Researchers examine wind speeds over Lake Michigan

Source: Milwaukee Journal • Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Researchers are testing wind speeds in the middle of Lake Michigan to evaluate whether it could serve as a location for offshore wind power generation.

“We’re capturing some of the very first data,” said T. Arnold Boezaart, director of the Michigan Alternative & Renewable Energy Center at Grand Valley State University, the group leading the research. “The wind data that we’re bringing on shore — when I brought the first data cards on shore, I felt like I was bringing gold bullion.”

The $3 million project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the state of Michigan, We Energies and the Sierra Club. In the past, research has indicated that there are high wind speeds above the water; however, testing took place at an altitude lower than where power would be generated. Now, researchers are using laser-pulse radar technology to obtain data at heights of 500 feet or more above water.

So far, initial data has been promising. Researchers found in June an average wind speed of 22 mph at 410 feet above the water. Boezaart said that the target for commercially viable wind generation stands at wind speeds over 15 to 20 mph.

The proposed wind farm would not be visible from the shore, unlike the much-discussed Cape Wind project in Massachusetts. Researchers are also investigating whether a potential wind farm would disrupt migratory bird patterns.

In the Midwest, interest in renewable energy has dwindled amid a sluggish economy, abundant access to other power resources and shifts in the political climate (Thomas Content, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Aug. 29). — WW