April 10, 2019
Harnessing wind power for energy is not a new idea. The earliest known windmills came about between 500 – 900 A.D., used by the Persians for grinding grain and pumping water. The first manufactured windmill in the United States was designed by Daniel Halladay in 1854, and a larger turbine designed by Charles F Brush in Ohio in 1888 with the intention of producing electricity. Today, wind-powered turbines are used in many situations, from small stations powering rural farmhouses to giant wind farms connected to electrical grids to power entire cities.
Many of the Great Plains states have embraced wind farms to generate their electricity, with Kansas reaching 47.13% of total electricity sales coming from wind power, which begs the question if we could be utilizing sea wind turbines for those states that are closer to the water. Installation of offshore wind turbines could potentially be more efficient, due to more frequent and powerful winds available over open water than on land.
There has been much debate on whether or not putting offshore wind turbines in the Great Lakes could prove to be an effective strategy in becoming a more eco-friendly state. Wind farms in the Great Plains states tend to be farther away from large cities, making it difficult to connect them to areas that require extreme amounts of electricity. Offshore wind turbines on the Great Lakes could be connected more closely to larger urban centers along the lakeshore. With the turbines farther out into the water, less time and money could be devoted to the noise control, aesthetic concerns from citizens, and competing for land use often associated with wind farms built on the land.
While the benefits of wind power over traditional methods of power generation are positive, offshore wind turbines in the Great Lakes could negatively impact the local wildlife. During migration season, the Great Lakes Region sees a higher than usual amount of birds, with the potential of running into a turbine being fatal. Other concerns include being nearby military bases, which could interfere with training and radar operations. After an informal review of a wind project near the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, the Department of Defense concluded that wind turbines near the air base are unlikely to impact military testing and training operations. These studies and other similar research projects have given many lawmakers and environmental groups much to think about where to go from here to push Michigan towards long term sustainability.