New consortium promotes Great Lakes area wind farm development

The Wisconsin-based wind blade manufacturer has established the Great Lakes Wind Consortium to promote offshore wind farms throughout the Great Lakes region.

In an effort to meet the federal government’s renewable energy mandates via offshore wind farm development in the wind-rich Great Lakes region of the U.S., Energy Composites Corp. (ECC, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.) announced in August that it is inviting leaders from government, industry and academia to join a Great Lakes Wind Consortium.

“The Great Lakes themselves are the hidden solution to the nation’s mid-term renewable energy needs,” says Sam Fairchild, ECC’s CEO, noting that wind farm developers have focused for a decade primarily on what has come to be known as the “onshore wind corridor” — from Texas to the Dakotas. The recent recognition of the need to upgrade the nation’s electrical grid, including the development of technologies that will reduce the substantial power loss when electricity is transmitted to heavily populated coastal areas over long distances, makes the onshore option less practical. “While the Obama Administration has targeted substantial federal investment towards solving the grid challenge,” he says, “it likely will be more than a few years before we see real progress there.”

Fairchild points out that “there is an immediate opportunity to meet the federal mandate of 20 percent renewables simply by building wind farms in the Great Lakes. The advantages are enormous. The wind profile in the Great Lakes is optimal for wind farms, allowing for the use of larger, offshore turbines, significantly longer, more efficient blades, and cost-saving water-borne logistics.” Notably, nearly 23 percent of the U.S. population lives within 25 miles of the Great Lakes, allowing for short transmission lengths without power loss. “We do not have to wait for advancements in grid technology to make substantial progress,” concludes Fairchild.

ECC is inviting the governors of the Great Lakes states — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York — to join and lead the consortium, and intends to host a planning session for the consortium later this year.