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Norwegian Wind Developer: Michigan Perfect for Offshore Wind

Posted to on Thursday, November 19, 2009

INTRO: State government is closer to getting windmills on the water. Governor Granholm renewed the 29 member Great Lakes Wind Council. Their job has been to figure out where windmills could generate the most electricity without disturbing nature and commerce. This month, the council heard a call to action from a Norwegian wind developer. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus reports.

Harold Dirdal is a civil engineer. He and 4 other men run a company called Havgul based in Oslo Norway. They’ve developed thousands of megawatts on and offshore in Norway. They’re developing a 5,000 megawatt wind farm in the Texas panhandle. Now they want to come here.

“We are pure developers and we are looking for a specific site to develop here in Lake Michigan.”

Dirdal spoke to the council of businessmen, academics and environmentalists studying off shore wind power. This time it was at the Michigan State University Kellogg convention center. Dirdal got the council members excited. They’ve want to show the public that turbines on the Great Lakes will help the economy.

“You can always say you should have started earlier. But now is the perfect timing. You have the Obama Administration’s focus on onshore and offshore wind. You have the climate debate. You have the change in energy resources from fossil fuels into renewables. You’ve got a push for new grids. And what they’re doing here is exactly the way to do it.”

The wind council delivered suggestions to the governor. They said turbines could be most easily installed where water is a 100 feet deep or less. Try to hide them from human eyes 6 miles offshore. Clump them together in patches of 20 square miles. Put them at least a mile away from recreational fishing and 5 miles from endangered species habitat.  They could go on 20% of the waters governed by Michigan mainly in the counties of Delta, Mackinac, Sanilac and Berrien plus Saginaw Bay.

But won’t ships crash into the turbines?

“You don’t decrease ship safety you increase ship safety,” said Harold Dirdal.

“You can use radio marking on every turbine if you want to. And you can just light it up and put it numbers on it. So when you have to put the turbines out there you make sure they get maps that the shipping industry is using so they not only can know where the turbines are but know the numbers of the turbines. So number one they know. When they see number one they know exactly where they are.”

Dirdal told the governor’s wind council to make it simple. Use decades of wind statistics collected from lighthouses. Use LIDAR devices. LIDAR measures light particles then determines the distance of something far away. Put LIDAR on a ship and another onshore. Make them collect data by themselves and then by shining on each other.

“Where did you have the assembly of industry? Where the markets were. Absolutely. Closest to the need. To the endpoint. So you’ve gotta create the market here.”

Dirdal talks with another member of the council. They say Michigan is the center of manufacturing. The Great Lakes have large cities nearby that use lots of electricity.

“Michigan is the perfect place for offshore wind power. In my mind you can hardly find a better place. You’ve got a lot of shallow waters. You’ve got a lot of strong winds on the east side and you’ve got a huge load center.”

Norway, Sweden and Holland have been leading the world in offshore wind power. Add Denmark which is running on 17% renewables.  Arn Boezaart is from the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon. He too is a member of the Great Lakes Wind Council.

“We certainly shouldn’t shut out their participation and try to reinvent the wheel. The wheel has been invented. We just need to fine tune it to meet our needs.”

The person managing this process is Skip Pruss. He heads the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, DLEG.

“Offshore development is moving around the world and it will come here. The question is can we be early deployers? Can we reap the maximum advantage? Can we secure the most jobs and most investment in Michigan as we possibly can? This is a real opportunity. And we can’t miss it. If we miss it, if we pass on it we’re gonna lose.”

The legislature is working on bills that allow for windmills on the water. And scientists are  gathering up data that could attract investors.

Audio MP3: GLOW 4stations

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