Wind Turbines: Threat to National Treasure of the Great Lakes

By Capt. Tom Marks

I much prefer to write about fishing. Unfortunately, lately, all my time is being consumed by “fighting” to keep industrial wind developers from building wind projects in Lake Erie. In all my life, I could never have imagined being in such a dire place. “My lake,” Lake Erie, is about to be turned into an industrial power complex. Lake Erie is a National Treasure which is supposed to be held in Public Trust by the government for the benefit of everyone, not for the benefit of an industrial power project.

Wind turbines are pitifully inefficient when it comes to their productivity. As an example, New York State has 1,987 megawatts of installed wind generating capacity. All of New York State’s wind turbines were producing only 136 megawatts to the grid as I wrote this article. That is a productivity level of 6.8% of their full potential, this is typical. It’s NYS’s goal to replace all fossil fuel generation with wind and solar. If we were to rely on just wind at this hour, we would need a total of 51,455 wind turbines with a capacity of 3MW each to replace all our fossil fuel sources for the state.

New York State is 54,556 square miles in area. We do not need more wind turbines, we need a better plan.

Please support a moratorium on wind turbine construction in the Great Lakes.

Want to know more? Here is the rationale:

Ten years ago the New York Power Authority (NYPA) headed by Ritchie Kessel, put out bids to Wind Power development companies to build industrial-scale wind turbines in Lakes Erie and Ontario. The proposal at the time was called “Great Lakes Offshore Wind” (GLOW). The GLOW proposal was for about 130 wind turbines with the primary site to be in Lake, but it could be built in Lake Ontario.

I formed a group, Great Lakes Wind Truth (GLWT), to oppose the project.

Casualties – DEAD BIRDS hit by wind turbine blades. The blades are deceptively fast, the tips traveling on average 150 mph.

Great Lakes Wind Truth membership was composed of like-minded individuals across New York State, Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. Our mission was to raise public awareness and get political support to help others understand the inefficiency and then stop the proposal. We were able to get every county on the shores of Lake Erie and Ontario except one to pass resolutions to oppose construction of wind turbines off their shores. I can’t tell you how many meetings and public events I attended, but it was a lot. I even went door to door from the Pennsylvania – New York border to Buffalo and put a flyer I made in every door of every lakefront home or cottage raising awareness of the proposal and its negatives

The bottom line, GLWT was able, with the help of a lot of supporters, to stop the proposal before it could get off the ground. The reason that the New York Power Authority (NYPA) gave for canceling any proposed project is that it would not be cost-effective. Almost concurrent to our fight opposing GLOW, there was another project being proposed in Lake Erie off Cleveland, Ohio. Lake Erie Energy Development Company (LEEDCO) called their proposed project Ice Breaker. Ice Breaker is a six to nine industrial-scale wind turbine project to “test the feasibility” of constructing wind turbines offshore in Lake Erie, however, the broader goal by LEEDCO is to build another 1,400 to 1,500 wind turbines in Lake Erie.

The Walney Extension – world’s largest wind project off the coast of England.

GLWT mustered opposition and was successful in delaying the Ice Breaker Project. The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), in its denial for permits, listed all LEEDCO’s deficiencies for the project. LEEDCO has addressed some and reapplied. GLWT has again put up opposition to the project citing numerous issues with building such projects in the Great Lakes. We are now at a critical point waiting for the OPSB to make its decision to issue permits for the project to proceed. It has taken 10 years to reach this point in wind project development. Wind developers count on the opposition to wear down or lose interest opposing these proposals.

Most recently, Diamond WTG Engineering & Services, Inc., a wind energy development company owned by Mitsubishi, has proposed a wind project in eastern Lake Erie. The proposal is for 50 industrial-scale wind turbines with 4 megawatt generators. The project would be located in Lake Erie between Buffalo and Dunkirk, New York, about 5 miles from shore. There have been other proposals for wind turbine projects in Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario.

Wind companies are relentless.

Developers and supporters of alternative energy sources make a lot of claims about the benefits of their projects, such as:

“We need green energy to reduce CO2 emissions.”

“We must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”

The Steel Winds Project on the Shore of Eastern Lake Erie

The developers will also claim that putting wind turbines in the lakes will add fish-attracting structures that will improve fishing. Developers and politicians who support such projects claim that wind turbine projects create jobs. Developers will tell us that they are “tapping” a free energy source to make inexpensive electricity. There is a lot that developers don’t say about these projects in the lake that are real important. So, let me tell you why I think wind power project development is “bad” for the Great Lakes.

Reducing CO2 emissions is a myth.

How the power grid “works” can be a bit complicated, but here is a simplified explanation. There is base load power usually supplied by nuclear plants, hydro or coal. Base load power is the power that is “always” there so you can flip a light switch and your lights come on. When businesses and factories start-up in the morning there is a surge in demand. Natural gas plants kick in to meet this peak in power demand. These plants ramp up through the day as the demand increases. This is a simplistic explanation, but it is how the grid “works”.

Now you will be able to understand the myth that there is a net CO2 reduction when wind generation is incorporated into the power grid.

Wind energy is intermittent, variable in intensity, out of sync with demand and unpredictable.

Wind energy is weather dependent.

Wind energy has no capacity value as other forms of energy have.

We can rely of Nuclear Power, Hydro, and Natural Gas to produce power on demand, thus these sources have capacity value. Wind cannot promise delivery of power it requires backup 24/7/365 and the back-up source for wind in most cases is natural gas or another fossil fuel. These backup plants can’t be shut off when the wind is blowing because you cannot predict when the wind will not be able to produce electricity. Thus wind turbine generating power plants do not replace any existing fossil fuel electric generating plants.

Do wind turbines create a fish-attracting structure? I do not know! The wind developers are being very dishonest if they claim that they know. There are no wind power plants the sizes being proposed in Lake Erie in any other freshwater body in the world.

There is no data to support their claims.

We do know that wind turbines on land create vibrations that are harmful to humans and animals.

There is plenty of research to support that infrasound generated by turbines cause deformities in animals living near these structures. There is certainly lots of data confirming human health, as well as the quality of life, impacts from wind turbines. The power transmission cables connecting a wind project to the grid will lay on the lake bottom. Power cables have magnetic fields around them when power is traveling through them. Fish can be impacted by magnetic fields which may disrupt important migration patterns and forage activity, but we don’t have the data for large projects in freshwater lakes to be certain.

The Great Lakes were once a repository for our industrial pollution. The solution to pollution was thought to be dilution. Sadly we found out there was only so much pollution the Great Lakes could handle before damages occurred. After the 1972 Clean Water Act, we became “enlightened” and stopped polluting the Great Lakes. Since then, billions of dollars have been spent by the federal government and the surrounding states to restore the Great Lakes. We are still spending huge amounts of money for Great Lakes restoration.

The construction of large wind turbine projects will disrupt the buried industrial pollution legacy. It is best to leave those deep contaminated sediments undisturbed, if not, once again we risk the health of the fishery and make fish unsafe to eat.

Wind turbines certainly will negatively impact the source of drinking water that 35 million people depend upon.

Wind turbine projects create jobs, but they are temporary jobs.

The good jobs are very specialized and those workers will likely be workers from overseas. A wind power project once built, is very automated and controlled from a distant location. It takes only a few technicians at a computer. The turbines do require maintenance, again these are specialty jobs and crews travel around the country as contracted maintenance crews.

Actual jobs created will be minimal.

Our economy is booming right now, we are almost at full employment, so we really don’t “need” these jobs. That is why when foreign workers come in to build turbines you never hear any uproar. There is some boost to local businesses, but it is, again, only temporary.

Free energy. It reminds me of the promises made by another energy source back in the 1950s that never materialized. The states that support “green energy development” mandate that the power grid operators buy electricity produced by Wind Power Projects. The wind power company negotiates power purchase agreements with grid operators. It is hardly fair to the electric customer because the grid operator is forced to buy the electricity produced regardless of the cost. The power purchase agreements often extend for the life expectancy of the wind power project, about 20 years, to make the project profitable. The power purchase agreement that LEEDCO negotiated recently in Ohio, for the Ice Breaker project, will charge customers 30 cents per kW/hr. The current customer rate from conventional sources is 5.5 cents per kW/hr.

That free source of power is not free at all, it is mighty expensive.

Wind power plants are not financially sustainable without power purchase agreements, property tax breaks, and project subsidies from the government.

Here is what the wind developer doesn’t tell you.

The reason they want to build offshore in the lakes.

They pay no property taxes to a town, county or school district.

For the developer, it is a real cost saving that is not passed on to the consumer.

The wind developer doesn’t tell you what happens when the wind turbine outlives its usefulness. Who is responsible for decommissioning? Companies are putting up “bonds” to pay for the decommissioning, but who can predict the cost 20 or 25 years into the future? Often the company that builds the project sells it to another company and when it becomes obsolete the last owner goes out of business leaving useless wind turbines rusting and falling apart. When I asked NYPA what were the plans for GLOW at the end of its “life” they were just going to knock the turbines over and leave them on the lake bottom.

The typical wind turbine contains 400 to 500 gallons of oil. It is not uncommon that within a wind turbine project that several will leak oil. The last thing we want is oil leaking into our source of drinking water. Wind turbines kill tens of thousands of birds and bats every year. The Great Lakes and especially Lake Erie is in a major migration route. Any wind turbine project will be deadly for migrating flocks of birds. The Sierra Club which supports wind development explains that any large building or trucks on the highway kill birds. Unfortunately, this environmental group is willing to make a trade-off on the health and diversity of an ecosystem which is not necessary.

Infrasound from wind turbines has been associated with health impacts to humans and livestock living near projects. It is undetermined if these low-frequency sounds will have the same or worse impact on the Great Lakes ecosystems. The presence of wind turbines in the Great Lakes will be hazardous for helicopters hampering search and rescue operations for boaters in trouble on the lakes. Wind turbines potentially could interfere with radar and air surveillance monitoring for illegal crossings of the border on Lake Erie and Ontario. The turbine towers will incorporate designs to break ice that is pushed around them, it is hard to predict the impact it will have on reefs when the ice potentially could be scouring the lake bottom all winter as opposed to just the during the spring melt.

Oil leaks from a wind turbine gearcase. The gear case can contain on average 400 to 500 gallons of gear oil.

There is no data; it will be an experiment on the Great Lakes.

There will certainly be a visual impact.

I believe most people will find sunsets viewed through a maze of wind turbines less than pleasing. There is a value for the wide-open expanse of the lake view. Shorefront property is valuable, a wind project in its view will certainly reduce this value and potential property tax revenue.

President Bush declared these lakes a National Treasure. How can anyone allow a National Treasure to be desecrated by an industrial project. We would never allow a wind developer to build wind turbines on the National Mall or in Yellowstone National Park. Why would we allow the Great Lakes to become an industrial park? The Great Lakes are held in the Public Trust for all Americans to benefit not foreign industrial wind developers.

In Ontario, Canada, there has been a moratorium on the construction of wind turbines in the Great Lakes for over 10 years.

It is time we do the same in the United States.

Our Great Lakes are too valuable of an asset and natural wonder to risk to an experiment by industrial wind developers. Once these projects are built in the lakes there is no going back and we will have opened the doors to all developers.

Important to know: “….May 18, 2004, President George W. Bush by Executive Order: Establishment of Great Lakes Interagency Task Force and Promotion of a Regional Collaboration of National Significance for the Great Lakes 

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to help establish a regional collaboration of national significance for the Great Lakes, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. The Great Lakes are a national treasure constituting the largest freshwater system in the world. The United States and Canada have made great progress addressing past and current environmental impacts to the Great Lakes ecology. The Federal Government is committed to making progress on the many significant challenges that remain….”

The Great Lakes are being threatened with industrial development in their waters which will cause irreparable ecological harm. So I wrote the following to raise public awareness of these threats and my concerns.

Comments? Capt. Thomas Marks, Port Charlotte, Fl. 33980; e-mail: