MUSKEGON – Two West Michigan legislators have proposed a law to ban wind turbines in Michigan’s Great Lakes.
State Reps. Ray Frantz, R-Onekama, and Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, have introduced legislation that would also eliminate any wind testing in the state’s Great Lakes.
The introduction of the proposed law comes as Grand Valley State University is putting the final touches on a $3.7 million wind research platform project.
Grand Valley and a host of other research institutions are expecting to deploy the research platform in Lake Michigan in September. Even if adopted by the Michigan Legislature and signed by the governor, the wind turbine bill is not expected to be law in time to stop the GVSU project.
The legislative proposal comes after a year of public debate in the lakeshore communities north of Muskegon as Scandia Wind Offshore proposed an extensive $4 billion plan for wind turbines off the shores of Mason, Oceana, Muskegon and Ottawa counties.
Franz’s and Bumstead’s legislation captures the position of the Lake Michigan POWER Coalition – an anti-Scandia group that successfully prompted Oceana and Mason county commissioners to go on record against the offshore wind project.
“From the very first day in my campaign, I have opposed wind turbines in the lake,” said Bumstead, a freshman member of the Michigan House of Representatives.
Bumstead said offshore turbines would diminish property values, create unacceptable views from shore and are not cost-effective.
“It’s not good business and I don’t think there is a return on the huge investments,” Bumstead said. “It’s not worth the risk of putting them in the lakes.”
Bumstead’s 100th House District includes Oceana County. The Oceana shoreline resort community of Pentwater was a hotbed of sentiment against offshore wind turbines. Franz’s 101st House District includes the shoreline counties of Mason, Manistee, Benzie and Leelanau.
Alternative energy supporters said just introducing the legislation sends the wrong message.
“This is a pretty comprehensive plan to block any progress on energy alternatives,” said Hugh McDiarmid, communications director for the Michigan Environmental Council. “This bill would block both clean energy and economic progress.”
McDiarmid said wind farms should not be allowed to go up just anywhere, but the state must explore the proper siting of wind turbines on land and on water. Michigan’s economic rebound will be based in part on clean energy initiatives, he said.
“It’s not environmentally sound to have machines like those on our lakes,” Franz told the Capital News Service. “They are our greatest asset, and industrialization of them is a hazard to nature and the economy.”
Bumstead said there has been enough research on wind turbines that no more is needed.
The proposed legislation puts GVSU’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon in an interesting position. MAREC has put together a coalition of researchers wanting to study the wind patterns of Lake Michigan for possible wind farm development in the future.
MAREC Director Arn Boezaart said that a permit to put the wind buoy in Lake Michigan will be sought from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality yet this month. The state would then have 90 days to rule on the permit application, Boezaart said.
“I think we are in good shape with the legislation just being introduced,” Boezaart said. “We are on a trajectory to get the permit.”
The GVSU wind research platform already has been approved by federal regulators, and the floating structure already has been ordered. It is expected to be delivered by Labor Day, university officials have said.
Besides GVSU, the research is being supported by the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, the Michigan Public Service Commission, the public utility Wisconsin Energy and the Sierra Club. Initial funds came from an “earmark” provided by former Congressman Pete Hoekstra through the U.S. Department of Energy.
Boezaart was part of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s Michigan Great Lakes Wind Council that came up with recommendations for regulation of offshore wind turbines. The council’s work ended up in a bill that was introduced in the past Legislature but never made it past a committee hearing.
“I think this sends the wrong signal,” Boezaart said of the bill to ban wind turbines in the lakes. “It sets a tone that we don’t want to pursue the economic opportunities of wind power. But the political times are changing.”
Bumstead said he is confident that the offshore wind turbine ban will be the subject of hearings and be approved by the House and Senate, sending it to the governor’s desk. The bill in the House has been sent to the Energy and Technology Committee.
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