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Citizens misled when key offshore wind information is withheld  

Credit:  The Muskegon Chronicle, www.mlive.com 18 December 2011 ~~

In the Dec. 5 news story, “Dutch Coastal community shares lessons with West Michigan,” key differences between the two areas were not even mentioned.

Site difference: Twice as close to shore here as in the Netherlands. The Egmond aan Zee windfarm is located 6-12 miles offshore in water depths of 17-23 meters. Water depths off West Michigan shores at 6-12 miles are triple that depth: 50-100 meters, according to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin.) Soundings map.

In its final report (October 2010), the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Council first recommended 30 meters depth, but later changed to a 45-meter water depth maximum. No wind resource zone was selected off West Michigan at 6 miles because “the majority of these bottomlands are also very deep, which reduces their marketability due to higher anticipated capital costs and risks …” The only economically feasible location for offshore wind in West Michigan is 2-5 miles offshore where water depths allow. In its report, the Glow Council recommends “allowing wind developers to identify and nominate any other site,” and “if reasonable” citizens would be given 30-60 days to voice public opinion.

“Old school expertise” in sharing lessons should include 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 or three miles and siting 6 to 12 miles out! Citizens are mislead when key information is withheld.

Exclusionary zone: The Dutch have an exclusionary zone, prohibiting access anywhere within the windfarm 6 to 12 miles offshore. Cape Wind would have an exclusionary zone, causing fishermen to sue over lost fishing territory. All wind turbine manufacturers have warnings about keeping a distance from turbines. Windfarms, especially at 2-5 miles from shore here, would pose safety risks and hazards and insurance risks. To say that fishermen/boaters/charters will not be excluded from windfarms here is not based on any legal or proven information. The need for an “exclusionary zone” would most likely be necessary to reduce liability for accidents/causalities 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 mislead when key information is withheld.

Cost: In the article, the main objection given for West Michigan was “a decrease in property values for nearby residents.” While this is a valid concern for many, it is certainly far from the main cause for objection. Offshore wind is more than twice as expensive as onland wind and would cause an expensive rise in electricity costs. Regarding these high costs, the Dutch should have shared some information with Michigan that they did not. After five years experience, the Dutch government says offshore wind is too expensive and they cannot afford to subsidize the cost of 4.5 billion euros per year. Instead, “they will transfer the burden to households and industrial consumers.” The high costs are not going down for Cape Wind either, with original estimates of $3 billion to a recent change to $7 billion. In the report, “The True Cost of Cape Wind,” the economic impacts to manufacturers, school systems, cities, hospitals and the possible jobs lost as a result are jarring and significant. AIM, the largest manufacturing association opposing offshore wind cost increases in Massachusetts, has recently applauded the Massachusetts legislature for promising to address the high costs of energy, making these comments:

– Put the consumer first. Consumers should be the primary beneficiaries of energy policy, not developers, marketers, brokers, or stakeholders seeking to benefit their bottom lines.

– Ensure that all programs are subject to rigorous, cost-effective standards at the least cost to consumers.

– Ensure that legislative or regulatory goals are economically sustainable and open to review and adjustment. Environmental goals are important, but should be reviewed and adjusted depending on economic conditions.

Because of high costs, offshore wind energy cannot provide a “value-based” product for the Michigan economy, a prerequisite of Gov. Rick Snyder’s economic decisions. Michigan legislators should remove any regulation legislation for offshore wind in Lake Michigan from the table because the high costs would raise electricity costs for consumers unnecessarily.

Jane Eggebeen

Grand Haven

Source:  The Muskegon Chronicle, www.mlive.com 18 December 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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