Detroit – Having learned nothing from Cape Wind’s tortuous nine-year battle to locate a wind farm off Cape Cod, the state of Michigan is encouraging wind farms in the Great Lakes.
Michigan’s zealously green governor, Jennifer Granholm, has mandated a 10 percent Renewable Power Standard by 2015, and Big Wind is lining up at the trough for federal and state tax breaks to build her vision. Sandia Corp., a Norwegian firm, has proposed the first project for Lake Michigan off the scenic coast of Grand Haven. Pandering to Michigan job insecurity, Sandia promises the turbines will be built locally, creating 3,000 jobs (the new protectionism advertises “Buy Michigan” instead of “Buy American”).
But the public isn‘t buying.
Located just two to four miles offshore, the turbines would mar Grand Haven’s tourism landscape. There are also questions of bird migrations and ice damage from the lake’s brutal winters. One developer has put the loss of tourism revenue at $2.1 million.
Russ Harding, director of the Mackinac Center’s Property Rights Network, says the turbines would be a “huge visual intrusion. Part of the reason you go to a lake is for the scenic beauty. It’s like putting an industrial complex in a recreational area.”
And for what? Scandia claims the wind farm will produce the same 1,000 megawatts of power that Michigan’s Fermi nuclear reactor does — a misleading comparison given actual wind production averages 20 percent of capacity compared with nuclear’s 90 percent.
“Our peak need for energy in Michigan is a hot day during the summer. That’s when the wind isn’t blowing,” says Harding. “The very time you need it the most is when you generate the least. Wind is not a primary source of energy.”
But silly pols who insist Michigan factories can be run on wind are about to plunge its lakeshore residents into a bitter and prolonged public battle.