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Michigan and Great Lakes slow offshore wind collection

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Thursday, December 14, 2023   

Offshore wind development in the Great Lakes region has had a turbulent history and faced many challenges.

Initially considered a promising location for offshore wind due to consistent winds and potential economic benefits, the Great Lakes and specifically Michigan have faced numerous setbacks. Despite early proposals and plans, no commercial wind turbines have been installed in the region more than a decade later.

Doug Bessette, associate professor of community sustainability at Michigan State University, who studies the acceptance of renewables, said Michigan is no closer to ramping up the technology than it was 10 years ago.

"I think a lot of policymakers are hesitant to get offshore wind attached to their name, because it's such a controversial technology," Bessette contended. "I think people are afraid to push it forward."

While floating wind turbines are a potential solution for addressing concerns about visibility and environmental effects, offshore wind in the Great Lakes continues to face political and public resistance.

Earlier this month, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation made the decision to halt the Ohio project indefinitely. It was close to completion but faced strong opposition, and the U.S. Department of Energy decided to terminate its $50 million grant because the project was not meeting performance milestones.

Scandia Wind, a project in Grand Haven, Michigan, faced strong public resistance common to offshore wind projects in the region. Bessette pointed out even if the turbines were so far off the shore you could not see them, Scandia did not win over public opinion. Now, without a specific project in the state, he acknowledged the overall industry faces obstacles including public concerns and regulatory challenges.

"We're moving forward on offshore wind in the Atlantic and increasingly on the Pacific as well," Bessette noted. "A lot of those technologies that we'll need to deploy in the oceans do work in the Great Lakes."

Across the lakes in Canada, the province of Ontario imposed a moratorium on offshore wind, citing a lack of scientific research on the environmental effects of the turbines.

This story was produced with original reporting from Nicole Pollack for Inside Climate News .


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