Off Shore Wind

I determined that the State of Michigan is well endowed with a significant offshore wind renewable energy potential that can meet the State’s electric requirements for decades to come. I was the principal investigator and L-3 Communications was the technology developer. I led the project with L-3 Communications in collaboration with the City of Muskegon, Muskegon County, City of North Muskegon, Muskegon Area First, the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, and Muskegon Area First. I wrote the following white paper delineating this offshore wind prospect and established a plan where this initiative can first be tested in Lake Muskegon. This offshore wind proposal was funded with $1.5 million by the Federal Government appropriations grants in 2009

Michigan Off Shore Wind White Paper

The State of Michigan imports 93 of its fossil fuel requirements form Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky at an annual cost of approximately $18 billion. About 60% of Michigan's electricity is generated using coal, 24% using nuclear energy, and 12% from Natural Gas. Michigan's annual energy bill drains the economy and impacts job retention. Michigan has two large natural energy resources: wind and biomass. Studies show that the wind potential of Lake Michigan is in the range of 4 to 6 wind class with 7 being the highest. In the central part of Lake Michigan this wind power is estimated to be about 182 GW. A tenth of this wind power potential is equivalent to some 20 nuclear power plants. The advantages of offshore wind installations include the higher wind velocities over water, avoidance of any damage to the migratory bird paths, and therefore are not an eyesore for those inclined to hold that perspective.

L-3 Communications of Muskegon has advanced high power wind turbine technology and has teamed up with GVSU's MAREC together with the various cities that surround Muskegon Lake to create this Offshore Wind Pilot Project. This is a significant opportunity for this region since L-3 Communications is a $13.5 billion company with world class expertise in manufacturing of military and transportation technologies. Launching this Offshore Wind Pilot Project in Muskegon Lake will enable a made-in-Michigan wind turbine technology to be initiated and leading to significant job creation. It will also pave the way for the much larger objective of using offshore wind to meet the growing electricity demand using this renewable and carbon free source of energy. Offshore wind electricity will in time replace some of the existing and very old coal fired plants.

This Offshore Wind Pilot Project is requesting $3 million to cover all costs of manufacturing of L-3 Communications advanced wind turbine, installing it in Muskegon Lake, making the required grid interconnections, and conducting numerous and necessary social and policy studies.

State of Michigan and Renewable Wind Energy

The State of Michigan is endowed with very large wind energy potential. This renewable wind energy can be harnessed using L-3 Communications advanced wind turbine technology that have been successfully proven over many years in various parts of the World. The wind power on Lake Michigan is of Class 4-6 with Class 7 being the highest in the US. It is estimated that the wind power offshore of Lake Michigan is some 182 GW. Conservatively one tenth of this potential can be viewed equivalent to some 20 nuclear power plants.


The following is photograph of land based wind turbines that fill the landscape and highways in Germany:


These turbines range from 500 kW to 1000 kW with new production units that are capable up to 3000 kW. The photograph below is an example of a 1000 kW wind turbine installation in the Irish Sea:


This photo is a good representation of how L-3 Communications offshore wind turbine would look like when it is installed in Muskegon Lake and ultimately of installations at some 20 miles offshore in Lake Michigan

Local Economic Impact

When Governor Jennifer Granholm first unveiled her comprehensive economic plan, she identified four key areas for diversifying and growing the state's economy. One of those key areas is alternative energy. And although Michigan lags behind other states in the nation in installed wind generating capacity, Michigan is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the evolving green energy revolution. The untapped wind resources offer the Stat an almost unlimited source of clean, zero-carbon electricity, our universities and corporate research centers are becoming world leaders in alternative energy science, and our manufacturing know-how can build the components of the green energy economy.

Renewable energy development has already been a boon for some of the progressive nations in Europe, resulting in the creation of tens of thousands of jobs in both Germany and Denmark. The US has an advantage in the fact that it now has the third largest amount of wind energy capacity in the world. At the end of 2006, the cumulative installed wind energy generating capacity in the US was 11,603 megawatts. The 2,400 megawatts of new wind capacity added in the US in 2006 was the most of any country. Investments in wind energy were estimated to be over $4.0 billion in 2006 and over $9.6 billion in 2007. According to estimates from the American Wind Energy Association, every 100 megawatts of wind capacity creates 200 construction jobs, two to five permanent jobs, and up to $1.0 million in local property tax revenue.

The Energy Information Administration projects that if a 15% National Renewable Portfolio Standards policy is passed, the portion of renewable generation from wind would require the installation of approximately 15,000 additional wind turbines in the US by 2030, doubling the current number. However, there is a severe shortage in manufacturing capacity within the growing markets of Alternative and Renewable Energy technologies. Currently, wind turbine manufacturing capacity is sold out and unable to supply units for new orders until 2011, creating a three-year backlog. The main wind turbine manufacturers are now trying to bring on-line additional manufacturing of parts and components to increase total wind turbine production.

This situation provides a new economic opportunity for manufacturers in Muskegon and throughout West Michigan to supply components to the wind energy industry and potential manufacturing of wind turbines. It is estimated that the national market for components in the Alternative and Renewable Energy Industry is over $160 billion for the next ten years. With more than 22% of all jobs in the region in manufacturing, world-class manufacturing capabilities, and a workforce with a strong work ethic, West Michigan is poised to tap in to this market. Currently, there are 771 companies in the region capable of producing components for Alternative and Renewable Energy Technologies. Based on an Alternative and Renewable Energy Cluster Analysis conducted by Energy Options and Solutions, West Michigan'S potential opportunity over the next five years in the manufacturing of components is in excess of $800 million and could create over 4,250 jobs. These figures illustrate land-based wind systems only and represent only 1% of the market; however, the real potential lies in locating the wind turbines offshore were the wind speeds are the highest.

The proposed Michigan Offshore Wind Pilot Project constructed in Muskegon Lake will be used to demonstrate the actual potential of offshore energy systems. In addition to the investment and job creation this growing industry will mean for the local and state economy, a 15% RPS would decrease natural gas demand and lower natural gas prices by 20%, plus lower wholesale electric power prices by nearly 11% by 2026 according to the American Wind Energy Association. Currently, almost 80% of Michigan households use natural gas as their primary source of energy for home heating, yet Michigan imports over 70% of its natural gas. Michigan also uses a majority of coal and nuclear for electric generation.

The Business Climate and Resources

Muskegon has a long history of innovation celebrating leading edge technology advancement in transportation, furniture and food processing industries, and has adopted alternative energy development as part of its economic vision. This decision was determined not only because of our historic success in industries such as automotive, aerospace, and military, but because of our ability to adapt our current manufacturing infrastructure to the development and production of new technologies.

The foundation of the Muskegon economy continues to be its strategic location - being directly on the east coast of lake Michigan, transportation access, a hard working well-trained workforce, a competitive business climate, committed community leaders & organizations, and an established world-class manufacturing sector. Manufacturing provides about 26% of the employment in Muskegon County with specializations in metals, plastics, and wood. Seventy-Two (72) companies in Muskegon have been identified that can possible make wind turbine or other alternative energy components (See attached). Land transportation from Muskegon is widely available through abundant interstate road systems and rail network in the area and Muskegon has a deep-water port for shipping. Air transportation is available from a local airport or an international airport located just 45 minutes away.

A major key in the development of Alternative and Renewable Energy Technologies is the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) located in Muskegon, Michigan. MAREC is part of the Muskegon Lakeshore SmartZone, a 34-acre site called Edison Landing overlooking Muskegon Lake. The Muskegon SmartZone is one of eleven in the State of Michigan, but the only one with a focus on Alternative Energy. This vision was conceived by Grand Valley State University, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the City of Muskegon with support from Muskegon Area First and the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce.

MAREC is a direct response to the growing need for alternative and renewable energy sources. Its mission is to be a center of excellence in demonstrating the operation and economics of advanced energy technologies. MAREC's personnel have skills in material science, chemical engineering, biological sciences, and electrical controls engineering. The center focuses on selecting and demonstrating the technological and economic performance of some key emerging renewable energy technologies such as wind energy systems. MAREC has 4,000 square feet of space devoted to incubating businesses that will research and develop alternative energy sources and uses. The focus on alternative energy is expected to be a catalyst for economic development and job growth in the area.

Sustainability Coalition Support for Renewable Wind Energy

Sustainability is a profound global movement that has reached Muskegon and its surrounding communities. It requires communities to take an integrated approach to planning that brings together social, economic and environmental awareness and considerations.

Following the example of leading communities elsewhere and with a growing awareness of the importance of the principle of Sustainability in planning for the future of the Muskegon area, the participating members of the Muskegon Area Sustainability Coalition came together as a body of community leaders committed to advancing the principles of Sustainability throughout Muskegon County. People are taking notice and engaging with the Muskegon Area Sustainability Coalition to forge new directions and set new standards for the local communities. Sustainable communities are places in which people want to live, now and in the future. They embody the principles of sustainable development at the most basic levels.

In addition to promoting Sustainability opportunities for municipal units of government, the business community, non-profit sector and private citizens, the Coalition is also committed to advancing Sustainability practices for the overall benefit of the greater Muskegon and surrounding lakeshore region. The Coalition serves as a clearinghouse for activities, events and opportunities that advance principles of Sustainability throughout the Muskegon region. The Coalition meets monthly to share information, explore opportunities and conduct business determined appropriate by the participants.

The promotion of energy-efficiency and use of renewable and alternative energy resources is a high priority for the Coalition. Wind-generated electricity provides a pollution-free source of electricity. None of the harmful emissions associated with fossil fuels occur when the wind is utilized to produce electricity. Increased use of wind power throughout the Muskegon region would be both a symbolic and very practical step toward improving the wellbeing of the regional environment.

In an era of rapidly rising worldwide demand for energy, we must forge new directions and demonstrate a commitment to the use of energy alternatives. Wind power is an established and reliable solution. As one of the fastest growing energy sources in the world, wind has the least negative impact and is the most cost competitive energy source available.

The Muskegon area is poised to take advantage of the opportunity to provide clean energy and create next generation jobs for the region. A Michigan Offshore Wind Pilot Project on Muskegon Lake will assist in demonstrating the tremendous potential of wind energy as an alternative energy source in the development of sustainable prosperity for all. The Muskegon Area Sustainability coalition is committed to promoting sustainable prosperity and supporting the Michigan Offshore Wind Pilot Project in Muskegon Lake. The Coalition urges those reviewing this proposal to offer the Muskegon region an opportunity to help establish itself as a leader in the use of this very sustainable energy resource.

Community Support

The Community of Muskegon stands prominently behind the effort to establish a wind turbine demonstration project in Muskegon Lake. In fact, it is our hope that this demonstration project will lead to several wind turbines in Lake Michigan that can provide alternative energy for much of the State of Michigan.

A local Wind Technology Committee has been meeting regularly in Muskegon over the last several months. Representatives from the Michigan Alternative & Renewable Energy Center (MAREC), which is part of Grand Valley State University (GVSU), the City of Muskegon (located on the South side of Muskegon Lake), the City of North Muskegon (on the North side of Muskegon Lake), the County of Muskegon, Muskegon Area First, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County are part of this committee. All entities are fully supportive of the Wind Turbine Demonstration Project and are prepared to provide written support, if needed for a future project application. The history of this support lies in the roots of the Muskegon Lakeshore SmartZone.

Community leaders started planning for the Muskegon SmartZone late in 1999. These leaders were from the City of Muskegon, the County of Muskegon, GVSU, the Community Foundation of Muskegon County, the Chamber of Commerce, Muskegon Area First, and others. There were 11 SmartZones designated throughout Michigan each with a different area of specialization. The SmartZone in Muskegon selected Alternative Energy as its area of specialization. The goal of the Muskegon Lakeshore SmartZone was the development of new business location sites where infrastructure could support businesses which focused on selected "core competencies" of energy and energy related technology plus their related products.

Commitments were received from a wide range of partners. The City of Muskegon committed to fund selected infrastructure improvements, secured state financial assistance for site development expenses. Construction of MAREC and designated the SmartZone site, now known as Edison Landing, as a Local Development Finance Authority (LDF A) so that tax increment financing could be used for partial operation of the center and other eligible expenses related to the overall development.

Grand Valley State University committed to staff and operate MAREC, an educational and research facility within the Muskegon lakefront development. GVSU leased space to house R&D Labs, teleconferencing facilities, a business incubator, and offered educational and other business assistance programs. The University agreed to operate an Office of Technology to transfer and privatize university research and advanced technology for private commercialization.

The hope was that eventually, the entire SmartZone site would be powered by alternative energy, whether by fuel cell, solar, wind or other alternative energy source. Unfortunately, due to constraints within the Public Service Commission guidelines, this has not yet happened. The Wind Technology Committee believes it is feasible through demonstration projects such as the wind turbine project in Muskegon Lake, to demonstrate that alternative energy will work in Muskegon, and Michigan, and that the rules should be modified to allow for the sale of alternative energy generated, at a competitive price.

Muskegon Community College is also in favor of this offshore wind project. A small land-based wind turbine currently is in operation on its property at the Career Technical Center operated by the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District. Other forms of energy efficiencies are also incorporated into the building. MCC's president, Dr. David Rule, also serves on the advisory committee for MAREC and looks to partner with the center on educational opportunities involving alternative and renewable energy sources.

As part of the Offshore Wind Pilot Project, the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce and Muskegon Area first will engage the community in its promotion. Alternative Energy projects are included, when appropriate, as a part of Muskegon promotion and image campaigns. This means community publications, websites and media events will be used to promote the successes of this project.

Offshore Wind Pilot Project Description and Use of Proceeds

L-3 Communications of Muskegon has developed a 600 kW advanced wind turbine that has been tested in the European market over the past several years. This Offshore Wind Pilot Project will commence by securing the purchase of this wind turbine technology and entering into a contract with L-3 Communications to customize it to meet our full technical specifications. The Principle Investigator will coordinate the multiple aspects of this project management that will encompass the wind turbine manufacturing in the facilities of L-3 Communications in Muskegon, the required permits from the various cities that surround Muskegon Lake, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the interconnections agreement for MAREC and Consumers Energy. Furthermore, MAREC will augment its staff to support this Pilot Project to achieve the following objectives:


Establish a resource library on wind intensity studies of Lake Michigan's waters.

Perform a regulatory analysis to determine the existing guidelines and to outline the areas that are needed of further regulatory development.

Establish a collaborative group of stakeholders dedicated to developing Michigan's off-shore wind energy.

Create a Great Lakes Offshore Wind Atlas.

Assist in identifying and evaluating Michigan businesses that have capabilities to manufacture components to off shore wind turbines.

Develop educational material for manufacturers on the market for wind turbine components and to develop strategies for introducing them to the market.

Assist in the regulatory site analysis, installing and operating offshore wind turbines.

Assist in the development of the educational material for stakeholders which explain the results of our studies.

Host the Collaborative Board meetings.

Assist in the installation and integration phase of a modest size wind turbine in Lake Muskegon. Operate this "offshore" wind turbine test site for minimum of one year to collect all the key wind-to-electricity parameters that would be important for the technical and economic assessments of the larger offshore wind technology.


The total cost of the Offshore Wind Pilot Project is $3 million. $2 million is for the purchase of L-3 Communications advanced 600 kW wind turbine and its full installation in Muskegon Lake and electrical interconnection to MAREC and to Consumers Energy grid. $0.5 million for support staff for two years to produce the technical support, environmental impact, public and student education modules, and local economic studies for the use of offshore wind turbine technologies in Lake Michigan. $0.5 million will be used for legal and technical interface costs with Consumers Energy with respect to all aspects of grid interconnectivity in West Michigan. It is anticipated that L-3 should deliver it 600 kW turbine after twelve months upon signing of the contract. This wind turbine should be fully installed within six months after delivery. Testing of this fully installed and commissioned turbine should commence within eighteen months.

Both L-3 Communications and the MAREC staff will continue to monitor its performance for at least a couple of years after installation. L-3 Communications will assume its full maintenance and support.