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Windmills threaten access and enjoyment of waterways

“Motor vessel Special Kay, this is the Coast Guard,” said the voice over my radio. “Be advised you are entering a ‘no-nav’ restricted zone and you are ordered to alter course immediately. You must navigate around the 25-square-mile turbine farm ahead of you. You cannot enter it, fish there or even pass through it!”

I didn’t really get that radio call, of course. But it’s a real possibility in the future. Boating interests need to stay aware of what’s happening with wind farms proposed for coastal and Great Lakes waters, and the impacts these could have on boating.

What triggered this blog is a magazine ad I saw yesterday by the German conglomerate, Siemens. The picture in the ad shows rows of wind turbines in water as far as the eye can see. It’s not a pretty picture. And, that brought to mind a recent drive in Indiana where I passed a series of farms with big turbine towers stretching out to the horizon on either side of I-65. “What if we were looking at that in the Gulf of Mexico (where we boat now) or on Lake Erie,” (where we boated for 38 years) I asked to my wife, Kay. “I just can’t imagine that,” she said, head shaking.

It’s closer than we think. Earlier this month, federal approval was granted to construct the first offshore wind project in the U.S. in the center of environmentally sensitive Nantucket Sound at Horseshoe Shoal, a major fishing area. Despite the strident objections of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a 24-square-mile area just five miles off some Cape Cod beaches has now been zoned for the erection of 130 turbines.

To get the picture — each turbine’s hub will be 285 feet high and the top blade tip height will reach 440 feet above the waters surface. They will be spaced about 1,800 feet apart. Should be a great view from boat or shore! Navigational restrictions are unknown at this time.

It’s not just coastal waters in play. The Great Lakes are particularly targeted by advocates for offshore wind farms. There are proposed wind farms for Lake Michigan, for Lake Ontario near the Niagara River, and off Buffalo and offshore of downtown Cleveland on Lake Erie, among others. But the opposition there is strong and it should be. In fact, in Michigan, which borders on four of the five Great Lakes, lawmakers are considering a bill to ban offshore wind farms in Michigan waters. Unlike coastal areas, the eight Great Lakes states and Ontario control the lakes. And similar opposition in Canada has reportedly caused Ontario to delay any plans for offshore wind farms.

It’s one thing to build a wind farm on open farm land where the land owner chooses to accept the turbines in return for a monthly check. That essentially impacts only the farmer. Most people don’t go to their local farm to watch a sunset anyway!

But to locate giant windmills in our lakes, bays and oceans is one of the most objectionable routes to renewable energy sources. Besides destroying the beauty of our waters, the economics make little sense except that hundreds of million of dollars are being poured into wind energy companies by the government. In fact, the cost of the Nantucket Sound farm will exceed $2.5 billion, much higher than locating the same number of turbines on land. Moreover, it’s believed the turbines will only last about five years – probably less in salt water. No one knows what maintenance costs to anticipate offshore. Then, on the Great Lakes, there’s the matter of ice and its impact on every turbine. The cost-benefit of windmills in water escapes me!

In light of these and other considerations, offshore wind farms really don’t make much sense. But good sense is not what could prevail if boaters, and concerned others, fail to respond to such proposals. If you’re near our coasts or Great Lakes, beware — zoning and other restrictions could be in your future.

Comments

11 comments on “Windmills threaten access and enjoyment of waterways

  1. Enginecom

    Scare tactics to reduce support for these projects. These projects are needed for clean renewable energy. When the CG starts to propose navigational restrictions that is where the fight should be not against these projects. The offshore wind farms will provide many permanent jobs for each state such as did the oil industry. That is until Oblunder withdrew and stopped any offshore drilling. When these NYMBYs offer alternatives and stop obstruction to clean energy projects then they can voice opposition.

  2. Capt. E

    If two commercial ships can (and do) collide on the open water with all the navcom that’s available now, then it will only be a matter of time before a ship or motor yacht or sailing vessel will run into one of these ridiculous devices. And who will pay the price? The marine industry. Your example of a radio communication makes the assumption that the Coasties will be nearby all of the “farms” and will monitor them with their radar equipment.
    Better yet, once we have a major collision and possible loss of life, the Feds will ride in on their white horse as they are prone to do, and spend trillions (yes, we’ve long lost the billions estimate) on shore-line towers with “Turbine Field Traffic Controllers” who will monitor the “farm” area for waterborne traffic. That is to say, when they are not napping. Who why are they calling them farms? They are not growing anything! Simply spending money on water clutter. I guess the radar manufacturers will have a new “setting” for our radar units, “turbine clutter”.

  3. Jeff

    Hi, it is a good point you bring up on the restrictions that MIGHT be put out there when wind farms are constructed. BUT, nothing I have read supports this fear.
    Like everything else in this country, we are getting squeezed on every front from commodity pricing to restrictions on fishing.
    Unfortunately as our country grows with more and more people with more and more special interests it becomes necessary for us all to take a step back, and negotiate for the betterment of society.
    We have failed as a country to develop an energy policy for nearly 35 years.
    Why? Because no one is willing to give a bit to make headway.
    Now we are facing $5 in fuel prices.
    In general we all have to give way a bit. Everyone.
    We need to integrate many different technologies to produce the energy that everyone needs.
    Unless we all are willing to get rid of our cars, toasters, lawn mowers, TVs, radios, and boat engines, I suggest we get serious, look at all technologies, bite the bullet and get on with ways to provide the energy supplies we need. Face the fear and deal with it it a way we all of us visionaries and conservationists can live with.

  4. LARRY RODRIGUEZ

    SHORELINE WATER TURBINES MAKES AS MUCH SENSE AS USING FOOD PRODUCTS TO MAKE ETHANOL, WITHOUT REGARDS FOR THE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES, WHICH NOW WE ARE TOO FAMILIAR WITH.
    IT SEEMS WE’RE ALWAYS RUSHING TO REACT TO PROBLEMS, OF COURSE THE LAST NUCLEAR INCIDENT IN JAPAN DID NOT HELP. ANOTHER ISSUE IS THE USUAL PROBLEM OF PEOPLE WANTING IT, “BUT NOT IN THEIR BACKYARD OR NEIGHBORHOOD”, WHICH SOUNDS BIT WITH YOUR WRITING….
    SOMEHOW WE WILL HAVE TO MAKE SOME COMPROMISES, SOLUTIONS THE RIGHT FUTURE REQUIRE MAY NOT BE AS EASY AT FIRST, TILL OUR ENTIRE FOCAL POINT CHANGES. I PRAY AGAINST IT, BUT HATE TO THINK THAT TO FORCE HUMANITY TO CHANGE OUR PRESENT HABITS, MAY REQUIRE A MAJOR CATASTROPHIC EVENT…… LETS HOPE WE GET WISE QUICK FOR I DON’T THINK WE HAVE AS MUCH TIME TO BE COMPLACENT ABOUT IT!

  5. C. Moore

    and some thought billboards were ugly.
    Where is the sierra club & audiboun society on this issue?
    These eye sores are bird killers & the harmonic frequencies they out put are disoreinting to bats.

  6. John

    The reality is that we need clean energy and it has to come from somewhere. My local lake has a coal plant on it, I’d rather have a bunch of wind turbines than that coal plant. Some people are just going to have to look at windmills, some already do and see clean energy and a source of income.

  7. Doug Reimel

    As it goes stupid is stupid. No matter what laws you pass or education you have, you cannot fix stupid.It is human nature for stupid things to happen. So, Windmills out in the middle of the water are more expensive to instal and maintain. The constuction process alone is not ecologically friendly in any way, shape or form. Plus the added expense of policing the waterways.The cost benefit analysis will not work out in any way.
    However, a windmill farm on farm land is more efficient in terms of upfront costs. With the added benefit that the farmer receives a check and can still farm the surrounding land for agricultural products for an additonal benefit. Although windmills do create jobs, when you factor in the maintenance of these units they will never pay for themselves. So when the government moves on to the next great renewable energy program. These will be abandoned and left for someone else to deal with.

    That is my take.

  8. Derek

    There are hundreds, if not thousands, of oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and we do not have issues with ships colliding with them that I am aware of. In fact, they provide good structure for marine life and are valued destinations for fishermen.

    My understanding of the benefit of wind turbines over water, as opposed to land, is that there are no obstructions that interfere with the wind. They also need to be somewhat localized to the energy markets that they serve to maintain efficiency, just like any other utility. The Northeast market is the hardest problem to solve. Not alot of vacant land space that would be suitable for turbines. Hence, the offshore wind farms.

    I certainly agree that they would be unsightly, but then so are oil platforms (not to mention condos that have taken over the waterfront of just about every quaint seaside town). The price of oil is starting to go up in logarithmic fashion. We have about 25 years to reasearch, test, build and operate a variety of alternative energy programs before the price of oil starts to shut down industries. We are 30 years behind in getting this done. We have to move forward.

    Lastly, I was somewhat dismayed that the blogger would make up some bogus scenario of the CG chasing away boats. Seriously. That was unprofessional and does not belong in a respectiable industry publication such as Trade Only.

  9. Mike

    Have you heard any complaints lately about the appearance of the Golden Gate Bridge? How about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge? I didn’t think so. You’ll get used to the look of turbines, esepcially when you realize that the wind farm will become a haven for sealife, and the best fishing will be right next to the exclusion zone.
    BTW, how many gallons per hour does your boat burn at cruise speed? Ever think about quite, low carbon footprint electric power? If you did, I’ll bet those windfarms would start to look almost sexy.

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