Lawmakers resist wind turbines in the Great Lakes
Two northern Michigan representatives want to keep the picturesque shoreline of the Great Lakes free of spinning wind turbines.
New legislation introduced by Republicans Greg MacMaster and Ray Franz would stop any proposed research or production of offshore wind power in the Great Lakes that border Michigan.
It would also ban it for the future.
Critics say the bill lacks foresight.
"We think it is a mistake to limit research in this area," said James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council. "We have a number of universities who have gotten grants to do research on offshore wind. It may be decades down the road, but to restrict our ability to even learn the possibilities there is extremely shortsighted."
MacMaster and Franz say they aren't against advancing wind powered energy in the state, they just believe that the Great Lakes cannot support offshore wind. They say the icy nature of the waters surrounding Michigan would destroy the turbines, possibly leaving taxpayers liable.
But bringing future research to a stop under this bill would close the door to solving such a problem.
Currently there are not any offshore wind turbines in the Great Lakes, or anywhere in water surrounding the U.S. for that matter.
However, land-based wind turbines have been a success, according to the Michigan Environmental Council. They say wind power is the cheapest form of energy available in Michigan.
"With carbon-based fuels," Clift explained, "we're seeing the Great Lakes water level starting to drop based on some weather changes, and we've seen climate change. So to not look at the possibility of seeing how we can reduce and minimize the impact is shortsighted, even if solely looking at the Great Lakes."
The Great Lakes have potential for offshore wind due to the consistent winds. Construction on the nation's first offshore wind farm could begin later this year off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
- Alana Holland, Michigan Radio Newsroom
*This post has been updated.