Research buoy shows offshore winds average at least 22 mph in middle of Lake Michigan

Sep 25, 2012

Wind speed in the middle of Lake Michigan appears to be some of the best in the state for developing wind energy. That’s according to preliminary data from a high-tech research buoy that’s been anchored there all summer.

It’s pretty common knowledge that it’s windy out here off the Lake Michigan shore. But exactly how windy, and when, and what direction, details about bats and birds; none of that information has been available until now.

“I suspect that will ramp up some levels of interest in what we’re doing,” said Arn Boezaart.

Boezaart heads the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center that’s operating the buoy. He revealed the preliminary data at the center’s annual business meeting Monday afternoon.

“I think we’re demonstrating that we now have the ability to go out onto the Great Lakes and do a very credible and scientifically relevant job of measuring wind speeds, wind capacity that others can use to make whatever decisions they might,” Boezaart said.

Early data show the average offshore wind speed is at least 22 miles an hour. Wind farms have been built on land in Michigan where wind speeds average around 17 miles an hour.

The data also shows some bats traveled near the buoy; around 37 miles off shore west of Muskegon. Michigan State University researchers tell Boezaart it’s the first real hard data that shows bats travel that far offshore. The buoy is also collecting data about birds.

The research buoy will continue collecting data through December. Ultimately it could determine whether an offshore wind farm is viable in Lake Michigan.

But the process for building an offshore wind farm isn’t clear and no plans are in the works yet.