Wind Off the Gitche Gumee (Lake Superior) and the Other Great Lakes Could Power U.S. Homes

Posted by By at 31 March, at 13 : 24 PM Print

Wind from the Great Lakes could supply the U.S. with more electricity than 700 nuclear power plants, according to a statement Friday by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The DOE made the claim while announcing a Memorandum of Understanding between the department and five states – Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania – that could lead to creation of the requisite generating facilities. The agreement, DOE said, is part of the Obama Administration’s “all of the above” approach to U.S. energy independence.

“President Obama is focused on leveraging American energy sources, including increased oil and gas production, the safe development of nuclear power, as well as renewable energy from sources like wind and solar, which is on track to double in the President’s first term,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, during a telephone conference call with reporters Friday.

Sutley said the administration is “doubling down on clean sources like wind,” adding the nation in 2011 “claimed the position as world leader in clean energy investment.”

In addition to the states, the MOU includes such agencies as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Coast Guard, Department of the Army, EPA, FAA, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – all agencies that would have to sign off on any application to erect the several thousand turbines required to generate the potential of Great Lakes wind.

That’s the good news. The not-quite-so-good news is so far there are no applications to build any of the wind farms. DOE Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman said a plan by Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation to build a facility in the Cleveland, Ohio area is “fairly advanced (and) talking about deployment in 2014.” In 2010, the group said it would be operational by 2012.

The delay points out hurdles yet to be crossed on the way to fulfilling the lake wind potential.

  • The Lake Erie group has not yet gathered the requisite investors to build its proposed wind farm. Part of the nation’s investment position relies on federal green energy grants meant to attract private capital. The grants are part of a stimulus package set to expire at the end of this year.
  • Many groups oppose offshore wind farms. Mostly, they do not want to look out from their beaches and see the huge fans turning in the breezes, but there also are concerns about killing such creatures as migrating birds and bats.

Poneman said the MOU would cut red tape caused by a plethora of regulations and sometimes conflicting agencies. Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett last month signed a law with, in part, a similar goal. The law negates any local zoning ordinances which might block drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.

Several of the state’s municipalities have gone to court over the state’s usurpation of their traditional power to enforce their own zoning laws.

Still, if even some of the wind-powered generating capacity is constructed, it would mean, in addition to designers and builders, at least thousands of maintenance jobs in environments that likely would command high pay. And with a gigawatt being the approximate output of a nuclear power plant – reportedly enough to power about 300,000 homes –even a few gigawatts would ease many minds about the hazards of splitting atoms to feed our insatiable hunger for electricity.

Photo by joeldinda

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This post was written by:
- who has written 169 posts for Rock The Capital
John Messeder is an award winning journalist with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues. He has lived in Maine, Florida, California and Alaska, and, by temporary turns, numerous places in between. John also is an accomplished photographer, and avid hiker, conservationist, oral history buff, and author of several books he has not yet got 'round to writing. He lives in Adams County, Pa., just over a hill from Gettysburg, with his wife and Golden Retriever. He may be contacted at john@JohnMesseder.com - Email jmesseder

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