Study supports Great Lakes’ offshore wind

Photo by gocarts, Flickr

Grant Valley State University recently conducted a study to determine the noise produced by wind turbines, and the visibility of these structures, if they were placed offshore on the Great Lakes. The University conducted this study in large part due to the public’s fear that  turbines would pose an audible and visual disturbance. However, the study concluded that the turbines would only be visible about half the time, and their sound probably wouldn’t reach shore. As the Midwest Energy News reports, this makes the proposed wind farms far less of a disturbance than the coal factories located along the great lakes:

A new study by Grand Valley State University may remind you of an old study by Grand Valley State University. The new one is on the impacts of offshore wind. The conclusion: Not as bad as people might think. The old study: Same bottom line. But will it change minds? Probably not, and that’s a (cough) shame.

The cough is from the coal that powers much of Michigan, and the Midwest. The deal with coal is that it’s been in use a long time, and some people just don’t see the harm it does.

A big wind turbine in a lake? People can see that. The noise from a turbine? People can hear that. But how does either compare to the impact of a coal plant that billows out emissions around the clock? What about those coal-plant stacks along the waterfront? Ah, people don’t even notice them anymore. It’s like living by a highway. After a while, you don’t hear the rumble anymore.

The latest Grand Valley study examined the visibility of a proposed wind farm located in Lake Michigan, six miles from shore. The report from the West Michigan Wind Assessment found that such a wind farm would be visible 64 percent of the time based on average weather conditions. This is the third issue brief (pdf) released by the assessment project, which is funded by Michigan Sea Grant (a program that’s balanced enough to combine bitter rivals Michigan State and the University of Michigan under one roof.)

Another highlight: Besides being able to see tiny turbines on the horizon 64 percent of the time, the study found it “unlikely that any sound would reach the shore six miles away.”


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