From an article by Pete Millard in The Business Journal:
Wisconsin Electric Power Co. [d/b/a We Energies], the state’s largest public energy utility, is seeking Public Service Commission approval to spend $3 million to study the feasibility of harnessing the Great Lakes’ wind power.
With more than a half-dozen wind farms sprouting up in corn and soybean fields from Montfort in southwest Wisconsin to Portage, Eden and Kewaunee on the banks of Lake Michigan in northeast Wisconsin, the real potential for wind power exists on the Great Lakes. That’s according to a November 2008 PSC report.
While no one doubts the potential for wind power on the Great Lakes, there are environmental, construction, transmission and maintenance issues that need examination before wind turbines and towers begin rising in the depths of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.
“What we’re proposing is taking the next step forward from the PSC report,” said Roman Draba, WEPCO’s vice president of regulatory affairs and policy.
The PSC’s own Great Lakes wind power study summarizes the various state, federal and tribal statutes, rules and regulations that may have to be changed before any proposal to build an off-shore wind project can move ahead, but these are not insurmountable obstacles, said Carl Siegrist, WEPCO’s senior renewable energy strategist.
Less known is whether the technology exists to economically transmit the wind power from off-shore turbines to on-shore transmission lines. Also unknown is the cost to build and maintain the turbines and towers, especially in winter, Siegrist said.
“A big part of the study will also monitor exactly what the wind patterns are and how productive they may be,” said Draba.
The WEPCO Lake Michigan study also will look at the potential environmental impact the towers and turbines would have on bats and migratory birds.