Holland, MI —
Wind turbines could be popping up on land along the lakeshore, but don’t expect to see them offshore if a bill now in a state House committee is approved.
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Ray Franz, a Republican from Manistee County, said the intent is to keep potential hazards out of the Great Lakes.
“It’s not environmentally sound to have machines like these on our lakes. They are our greatest asset, and industrialization on them is a hazard to nature and the economy,” Franz said.
The bill is in the House Energy and Technology Committee and has not yet been discussed, said State Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, a member of the committee.
She agrees that the water is no place for turbines: “The Great Lakes is a wonderful natural resource,” she said, noting many of her constituents oppose offshore turbines.
Felicia Fairchild, executive director of the Saugatuck-Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau, has spoken with lawmakers about the problems offshore turbines could bring.
“In a tourism destination as important as Saugatuck, we struggle daily to hang on to all of our natural assets, which make us ‘high touch and low tech’ because our visitors are seeking nature’s aesthetics and soothing, restful, stress-free experiences,” she said. “Visible offshore turbines don’t pass the stress test.”
Aesthetics are a problem with offshore wind development, but the proposed legislation wouldn’t be the right solution, said Hugh McDiarmid, communications director at the Michigan Environmental Council.
“We are very supportive of wind energy but not in scenic or protected areas. More guidelines are necessary, but to say no wind at all is a very short-sighted solution,” McDiarmid said.
The proposed ban would be bad for the economy and environment, he said.
“It’s bad public policy. Renewable energy like this has been one of the only bright spots for Michigan in recent years, and this is the wrong message to send,” McDiarmid said.
Wind energy is a growing industry in the state and a ban could stunt that growth, he said.
Rep. Price does support more wind power on land, saying there is plenty of room for it to expand there.
The Holland Board of Public Works is studying turbine locations in Allegan County, including Saugatuck Township.
Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra recently called results of tests in Overisel and Ganges townships disappointing.
Preliminary data from the first five months of testing scored the sites low on wind power class ratings.
The sites rate as a 1 or 2 on a seven-point scale, with seven being the best for wind energy.
Offshore turbines would create more energy than those on land, McDiarmid said.
“Lakes are better for capturing wind, which makes offshore development a lot more lucrative,” McDiarmid said.
State Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland, also is a committee member, but has not yet seen the bill, a spokesman said.
— Matt Walters of Capital News Service
contributed to this report.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding