By Russ Harding
Mackinac Center for Public Policy
More than any other state, Michiganders identify with the Great Lakes. They are essential to the state's tourism industry and provide extensive recreational opportunities to boaters, fisherman, and those who stroll the many miles of pristine beaches. It seems hard to believe that anyone would want to put the Great Lakes at risk for the unproven development of off-shore wind energy.
On-shore wind energy is expensive and off-shore wind energy even more so. A study done for the Heritage Center for Data Analysis titled "A Renewable Electricity Standard: What It Will Really Cost Americans," quantifies the economic cost of wind energy. The study predicts that using on-shore wind to provide electricity for a family of four as opposed to coal would increase monthly bills from $188.66 to $339.58. For off-shore wind that climbs to $403.65.
The impact from development of wind farms in the Great Lakes is arguably a much greater concern than high energy costs, especially for communities along the Great Lakes that depend on tourism for their economic livelihood. Constructing hundreds of wind turbines in the water, each approaching 400 feet in height with blades as long as 70 feet, would transform the scenic vistas of the Great Lakes into one of an industrial complex. Hardly "pure Michigan."
It seems ironic that state officials who were more than enthusiastic about banning directional drilling for oil and natural gas under the Great Lakes (even though the nearest structure would be at least a quarter of a mile inland from the lakeshore) seem to be content with locating wind farms in the waters of the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes are Michigan's irreplaceable treasure. Any claimed benefit from developing wind farms in the Great Lakes is not worth the risk.