them over; if they’ll interfere with established commercial shipping lanes. We’ll count the birds getting whacked in the blades. We’ll see if they endanger pleasure boaters and disrupt prime fishing habitat and confirm what’s already clear — the cost of any power generated will be at least three times higher than current power costs.

It makes no sense, you say? I’m with you, but if you’re in Cleveland, you could be looking at just such blight if a proposed wind farm in Lake Erie moves forward.

Forget about the arguments that wind power is inherently intermittent and unpredictable. Look past the unsubstantiated claim that wind power reduces our demand for oil. Ignore that wind power has low economic value. What’s important is that it gets funds funneled to “green energy” companies authorized in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the stimulus bill) so it must offer some sort of economic salvation.

The Cleveland project is touted to be a pilot study for the Great Lakes Wind Energy Center. It would be a large 20 megawatt farm just three miles offshore. But let’s be clear about what’s really going on: It is expected to provide solutions to any technical challenges (like ice, transmission corridors, etc) and further the expansion to even larger-scale wind farm development in Lake Erie and more spinning windmills in the other Great Lakes.

Not in Michigan

Michigan borders four of the five Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie). So it’s no surprise this state, known for looking out for its waterways (note recent emergency dredging funding or the random boarding prohibition) now has a bill in the legislature that will end any discussion of windmills spinning in Michigan waters.

State representative Ray Franz, whose northwest district includes some spectacular areas along Lake Michigan’s shores, is sponsoring HB 4778 that would prevent the state from entering into a lease or deed to site and build any offshore wind research structures or any wind turbines on submerged lands. I hope other states follow, but it won’t be easy.

In many ways, the states are driving the wind energy idea, seemingly without thinking, by having passed legislation called a “Renewable Portfolio Standard.” It’s really a mandate that utilities generate or buy a percent of their electricity from so-called “renewable” sources. (Ah, shades of the federal Renewable Fuel Standards and the ethanol debacle?)

Further, the standard sets specific targets. For example, Michigan mandates 10 percent plus 1,100 megawatts from renewables by 2015; Ohio calls for 25 percent by 2025. No surprise, then, that these policies are credited by wind energy proponents as the most important non-federal push for wind development.

Striving toward more renewable energy sources is, generally, a good thing. Specifically, the expansion of wind farms on land, when appropriately located and accepted by host communities, is fitting. However, what’s blatantly missing is any recognition of critical “landscape values.” In the case of our waterways, there needs to be an understanding that the view of unencumbered oceans, lakes, rivers and bays has an extraordinary and unique “landscape value.” Destroying that hits our industry and our customers in an inordinate way.

As a water-dependent industry, it’s time to examine every state’s current laws, if any, regarding the Renewable Portfolio Standards and, like Michigan, take measures now, before it’s too late, to protect the precious “landscape value” of our waters.


7 comments on “No wind power on our waterways

  1. Sam Insalaco

    Great point Norm! Lake shore residents have to go through the mill to obtain any permit to improve their beachfront property or add a dock. But because wind power is the Federal Government energy cure du jour, anyone can get a subsidy and agency approval to blemish the lake vista, create navigation hazardous, and theaten potential ecological impact, not to mention that we pay for these follies with our tax dollars. Ohio should similarly pass legislation to Michigan and stop the wind madness. If we’re compelled to pursue renewal energy sources, let’s focus on wave energy or hydroelectric solutions that won’t spoil the view and are commercially sustainable without the federal subsidies so we can spend our money enjoying the lake.

  2. Michael Tamulaites

    Please, please, please, quit spreading the nonsense you shared with this audience in at least the first two paragraphs. Birds getting hit by or hitting blades, fish habitat destruction, danger to boaters . . . Come on, at least try to be realistic.

    Let’s do this. Let’s stack up some coal plants on the coastline, frack all the farmland that abuts the beautiful lakes and have the runoff go lakeward. Let’s keep our heads in the sand about the actual cost of energy from fossil fuels through egregious government subsidies. Let’s just forget about a whole section of Canada that has been destroyed to create oil from tar sands, let’s forget about leaks in pipelines all over the country that will only get worse. Let’s forget about the sinkholes that are appearing around the country. Oh and please don’t even mention air pollution and water pollution from fossil fuel energy creation. Let’s just make sure we don’t have to look at slowly turning windmill blades far off in the distance.

    Please quit this nonsense and become part of the solution.

  3. Michael Geagan

    I support wind power. I have sailed extensively in the waters surrounding Denmark and Sweden, and find the wind farms to be a graceful addition to the otherwise flat landscape. The Scandinavians have worked out how to put wind farms offshore in areas of biting cold and ferocious seas (i.e., the North Sea and the Skagerrak), and I assume that the US developers will use this knowledge. I agree with the previous commenter: I’d rather sail and beachcomb with slowly spinning turbines as a backdrop than a coal, nuke, or gas plant along the shoreline.

  4. John Schroeder

    I have to agree with Norm here. I have a turbine sitting on my land, that I bought with taxpayer dollars and also a bunch of my own. I really had no idea, how taking advantage of a subsidy really works. Subsidy should be defined as 1) any project or group of ideas that make no sense for a consumer, financially, to buy into. 2) Things that take taxpayer money without their consent and make corporations wealthy.
    This use of our Great Lake Erie should be PROTESTED. Projects that are privately funded without government interference, that are easy on the environment, that have a track record of being solid and sustainable should be what we are looking for. The State, The Feds and the Taxpayers are broke, this project will get $50,000,000 in subsidies…. wish I were broke. I started this comment saying that I had a turbine, I don’t believe in this type of energy for our environment, we do not have the sustainable wind. The company that is selling this (I sat through the presentation on the Cleveland project) state we average about 15mph wind 24hrs a day, that let out a huge laugh from the Sail Boaters in the audience, and that on calm days you were still heavily reliant on fossil fuel. So, what are we really trying to accomplish? Solutions are created by discussions, not throwing money in the air and hoping, really hoping it turns into electricity.

  5. Bob Anslow

    Get your head out of your backside!!

    Like Mr. Tamulaites writes and then let’s drill some more Deep Water Horizon rigs. Then add a few more Exon Valdez ships to the fleet. Send a few dozen more trucks full of US dollars to the Middle East because we sure don’t need any money here at home and they love us so over in the desert land. Then let’s go dust of the atomic fuel rods so we can build some more Three Mile Islands; Chernobyls and oh yes, how about six or eight Fukusima reactors. Japan is still dealing with their 6 as they burn through the earth.

    If you prefer a slower death, let’s all go dig more coal. Poison our lakes by killing all the oxygen from the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide coming together to make a little more acid rain. Just in case you don’t know of these chemicals, the come from the coal fired power plants. The earth’s fish and fowl just love dead water to play in.

    No one wind farm will not cure our ills but when and where do we start? Norm, I suggest you get out of your office from when you must live in seclusion since it’s apparent you an seen nothing of the world. Portugal is full of wind farms as is much of Europe is using wind and solar. Chez Republic has dozens upon dozens of solar fields and wind farms. Hell even Nicaragua is ahead of us with wind farms.

    Mr. Schmuck, you are simply a schmuck!

  6. Hoosier Boy

    I don’t know the answer to this but I’ve got a feeling my gut instinct on this is probably correct…how many of those Portuguese and other European solar fields and wind farms are heavily government subsidized and could in no way survive on their own earnings?

  7. CaptA


    Instead of sensationalizing the issue. How about posting some studies that show the cost and benefits. Windfarms are used extensively in Europe and in the Southwwestern Pacific area. They are very cost effective there, decrease reliance on fossil fuel, and do not affect the shipping channels. Show me studies instead of talking about ranting and raving. You are anti-ethanol, anti-alternative energy. Do you honestly believe we have an unlimited supply of fossil fuel? Why are we advancing in so many technologies in the world but still using energy technology that is almost 200 years old?

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