Wind turbines in lake feasible, but energy cost could double

Posted on October 13, 2008. Filed under: General |

From a story by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Making electricity from wind turbines in the middle of Lake Michigan is technologically feasible but would cost up to twice as much as land-based wind farms, a state study released Friday says.

AdvertisementThe study found there are “significant technological challenges” that would have to be overcome to build wind-power projects in deeper sections of the lake, where wind speeds are greater and more power could be generated.

But more research is needed, particularly to get better data on wind speeds in the middle of Lake Michigan and also to track bird migration patterns over the lake, said Lauren Azar, a Public Service Commission member who led the study.

Several developers have floated the idea of building wind projects in Lake Michigan in recent years, but no formal projects have been announced.

But wind-power backers say the concept is attractive because winds are steadier and stronger on the lake, so more power would be generated by turbines placed there.

“The wind speeds over the Great Lakes are both stronger and more consistent than those on land in Wisconsin,” Azar said. “Depending on how strong and consistent, we may find that wind generation on the Great Lakes is one of the answers to the state’s search for a carbon-free energy source that is homegrown to Wisconsin.”

But a finding that was surprising, Azar said, was the difficulty of getting construction equipment to the Great Lakes to build the turbines.

The technology to build deep-water turbines has been developed, though it’s not yet been done in deep water. The only water-based wind-power projects operating in Europe, such as those in the North Sea, are at shallower depths than the middle of the Great Lakes, she said.

The type of construction vessels needed to build the turbines in the lake, the report found, are vessels that are in high demand because they’re used by the oil industry for offshore oil rigs.


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