HART, Mich.–(EON: Enhanced Online News)–The following is a statement from the Oceana County Planning Commission.
The Oceana County Planning Commission today released information that in-depth research and investigation into energy company Scandia Wind LLC’s proposed plans for a large scale, industrial Lake Michigan-based wind farm was not feasible as presented by the company. Members of the Commission and others determined that the technology specified by Scandia Wind could not be built anywhere in the area, and therefore the company would not be able to stimulate job creation as advertised. The Chanhassen, MN corporation whose office is based out of a personal residence, originally came to the area with a promise of 2 million man-hours of local labor to build concrete foundations for 100-200 offshore wind turbines. Only when confronted with evidence, during an August 4, 2010 public forum, that such construction was not feasible locally did the company finally acknowledged that they might not be able deliver on this jobs promise, a major project selling point.
This and other inconsistencies went undiscovered by several organizations tasked with evaluating Scandia’s proposal, some with taxpayer funding, underscoring the importance of local government vigilance and input into proposed major industrial projects and the permitting process.
Planning Commissioner David Roseman, MD stated, “Knowing that residents of Oceana County suffered from economic hardship due to unusually high unemployment, Scandia Wind, LLC came to our area with a promise of 2 million man-hours of local labor. Our own due diligence showed that the jobs they promised could not, for specific technical reasons, materialize here. It took considerable digging to discover that. It is not clear whether Scandia just did not do their research or they were not being factual with the commission and public. Regardless, it took this local government to make that determination where most others involved overlooked this fundamental flaw.”
The technical problem was that the massive foundations proposed required that they be built in sheltered waters, and towed vertically to their destination. The foundations were more than 250 feet deep, but the channels connecting Ludington and Muskegon to Lake Michigan are only 25 feet deep. The proposed technology was from Vici Ventus, a Norwegian company. On a recent visit to Norway, Frode Maaseidvaag, a Pentwater resident and retired executive engineer with Ford Motor Company, met with senior officials of Vici Ventus. Maaseidvaag said that, according to the company, “The proposed technology is not feasible for the shallow harbors of Western Michigan.”
This prompted the Oceana County Planning Commission, on June 2, 2011, to formally request from Scandia a response to the following question:
“Where would it be possible to build and deploy the turbines and Vici Ventus foundations for which you promised 2 million man hours of local labor?”
On June 13 they received Scandia’s response:
“Dear Chairperson Soles:
In response to the question posed in the attached letter, the location discussed is north of North Manitou Island. Thank you.
Their investigations lead the Commission to several important conclusions including:
1. Scandia knew, or should have known, that they could not deliver on their promise of 2 million man-hours of local, West Michigan, labor.
2. This and other problems were discovered by local citizens, who took the time necessary to understand the subtleties of the proposal.
3. This and other problems were not uncovered by the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Council, the DNRE, or Grand Valley State University and its MAREC facility, in spite of heavy taxpayer support of these institutions.
4. This and other problems were not uncovered by the media.
5. The foundations proposed by Scandia are intended to be built in the protected, deep fjords like those of Norway. It is highly unlikely that they could be built in the open waters of Lake Michigan, and certainly not in Ludington or Muskegon waters.
6. These points underscore the importance of that local input should remain an important part of the permitting process.
That local input has the potential to be threatened by corporate lobbying efforts at the state level.
According to Anne Soles, Chairperson of the Oceana County Planning Commission, “Since the Scandia Wind project was formally voted down by both Oceana and Mason Counties we have learned that this corporation plans to appeal directly to the state,” she disclosed.
In a subsequent report run by Fox 17 News in Grand Rapids regarding Scandia’s future plans correspondent Dan Krauth stated that, “After facing a lot of local opposition, the developer tells me that he has not scrapped his plans, but he’s now waiting to see if the state will support his idea.”
This is in spite of the fact that in public forums and through media statements Scandia Wind claimed that they would “go away” and respect local decisions if their plans were voted down.
Soles continued, “This gives us further pause about Scandia going forward, in addition to concerns how they conducted themselves in their first attempt to win approval for this project.”
Larry Byl, an Oceana County Commissioner and member of the Planning Commission, emphasizes the need for meaningful local input and control. “Historically, the state has mandated that every community control its growth and land use. For example, local government is required to maintain a master plan to guide its future land use decisions. Because of potential impacts, the local government is most motivated to research possible problems. The Scandia issue is a perfect example of a community doing its due diligence, and is a major reason to maintain local control.”
Oceana County Planning Commission
Anne Soles, Chairman