Great Lakes, great wind bring great federal investment

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DOE-funded wind energy projects in the Great Lakes

By Sarah Coefield,
Great Lakes Echo
July 2, 2009

Great Lakes wind power is getting a turbo boost.

The Great Lakes region will receive nearly a third of the $8.5 million federal officials recently set aside for wind energy development.

The region will see $475,929 to study wind energy environmental impacts, $100,000 for development of small turbines, $1,446,942 for wind energy education and training and $587,029 to bring wind energy to market. The projects are aimed at challenges identified in the Department of Energy’s 2008 report, which sets a goal of using wind to supply 20 percent of the country’s energy needs by 2030.

Of the $2.6 million coming into the region, nearly $100,000 is going to the Great Lakes Commission, an Ann Arbor-based multi-state agency that coordinates environmental and conservation policy in the Great Lakes basin. The funds will be used to identify and develop best practices that wind developers and local governments can use to streamline wind energy development.

“There is currently not a lot of guidance in every state for siting wind projects and we’re hearing that from developers, wind generators, power generators that …this is a need, to enable a more consistent siting of wind and its utilities from state to state,” said John Hummer, a project manager at the Great Lakes Commission. “Currently there may be a patchy kind of guidelines from state to state, and so the need for consistency and guidance that will ensure sustainable development of wind in the region.”

The commission will collaborate with states and agencies. It will look to states that already have good practices in place, such as Minnesota and Texas, as well as Europe and Canada for guidance, Hummer said. The commission will analyze those practices and focus on alleviating environmental impacts associated with wind turbine siting.

Improper siting can lead to habitat loss and risk to endangered species, Hummer said.

Some of the federal funds will be used to study such environmental risks, including bird and bat mortality and impact on their migration. Other funds will support engineering programs and community planning strategies.

With a mandate for increased wind energy production in the region, the audience for the best practices will likely grow.

“The Great Lakes (region) is seen as having great potential for meeting the national energy need,” Hummer said. “The wind maps show that the region has good wind, especially around the lakes … and we also have a really good manufacturing infrastructure in place.”

In Michigan alone, wind energy is scheduled to dramatically increase in the next six years, said John Sarver, a supervisor at the Michigan Energy Office and head of the Michigan Wind Working Group. The state is looking at increasing its wind energy output from 129 megawatts to 2,400 megawatts by 2015. That will require approximately 1,200 turbines, so siting and zoning are important.

The Great Lakes Commission’s best practices project will take two years to complete. Hummer expects the first year to be spent developing the practices. The second year will be used to explain to the public and encourage legislators to take advantage of the results.

The project is scheduled to start in October and the results will be available online for the public as a “toolbox” of best practices, Hummer said.

2 thoughts on “Great Lakes, great wind bring great federal investment

  1. Pingback: Proposed wind ordinance resources | The Rock River Times

  2. Pingback: Scientists hope to curb exploding bat lungs near Great Lakes wind turbines | Great Lakes Echo

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