MUSKEGON, MI – The idea of creating electricity from huge wind turbine farms off the West Michigan coast of Lake Michigan seems to have come and gone in the public’s mind.
However, scientists, technology developers and energy entrepreneurs continue to quietly explore the concept. And when contemplating wind turbines on Lake Michigan, the issue of ice is in the forefront.
Grand Valley State University’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon will host a “research-based” discussion of Great Lakes winters and offshore structures such as wind turbine towers. Dale G. Karr, a professor of naval architecture and marine engineering at the University of Michigan, will give the lecture Monday, Oct. 21 from 1:30-3 p.m. at MAREC.
The free presentation is entitled “Offshore Wind Turbines vs. Winter on the Great Lakes.” The information will come from Karr’s research for the U.S. Department of Energy.
His expertise and most recent engineering research has been on how ice formations and extreme winds will impact Great Lakes wind platform designs.
The debate about offshore wind became quite heated in 2009 when a Norwegian wind development company explored huge wind farms directly off the coasts of Mason, Oceana, Muskegon and Ottawa counties. The idea of having 100 wind turbines roughly 300 feet tall anchored in the lake a few miles off shore set off an explosion of public opposition, including a well-organized and financed citizens group centered in the Pentwater area.
Opposition from officials in Mason and Oceana counties and newly elected Gov. Rick Snyder’s lack of support compared to his predecessor ended the Scandia wind proposals for Lake Michigan.
But many continue believing that new technology and changing energy markets will drive Lake Michigan wind farm proposals in the future. MAREC has continued to study wind capacity with a floating research platform that has been in Lake Michigan the past two seasons.
Ice formation and the severe wind and cold of Great Lakes winters can threaten vessels and marine structures. Karr will discuss two specific issues that he has been researching along with other scientists for the Department of Energy. He has looked at the surface with wind and ice actions and at the lake bottom with fixed platform technologies and interaction with lake surface ice.
Karr has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in civil engineering, a master’s degree in engineering science and mechanics from the University of Tennessee and a doctorate degree in civil engineering from Tulane University.
The MAREC event is free to the public but university officials ask for those attending to register through the energy center’s website at www.gvsu.edu/marec or by calling (616) 331-6900. MAREC is located in the Harbor 31 business park on Muskegon Lake in downtown Muskegon at 200 Viridian Dr.
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