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Dutch wind farm isn’t comparable to West Michigan sites

The key difference between a Dutch wind farm and possible Lake Michigan siting was not even mentioned in The Sentinel’s Dec. 5 article. The Egmond aan Zee wind farm is located six to 12 miles offshore in depths of 17-23 meters. Depths off West Michigan shores at six to 12 miles are triple that – 50 to more than 100 meters, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Great Lakes Wind (GLOW) Council, appointed by Gov. Granholm, first recommended a maximum feasible water depth of 30 meters for wind turbines, but changed it to 45 meters in its final report in October 2010. No “wind resource zones” were selected off West Michigan shores at six miles because “the majority of these bottomlands are also very deep, which reduces their marketability due to higher anticipated capital costs and risks … .”

But pay attention, the door was left open for the only possible siting for offshore wind in West Michigan, at two to five miles because of water depths. The GLOW Council recommends “allowing wind developers to identify and nominate any other site” and “if reasonable” giving citizens 30-60 days to voice public opinion. In my opinion, “old school expertise” includes full disclosure and transparency of all the facts in making comparisons.

There is a big difference in impact between near-shore siting that begins at two miles and offshore siting at six miles. Most wind farms, including Cape Wind off Massachusetts, are held as “exclusionary zones,” prohibiting fishing, boating, or other uses due to potential safety hazards. All manufacturers have warnings about keeping a distance from wind turbines. To say that boaters and fishermen will not be excluded from wind farms here is not based on any legal or proven information. An exclusionary zone would most likely be necessary to reduce liability for accidents and casualties and high insurance premiums. Having to boat around a near-shore 20-square-mile area will not be a popular result in West Michigan. Citizens are misled when key information is withheld.

We all know that Dutch people who use “old school expertise” certainly don’t pay more than double for something that they can get reliably and cheaper somewhere else. Our Dutch friends from Egmond aan Zee failed to mention that after five years of experience their government has decided that wind is too expensive and that it cannot afford to subsidize the entire cost of 4.5 billion euros a year and plans to transfer the financial burden to households and industrial consumers instead. There is no need to duplicate Dutch mistakes here in our lake!

— Jane Eggebeen is a resident of Grand Haven Township.