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Regulators will study putting windmills in 2 Great Lakes

Group will explore costs, benefits and impact.

State regulators want to study what it would take to implant giant wind turbines, which could generate thousands of megawatts of power but cost millions of dollars and transform serene views, in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

The three-member Public Service Commission voted unanimously Thursday to begin assessing whether the concept can be executed, the power it could generate, the costs and public sentiment.

“There’s enough unanswered questions that it’s a matter of public policy. We should explore it,” said Eric Callisto, commission Chairman Dan Ebert’s executive assistant. “The economics have to dictate this makes sense. But right now we’re in something of an information vacuum.”

Gov. Jim Doyle’s global warming task force recommended the commission, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands convene a study group on offshore generation in Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. The task force said Wisconsin doesn’t have the same wind quality as western states and should at least examine offshore prospects.

The study group should explore costs, issues related to lake bed development and impact on birds, the task force recommended. The group also should explore a partnership with the state of Michigan in offshore efforts. Callisto said the PSC hopes to complete the study by the end of the year.

Energy experts hail wind power as a cheap, clean renewable energy source. Land-based wind power is a growing industry in Wisconsin and across the country.

Experts say offshore turbines could generate more power. Winds over water are typically stronger and steadier than over land. Drawbacks include multimillion dollar pricetags and the potential for rows of windmills marring views.

Associated Press


4 April 2008