Offshore wind energy in Lake Michigan

Offshore wind power may find a home in areas of Lake Michigan. Wednesday night, the Michigan Great Lakes Wind Council presented findings regarding the potential for offshore wind farms in five areas across the state, which include areas of Lake Michigan off Delta County, and west of the Mackinac straits.

Five areas in Michigan, including the waters off Delta County show, what officials say, high potential for offshore wind energy, from suitable wind to water depth. The wind farms would be located about six miles off shore.

While this idea is still in the preliminary stages, officials feel the use of wind turbines of this type of green energy will benefit the state across the board.

"24 months ago, there weren’t any proposals for wind energy in the Great Lakes, and today there are proposals in Ontario, in Wisconsin, in Ohio and in Michigan," explained Council Chairman, Skip Pruss. "Wind energy technology represents a tremendous opportunity for Michigan to create new jobs, to diversify our economy, and secure new investment."

The council was developed by Governor Granholm back in 2009 to study and make policy recommendations, such as permits, related to the development of offshore wind energy. Those recommendations are currently being reviewed by the state.

Council members hoped to gain pubic input at Wednesday night’s informational meeting. While some residents feel it’s a good idea, others are worried about the effect wind farms will have on wildlife.

"To put offshore wind in an area that is known for its migratory bird concentration just seems like, seems like is a recipe for trouble for the birds," explained Escanaba resident, Joe Kaplan.

"We’re definitely for this and this is progress in different types of energy that’s going to help the US economy," said representative for Basic Towing and Basic Marine, Linda Laraway.

Council members hope to have the legislation finalized by the end of this year. And while the use of offshore wind energy won’t happen overnight, officials believe if the interest continues to grow as much as it has, it’ll happen within the next few years.


The Great Lakes Wind Council, created by Executive Order No. 2009-1, serves as an advisory body within the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth to examine issues and make recommendations related to offshore wind development in Michigan. The council consists of key state agency representatives and stakeholders appointed by Governor Jennifer M. Granholm.

On September 1, 2009, the council issued a report to Governor Granholm. According to the report, 20 percent of the 38,000 square miles of state-owned Great Lakes bottomlands, or 7,874 square miles, has a depth of 30 meters or less, which is practicable for offshore wind development.

Within this area, 537 square miles are considered to be most favorable to the sustainable development of offshore wind energy. The council’s report also recommends a package of legislative and rule changes to help guide the development of offshore wind energy going forward. Recommended changes would facilitate the permitting, leasing, construction, and monitoring of offshore wind projects while protecting natural resources.

On October 8, 2009, Governor Granholm issued Executive Order 2009-46, extending the council through December 31, 2010. The council is charged with the following tasks:

* Identify the most favorable areas to lease for offshore wind power development.
* Inform, engage, and solicit feedback from the people of Michigan on the identified most favorable leasing locations to ensure that statewide interests are considered whenever significant permitting decisions are made.
* Provide guidance to legal and technical experts as they develop model lease and solicitation documents.
* Recommend options for how the public could be compensated for bottomland leasing and wind rights for wind energy systems, and advise on an incentive structure for early investors in wind development.
* Provide guidance to the State Wind Outreach Team created within the Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth in the Team’s execution of an outreach and education plan related to offshore wind energy.
* Provide input on proposed and new Great Lakes wind development legislation and rulemaking as appropriate.
* Represent the interests of the state of Michigan in the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative and other multisector and interstate efforts to facilitate the sustainable development of Great Lakes wind resources.
* Perform other functions related to the council’s responsibilities as requested by the governor.

The council must provide a report of its activities to the governor no later than November 15, 2010, and complete its work by December 31, 2010.

By Beth Jones,