Windmill View off Pentwater Draws Gasps

dweller - February 13, 2010

An artist's depiction of proposed windmills in Lake Michigan off the Pentwater pierheads drew gasps from locals attending an information meeting. News story here. (Click on the photo for an enlarged view.)

Ocean-Explorer's picture

On February 26, 2010 another article regarding proposals to construct windmills, this time in Lakes St. Clair and Erie, was posted - see "Windmill Controversy in Erie and St. Clair" on the home page. If you Google "Windmill" in combination with the name of any one of the Great Lakes, you will find that there are serious proposals to install windmills in each of them. The couple of proposals that we have discussed here are by no means isolated situations.

I think it important that this organization understands that, no matter how we feel individually about the merits of wind power to generate electricity, windmills in the Great Lakes at the level being discussed are going to have a significant impact on boating and the aesthetics of the shores of the Great Lakes.

I would propose an interesting question. Can true conservationists be so opposed to theoretical pollution by traditional energy production that they are willing to allow the shores of the Great Lakes to be polluted by extensive industrial structures? A longer-term question is who is going to pay for the removal of these structures when they have reached the end of their useful lives? There are many more questions, of course.

captino's picture

I've heard it said (and have not verified it), that if the world could convert 100% to nuclear today, the supply of nuclear fuel would last about ten years. So typical nuclear power conversion wouldn't be sustainable. Only if a different fissionable material is found practicable, such as thorium, can a nuclear solution be viable. But uranium isn't the fuel of the future.

Gagarin's picture

Having sailed for more than 40 years on the Great Lakes that included racing and cruising, I have NOAA records that show the average wind speed to be (7) seven miles per hour. Of course, there are times that I encountered winds up to 60 MPH as well as the comfortable 15 MPH, and everything in between. With this average wind speed in mind will the wind turbines still be economically practicable?

jwooll's picture

I view windmills as a trade off. I think one of the freights loaded with coal and doing 15 knots is a much greater hazard to navigation than fixed and charted objects that are radar reflective and well above water.

If we can reduce the freighter traffic we are dong more for safety than we will harm safety with a windmill farm.

Robert Manning's picture

One might argue that anything "planted" in the water is a navigational hazard, including lighthouses, water intake cribs, bridge structures and even breakwaters. That's why there are aids-to-navigation and presumably most GLCC mariners are familiar minimally with coastal piloting. I’m sure the Coast Guard and FAA will insist on appropriate ATONs to mark the turbines.

My opposition to the windmill farm is not so much that it may be a navigational hazard, but rather a boondoggle that will be abuilding for five or more years, and may be a huge failure. I've seen some wind turbines that I find rather attractive and interesting, but more often than not in the Midwest, they are idle and not at all cost effective.

While the wind turbines on Lake Michigan may be productive during the windiest months, November through February, many a Great Lakes sailor can tell you of days of being becalmed with barely a whisper of wind May through October. I wonder if the Dutch company underwriting the cost of this windmill farm has done their homework or at least reviewed NOAA data to determine just how cost effective a wind turbine might be on Lake Michigan. I don't think so.

While I can already feel the buckets of tar and feathers being readied, in my opinion, the answer to meeting our nation’s electrical needs are in nuclear energy. A nuclear power plant can be environmentally friendly, more so than a fossil fuel plant, and eventually would become cost effective, too. Science and the engineering community have long ago solved the problems of disposing of spent fuel rods…the issue of dealing with it is more political and one of NIMBY (not in my back yard.) Educating the public is likely the biggest hurdle in overcoming the fear of nuclear power plants.

My own opinion is that GLCC need not weigh in on this project, at least not arguing that it is a hazard to navigation.
Robert Manning
Marquette, Michigan
100104 1634R

actigner's picture

I find it amazing that this would be considered in waters that are so turbulent and frozen for many months of the year. As far as a hazard to navigation is concerned, this would be no different than a reef, bridge, or other obstacle that would be marked on charts and hopefully avoided by boaters. In many waters down south there are power poles that are in close proximity to waterways frequented by many boaters. I find the submerged fish nets found on both side of the lake to be more of a hazard because you can't see them until you're right on top of them.

I would recommend to all of you who voted in the current "green" politicians to just sit back and take your medicine. For the rest of you, maybe building a nuclear plant on shore would bring more jobs locally for a longer period of time.

dvandenburgh's picture

I agree with Ocean-Explorer. Anything planted in the water offshore of a harbor approach is a navigational hazard. I've sailed in and out of Pentwater a number of times and I believe the windmills will make it much more hazardous.

I hope and suggest that our club express its opposition to the creation of such a hazard to Lake Michigan cruising.

Ocean-Explorer's picture

It is not my intent to ignite a political debate about the virtues and hazards of various sources of energy. My interest is in safe navigation. Item 2, Objectives, of the Bylaws of the Great Lakes Cruising Club lists, among other things "promotion of marine safety." I would interpret that to mean that the GLCC is just as interested in safe navigation as I am.

The real question that I am trying to address is whether multiple structures, for any purpose, off the shore of Pentwater, or any other Great Lake shore constitutes a navigation hazard. It seems to me that they do because if you hit one you are going to notice it, and the more there are and the greater the area that they cover, the greater that risk. If boating groups fail to express concern about this risk to the authorities, they (the authorities) are going to assume that such groups just don't care, and I doubt that is the case.

It would be my hope that the GLCC would at least say to the authorities, "We have concerns about the risk these structures pose to recreational boaters." Perhaps the greater good would dictate that the structures go up anyhow, but at least the concern will have been expressed. At the very least, I would hope that the structures be so lighted and RADAR reflective that when one of us is trying to enter Pentwater on a stormy, foggy night we would have some chance of not hitting a support or be hit by a blade. An organized group like the GLCC should have some possibility of influence on that. I know that the USCG will require certain aids to navigation on these structures, but perhaps creative minds can come up with other things to reduce the hazard to boaters. But, they have to know that boaters are concerned.

Bill Matley's picture

I don't have any problem with the windmills. I think they are beautiful, graceful, fascinating to watch. Just like a sailboat gracefully sliding over the water.

I have seen windmills on land in Mackinaw City and I never fail to be mesmerized by their graceful motion.

I much prefer to see windmills on the water than the smokestacks of the Edison coal burning plant, south of Monroe, on the shore of Lake Eire.

I would prefer to see the windmills much more than the nuclear power plant at Big Rock Point near Petoskey.

I would prefer to see windmills in Lake Erie, instead of the Fermi II nuclear power plant. Same for the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants all on Lake Erie. Each of these plants always seem to me to be poised, waiting to someday to drain their deadly poison into the lakes they border.

I have seen windmills in the hills of the North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii, and on the mountain sides of Maui. On Maui, Hawaii, the oil/trash burning plant can be seen at the same time you see the windmills. The power plant has a smoke haze around it while the mountain top is clean and clear.

I don't speak for the GLCC, but I am a member of this club, and I love the waters of our Great Lakes. I actively support any effort to preserve them.

If given a choice I would like to see more wind power generating facilities and tear down these Nuclear Plants and fossil fuel burning plants that border our lakes.

Michigan, can do very well with clean wind power.

Ocean-Explorer's picture

I, again, bring this subject up having just read the article about the proposed windmill farm off Pentwater. Clearly, if this farm is developed, it is going to be a very significant navigation hazard for the area. Is the Great Lakes Cruising Club going to stand idly by without expressing some viewpoint at the hearings? What percentage of Lake Michigan, or any of the Great Lakes, will we allow to be covered by windmills before the organization shows some interest, if not concern?

I have posted this same comment under the December 8, 2008 article about windmills.