Marine trade associations in Ohio and Michigan have joined to stop a demonstration project that will lead to the construction of 1,000 or more wind turbines in the Great Lakes.
Boating Associations of Ohio and the Michigan Boating Industry Association, along with environmental and fishing groups, are blitzing members of the Ohio Power Siting Board with petitions from hundreds of boaters in both states ahead of a closed meeting Monday, Sept. 24 in Columbus, Ohio.
The board will consider approval of a wind turbine “demonstration project” in Lake Erie off Cleveland. The project, undertaken by the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., is intended to stimulate building more wind farms.
“The Great Lakes are fragile bodies of water already facing serious algae problems, myriad invasive species and other threats to this ecosystem,” said Bryan Ralston, president of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association. “They are the drinking water source for millions in eight states, and they annually attract billions of dollars in tourism spending. None of this should be put at risk.”
More specifically to boating and fishing interests, the turbine installations are expected to trigger large security zones similar to those around Great Lakes power plants. This will prohibit thousands of boating and fishing families from accessing large areas of the very waters held in the public trust. That alone should be unacceptable to the Ohio Power Siting Board, not to mention protecting the health and aesthetics of the state’s most important natural resource.
“The claimed benefits for consumers of such turbine installations are misleading and simply cannot be substantiated,” said John C. Lipaj, a board member of the Lake Erie Foundation. “A study of such offshore installations in countries like Great Britain and Germany documents the electric rates charged consumers are among the highest in the world. Even with millions in taxpayer subsidies, consumer rates will go up here.”
The total value of taxpayer subsidies given to the biggest players in the U.S. wind industry already exceeds $176 billion, received by companies on the American Wind Energy Association’s board of directors.
A key reason is that wind turbines spin only when the wind blows, roughly 35 percent of the time; 65 percent of the time they are non-productive. If we don’t want blackouts, backup fossil fuel systems must remain on standby to fill the gaps. But those systems become more expensive because they’re designed to run continually, not taken offline and restarted to fill in for wind energy.
But the potential environmental impact is perhaps generating the loudest outcry. According to LEEDCo, each turbine would contain 404 gallons of industrial lubricants in its gearbox. Thousands of turbines mean thousands of gearboxes and their lubricants.
Gearbox seals have been known to fail and leak oil into the water. Worse, wind turbines have exploded and burned (check this out on YouTube). When the turbine blades burn, they create toxic emissions.
Another red flag is that the useful life of a turbine on land is less than 20 years and likely less after being battered by Great Lakes storms and ice. At that point they must be decommissioned and removed. California has thousands of abandoned industrial wind turbines that are falling apart. Many of the wind farms built in Europe 20 years ago will lose their government subsidies in 2020, and a recent article details concern about the lack of funds to remove the turbines.
“If turbines are put into our lakes,” Ralston said, “we can expect to be looking out at windmill graveyards in the future, because there are no plans for removal.”
On still another environmental front, the turbines kill bats and protected birds, including bald and golden eagles. Lake Erie is a major flyway for migrating birds, and building turbines there will violate the Migratory Bird Treaty.
LEEDCo has misled the public by saying the National Audubon Society supports the project. The society’s response: “We did not and do not support the project … unless and until the Ohio Power Siting Board adopts all of the recommendations of the staff report regarding the Icebreaker wind project and birds, prioritizing red-breasted merganser and migratory songbirds that cross the Lake at night during migration.”
There is widespread rejection of industrial turbines spoiling the natural beauty of the Great Lakes. Last year, Cape Wind, which had planned to build 130 offshore wind turbines off Massachusetts, gave up its 14-year effort due to broad public opposition, including lawsuits claiming the project would harm tourism and fishing. Similar legal actions are virtually guaranteed on the Great Lakes.
“MBIA is not against alternative sources of energy,” MBIA executive director Nicki Polan said. “However, with regard to wind farms in our Great Lakes, we find far too many unanswered questions and genuine concerns for the health and aesthetics of these unique bodies of water. The risks are too high and rewards not evident, and we must stand opposed to plans such as the one being considered in Ohio now.” (Michigan borders on four of the five Great Lakes, including a large portion of Lake Erie.)
The bottom line: According to the Lake Erie Foundation, what was once called a "dead lake" is now a thriving fishery, a source of drinking water and home to countless waterfowl, especially the return of bald eagles along the shoreline. Experts say there is no need for this demonstration project. It will not provide insight on any questions related to technical issues, financial issues or any other issues. Its sole purpose, as stated in its permit applications, is to “stimulate a Great Lakes offshore wind industry.”
It should never be approved.