Lake Superior: A Future Home Of Wind Farms?

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — The north shore of Lake Superior is a vast resource of water, wind and spectacular scenery. It is similar in many ways to the North Sea, but with one exception: The offshore coast of Denmark is dotted with hundreds of giant wind turbines.

“I have no doubt that wind energy will be part of the Great Lakes future,” said Michael Noble.

Noble is the Executive Director of the non-profit advocacy group, Fresh Energy, which promotes the expansion of renewable energy sources like wind. Noble believes the day is coming when large wind farms will be constructed somewhere on the Great Lakes.

“There’s an enormous resource, an unlimited resource of wind energy really. But there are siting concerns and cost concerns, so it’s great to see the federal government and state step up on this,” said Noble.

He’s referring to a memorandum of understanding that was signed by Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania with the U.S. Department of Energy. The Great Lakes states signed the pact, pledging to both harmonize and speed the reviews of sensible off shore wind farms. In essence, the agreement aims to cut through bureaucratic red tape.

“It’s a prodigious energy source. We’ve got on the order of 742 Gigawatts of off shore wind potential. That’s about one-fifth of the potential wind in the U.S.,” said DOE Deputy Secretary, Daniel Poneman.

Still, there are many challenges to the construction of any Great Lakes wind farm, including the enormous cost. Building wind turbines off shore is roughly two to three times as expensive as erecting the towers on land. Then there are obvious scenic concerns as well as the pure engineering challenges.

However, off shore wind farms also have advantages, including the lack of right-of-way, property acquisition and routing of high voltage transmission lines.

There are no projects currently proposed for the Great Lakes. Still, odds are good that in the not too distant future the power of the sea will be a lot more than the sound of waves crashing ashore.

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