Oceana County wind farm meeting turns into scandal (USA)

Many of the more than 600 people who packed an Oceana County public information meeting on the Scandia Wind Offshore proposal for a wind farm 4 miles off Pentwater’s shoreline shouted one of their own off the stage.

Former Oceana elected official and state legislator Bill Bobier of Ferry was unable to complete his presentation at Hart Middle School on behalf of Scandia because of the audience uproar. Bobier is a consultant and lobbyist for the U.S.-Norwegian offshore wind developers.

“I’m sorry you, the electorate, can’t have civil discourse anymore,” a dejected Bobier said, leaving the stage. After asking the audience to be respectful, Bobier said any perceived harm to Lake Michigan from the wind farm proposal must be measured against pollution harming the lake from facilities like coal-powered plants.

“You must confront your own form of hypocrisy. We’re all guilty,” Bobier said of those opposing wind farms but turning a blind eye to other threats to the lake. “The real issue is the need for energy that is polluting the planet.”

With that, the audience of roughly 75 percent opposed to the Scandia plan would not let Bobier continue.

Oceana County commissioners and planning commissioners were gathering information on a pending decision requested by Scandia — whether they would support the visual effects of the proposed wind turbines. With support, the company would embark on a multiyear, multimillion-dollar series of economic and environmental studies.

“Your voice should be heard and your points are very important,” Scandia project manager Harald Dirdal told the hostile audience. He gave a project overview and arguments for the Scandia plan, following a presentation by a spokesman for the opposing Lake Michigan POWER Coalition.

“If the counties say no, we will respect that,” Dirdal said of company discussions with officials in Mason, Oceana, Muskegon and Ottawa counties.

Besides the 250 megawatt wind farm off Pentwater with 25 to 50 utility-scale wind turbines, the company also suggests a 500 megawatt wind farm with 50 to 100 turbines 6 miles off Grand Haven’s shore, and a land-based wind farm at the Muskegon County Wastewater Management System.

“We have honored their decision,” Dirdal said of the company eliminating the waters of Mason County from its plans after county commissioners overwhelmingly rejected how the wind turbines would look in Lake Michigan.

Oceana County’s Planning Commission was to take up the issue today. If planners don’t make a recommendation to the county board today, the issue will be taken up again in September.

Besides Scandia, Wednesday’s two-and-a-half hour meeting included a presentation from Jeff Hodges, a Pentwater restaurant and sports shop owner and treasurer of Lake Michigan POWER. He reminded county leaders that Consumers Energy is pursuing wind power development, but has decided on a land-based wind farm in southern Mason County as opposed to offshore turbines.

He said the Great Lakes are untested for offshore wind farms, the costs are too high and icing on the lakes poses problems.

“The utility that knows this area best has decided not to pursue offshore wind,” Hodges said of Consumers. His presentation drew two standing ovations from POWER supporters.

Hodges raised concerns about decommissioning the wind turbine structures, the harm a Lake Michigan wind farm could have on regional tourism, and the turbines’ threat to Oceana County’s greatest asset — its Lake Michigan shoreline.

“Lake Michigan is our treasure, our Grand Canyon,” Hodges said. “We need to protect it. We need to protect our economy and our way of life.”

Dave Alexander (mlive)


Source: mlive, August 05 , 2010;