Toward a Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project

The U.S. wants wind power. The Great Lakes are windy. It should be a match made in heaven–so why don’t we see legions of wind farms floating off the shores of Lake Michigan? The Obama Administration hosted a “Great Lakes Offshore Wind Workshop” in DC on Tuesday and Wednesday in Chicago, seeking to answer that question and figure out how to realize the vision.

Of course, if there aren’t any offshore wind projects in the Great Lakes, that’s only a reflection of the fact that “there are currently no offshore wind projects in the U.S. anywhere in the water right now,” points out Terry Yonkers, co-chair of the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative. (Many are planned or approved.) It’s an emerging field, with logistical, political, regulatory, and scientific issues that still need to be resolved. The purpose of the meeting was to illuminate–for states, for developers, for environmental groups, for the public–the ins and outs of the maze ahead for anyone who wants to build such projects.

The energy game is skewed, for the time being. “Currently the process for building new coal plants is fairly straightforward, and not that difficult,” Yonkers tells Fast Company. That doesn’t mean, though, that there aren’t groups committed to making them a thing of the past. “I’m amazed,” he says, “by the commitment on the part of the federal government, the states, the environmental groups, and industry to really want to collaborate with each other and resolve our nation’s energy future.”

[Images: Flickr user phault; NASA Goddard photo]DZ