Potential large scale wind farms coming to West Michigan

Mar 10, 2011

There’s been a lot of talk in West Michigan lately about how wind power could boost the region’s economy. The area, particularly along the Lake Michigan shore, could be home to several potential wind projects.

Potential projects

  • Muskegon County is looking for developers to build a large-scale wind farm on 11,000 acres at its waste water treatment plant less than 15 miles away from the Lake Michigan shoreline. County officials would like to see up to 75 turbines in order to produce between 75 and 100 megawatts. They expect to begin reviewing those proposals by May.
  • The City of Holland’s Board of Public Works is testing wind conditions at a couple of cites in Allegan County. The BPW entered an agreement last summer that gives them the option to buy or lease around 3,000 acres of land if the data proves promising.
  • Developer Scandia Wind is proposing to put 50-100 wind turbines in two 50-square-mile areas in Lake Michigan. One would be four miles off the shore near Pentwater. The other is proposed six miles off the shore near Grand Haven.  The company is also hoping to build the wind farm proposed at Muskegon County’s waste water treatment plant.

 

About 60 people gathered recently in Saugatuck; a tourist town on the Lake Michigan shore. Farmers, business owners, and residents wanted to learn more about the wind farms that could begin to pop up in the region both on and offshore. These are large scale wind farms with industrial turbines that would tower 300 to 400 feet tall.

Mike Obrien has worked for companies looking to build offshore in the Great Lakes. For years he’s been trying to convince governments, businesses and residents that Michigan’s manufacturing base is perfect for the wind power industry.

“We ought to own this. And we ought to put people back to work. It’s not the only reason we should do wind, but it’s a hell of an important one.”

But there are still a lot of people like Michael Johnson who are conflicted about the wind turbines. Johnson lives and owns businesses in Saugatuck.

“I don’t think anybody would argue with you that we need this renewable energy. The only problem is I don’t want it in my backyard.”

Ann Erhardt, with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, admits getting people to think regionally about energy has been a struggle.

“There’s those governmental borders and entities not wanting to work together. You know, ‘this is my pond and that’s your pond, keep your fish over there.”

Erhardt says people and governments have to be more open to work together to bring wind farms to the region. Otherwise, she warns the jobs and economic investments won’t come.