TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The Obama administration and five states have reached an agreement to speed up approval of offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes, which have been delayed by cost concerns and public opposition.

Under the deal, which administration officials disclosed to The Associated Press ahead of an announcement scheduled for Friday, state and federal agencies will craft a blueprint for speeding regulatory review of proposed wind farms without sacrificing environmental and safety standards. The Great Lakes have no offshore wind turbines, although a Cleveland partnership announced plans last year for a demonstration project that would place five to seven turbines in Lake Erie about 7 miles north of the city, generating 20-30 megawatts of electricity.

Offshore wind projects have been proposed elsewhere in the region, including Michigan and New York, stirring fierce debate.

Critics say they would ruin spectacular vistas, lower shoreline property values and harm birds and fish. New York Power Authority trustees last September abandoned a plan for private companies to place up to 200 turbines, each about 450 feet high, in Lakes Erie and Ontario. The Canadian province of Ontario in February 2011 ordered a moratorium on wind energy development in its Great Lakes waters to allow more study of environmental issues.

Supporters describe the lakes’ winds as a vast, untapped source of clean energy and economic growth.

“This agreement among federal agencies and Great Lakes states is a smart, practical way to encourage the development of homegrown energy that will create jobs, power homes and reduce pollution in American communities,” said Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Administration officials said the region’s offshore winds could generate more than 700 gigawatts — one-fifth of all potential wind energy nationwide. Each gigawatt of offshore wind could power 300,000 homes while reducing demand for electricity from coal, which emits greenhouse gases and other pollutants, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

Public resistance and logistical problems would pose formidable obstacles to approaching those levels. Yet harnessing only a small portion of the Great Lakes’ offshore wind could generate thousands of jobs, officials said.

Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania signed the agreement. The other three states with Great Lakes coastlines — Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin — declined invitations but could join the partnership later, an administration official said.

The agreement is modeled after another between the federal government and Eastern states designed to support wind energy production in the Atlantic and encourage investment in new offshore wind technology.

“This agreement will enable states to work together to ensure that any proposed offshore wind projects are reviewed in a consistent manner, and that the various state and federal agencies involved collaborate and coordinate their reviews,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said developing offshore wind energy would “promote economic development and create jobs, while reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources.”

Among 10 federal agencies taking part are the Pentagon, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Developers would need state and federal approval to establish offshore wind farms. State governments own the Great Lakes bottomlands within U.S. territory, while a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be required to erect the turbines and all 10 federal agencies would review the plans.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (12)
  1. Joe Hanson says:

    “Administration officials said the region’s offshore winds could generate more than 700 gigawatts…”

    GE has a off shore capable wind turbine that’s rated at 4MW. You’d only need to install 175,000 of them to generate 700 gigawatts.

    1. realist says:

      Im with you, it is easy to throw unrealistic #s around to try to sway the mindless, but in actuality wind energy is a long way from being a sustainable system. These things aren’t perfect, I don’t care what you have read…, manufacture and installation outweigh many of the short term benefits while maintenance and upgrade cost impedes many long term gains. there is a video of a turbine failure on youtube. I understand the resistance of the public, I wouldn’t want one in my back yard either, much less the amount they want to erect.

      1. Richard in Minneapolis says:

        And while Americans continue to complain about how it can’t be done, Europeans are doing it.

  2. Pat says:

    What are the numbers?
    How much will be invested?
    What is the payback period?

    They will not release these numbers because the payback on the investment is so unacceptably low.

    1. Brian says:

      This article is about streamlining the process of regulatory aproval for private corporations to construct these windfarms. If you don’t feel these windfarms are a viable investment then don’t invest in those companies.

  3. pat says:

    1 coal plant and we won’t have to look at these darn things all over…

    New coal plants are clean and environmentally friendly. And guess what, private entities will build them without raising our deficit.

    Let’s stop being stupid.

    1. Not Exactly says:

      Clean coal is a myth. Granted, newer coal power plants pollute less than older ones, but they still put out considerable pollution. Coal is still the dirtiest energy source.

  4. KEVIN says:

    If we do build them and Obama keeps talking we will never be short of wind to keep the turbines rotating.

  5. Nan Just says:

    Wind energy keeps being touted as safe, clean, and sustainable. I am not an expert but I too would like to see the numbers. The wind farms on land result in injury and death to birds and bats and drive away other wildlife. Decrease land values for those who live within close proximity to the farms, and have not proven to be sustainable. Much more research needs to be done before they are built off shore. Do we really need more energg production or do we need to figure out how we more efficiently use what we already have?

  6. Brett says:

    They should put ALL of them within 5 miles of Grand Marais, and nowhere else on the North Shore.

  7. Michelle says:

    It will only take 32 years to break even. To bad the life of one of these is less then 7 years.
    Who on Friday shut down new drilling in the Alantic? Barry has been nothing but a fraid.

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