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.

Comments (6)
  1. fkafka says:

    I expect if the US wants to rely on wind for half of its energy that the wind will sigh its last breath on the last turbine. Where is the “Preservation of Wind” movement? And when was the last nuclear plant built in the US? And are we only spending money on oil exploration – not actually issuing new offshore permits – and why for God’s sake is Obama taking soooo much time to review the environmental impact of the northern Keystone. The poor man’s got to get someone to vote for him, I guess.

  2. Brett says:

    I recommend that we put them ALL within 5 miles of GRAND MARAIS, but NOWHERE ELSE on the north shore.. Would be the perfect place for them.

  3. Joe Hanson says:

    “We’ve got on the order of 742 Gigawatts of off shore wind potential.”

    To reach that generating capacity would require only 185,500 4MW wind turbines.

    That would be 1.97 wind turbines per square mile of total Great Lakes surface area.

  4. Swamp Fox says:

    Wind turbines on the Great Lakes has promise but truly how practical is it from an aeronautical, environmental, geographical, navigational, and cost effective means to cover the Great Lakes with these?

    Lake Superior for one example is far too deep and more naturally hazardous than Lake Ontario or Erie which are far shallower and more ice free. Lake Michigan has some prospective areas but boating and commercial water traffic do pose some safety obstacles as well as the infamous Great Lakes weather and water depths. Lake Huron has the same issues along with some unique areas under Canadian auspices. However, the Canadians may not want their Lake Huron, or for that matter, Lakes Erie or Ontario domains hindered but by wind turbine farms interfering with navigation and Mother Nature. The Greats Lakes not only are a precious natural, historical, and commercial resource but a fragile “enclosed” resource at that. That’s what the Europeans are finding out with their wind turbine farms in ‘enclosed’ sea areas.

    Why can’t we develop more bio/syn fuel alternatives for generating power facilities? Just look at that potential in Tera-Watts![1TW {TeraWatt} = !000GW{gigawatts}}

    Taking multiple Biological/Synthetic (bio/syn) fuel sources you could easily develop some major modern power generating plants, with strict EPA controls, generating some righteous clean power much the the Canadian/US hydro-power plants along the Niagara River during the heydays of the early 20th century. These modern plants could conceivably surpass 1+TW with the technologies in the works today. The Great Lakes wind turbine farms may not be needed. Something to think about.

    p.s.; Where did the energy power come from in the last “Star Trek” movie to have a space shipyard in the middle of Iowa? Sci-Fiction? Not really. The clean energy technology is here waiting to be fully realized.

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