2024-07-25
http://w3.windfair.net/wind-energy/news/44605-usa-great-lakes-michigan-erie-offshore-wind-turbine-wind-farm-plan-government-nrel-research-project-court-fresh-water

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US government sets sight on Great Lakes for offshore wind

While efforts to expand offshore wind in the U.S. are currently focused primarily on the coastal regions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico, another body of water is once again coming into focus: the five Great Lakes on the border between Canada and the U.S. hold enormous potential. It is not the first time that offshore wind turbines are to be installed there.

The five Great Lakes - Huron, Michigan, Erie, Ontario and Lake Superior - are the largest freshwater area on Earth. They contain 20% of the world's freshwater resources and provide drinking water for more than 40 million people. And they hold an abundance of wind energy potential. Wind resources are estimated to have a power generation capacity of 160 gigawatts for fixed wind turbines and about 415 gigawatts for floating turbines.

Not an insignificant source of clean power, which is why the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Wind Energy Technologies has now funded research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The resulting report, 'Great Lakes Wind Energy Challenges and Opportunities Assessment,' defines a comprehensive research program to demonstrate commercial use within the next decade.

"Wind energy in the Great Lakes is compelling from both a clean energy and an economic growth standpoint," said NREL researcher Walter Musial, a co-author of the report and the laboratory’s leading expert on offshore wind energy. "The Great Lakes have an abundant wind resource near population centers, and there is a real opportunity for Great Lakes wind energy resources to contribute not only to the region’s clean energy mix and its economic growth but also to achieving long-term national clean energy goals set by the administration."

However, there are two obstacles for which solutions must first be found: The St. Lawrence Seaway and Welland Canal locks are too narrow for the huge ocean-going vessels needed to install offshore wind turbines. This would mean that most construction and installation work would have to be done in a Great Lakes port.

Another major challenge is freshwater ice, which is stronger than sea ice and more common in the Great Lakes than at offshore wind sites in the Atlantic. For floating turbines in particular, it is so far unclear how they will cope with these conditions, given the lack of any experience with them.

Freshwater ice, seen here in Lake Michigan, is not to be underestimated (Image: Pixabay).

Other problems have already thwarted previous attempts to install wind turbines in one of the Great Lakes: In addition to protesting residents who felt cheated out of their beautiful views, it was mainly concerns from environmental organizations that were afraid for birds and bats in Lake Erie.

That's when the 'Icebreaker Wind' project first raised the issue of offshore wind power in the Great Lakes. The 20.7-megawatt project was to consist of six turbines installed about 8 miles north of Cleveland, according to plans that were more than a decade old.

However, the project was then largely mothballed in May 2020, when state regulators allowed a permit with a 'poison pill': permission was granted to install wind turbines, but the turbines were not to move at night between March 1 and November 1, when they would harm bats and birds.

Since the project would no longer have made economic sense under these circumstances, the planning company sued. After more than two years of litigation, a ruling was finally handed down late last year: the project can be built without conditions, ohia's Supreme Court ruled after a 6-1 decision. “Despite the good news today, it is going to be challenging to get this project rolling forward again,” said Will Friedman, president and CEO of the Port of Cleveland and a board member of LEEDCo, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation formed in 2009 to get the project off the ground, at the time. Because there weren't enough financial commitments, not much has happened since.

That may be changing now, as the Biden administration has put the Great Lakes back on the map. "The Great Lakes region is home to millions of human residents and also provides an important habitat for wildlife, including resident and migratory bird and bat species," said NREL researcher Rebecca Green, a co-author of the report and an offshore wind energy environmental expert. "By taking into account social and environmental concerns now as we conduct the research needed to open the Great Lakes to offshore wind, we can identify and employ risk-minimization solutions and implement low-impact siting and mitigation strategies that help ensure the benefits of wind projects outweigh the costs. For example, siting turbines in deeper waters and farther from shore has the potential to minimize viewshed impacts and may decrease interactions with certain wildlife species."

So we should expect to see more concrete plans for offshore wind power in the Great Lakes in the coming years.

Author:
Katrin Radtke
Email:
press@windfair.net
Keywords:
USA, Great Lakes, Michigan, Erie, offshore, wind turbine, wind farm, plan, government, NREL, research, project, court, fresh water



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