With the economy in Michigan at historic lows, the state should be jumping at opportunities that would provide a surplus of jobs. With America’s dependence on fossil fuels at an all time high, the development of green sources of energy should be a top priority. With the mounting environmental implications of burning coal, people should do everything possible to reduce their carbon footprints. Well, according to the citizens of Oceana and Mason Counties, in the western part of the state, these actions might cramp their style.

As reported in the Muskegon Chronicle last month, the $3 billion dollar project, proposed by Havgul Clean Energy AS, would place between 100 and 200 wind turbines over a 100 square mile stretch off the shore of Lake Michigan. The Aegir Offshore Wind Farm would produce approximately 1000 megawatts of energy and power roughly a million homes. The wind farm would help to invigorate Michigan’s struggling economy by offering thousands of jobs during construction, which is predicted to take 5 to 10 years, as well as roughly 200 positions after its completion.

Who would argue with such a valuable project? Apparently, the residents of the counties on the coast of Lake Michigan would. Many of the citizens of this coastal area attended a meeting with Havgul Clean Energy to discuss the project and most opposed construction of the wind farm. The project would place 300- to 450-foot-high wind turbines four and a half miles off the Ludington shores. Though this may seem like a sufficient distance, the models provided by Havgul showed the turbines would be clearly visible from the shoreline, much to the distaste of those who attended the meeting.

The coastal citizens complain that much of their revenue is derived from the natural beauty of Lake Michigan, and gaudy turbines may lower property values, hurt tourism and harm fishing. These seemingly legitimate concerns raise the question of why the state would choose an area that relies so heavily on scenery for revenue.

Havgul extolled the many benefits of the project, citing the optimal prevailing winds of the area and its proximity to Detroit and Chicago. The cities would utilize the energy, alleviating the need for fossil fuels and maximizing use of the energy generated by the wind farm.

Though the benefits of this project are plentiful, the question of the environmental impact needs to be examined. Environmental engineers will need to survey the area during a $10 million pre-production process taking place before any construction. The outlines for this process haven’t been released, but I suspect the pre-production team will survey the terrain of the lake bottom, create models to predict any adverse current alterations and attempt to understand any negative effects the turbines might have on the local fish, bird and flora populations. They will certainly consider the construction and maintenance of the massive structures as factors. Following the research, there will be massive efforts to minimize any and all of the adverse environmental impacts of the wind farm.

But with all of this laid out in front of them last month, the majority of citizens of the lake shore communities who attended the meeting with Havgul still felt that this eco-friendly, economy-boosting project wasn’t worthwhile. I respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree.

Students at Michigan are so often beat over the head with the environmental problems of global warming and deforestation that we may forget that not all people are as focused on this issue. Even so, there is enough news coverage out there for the average person to understand that dwindling supplies of fossil fuels and the dangers posed by global warming are major concerns. With this in mind, the benefits of green energy are undeniable.

There is no question that we must take full advantage of the world’s renewable resources if we are to preserve healthy life on this planet. By opposing this project, citizens of the lakeshore counties are preventing the state from becoming an innovator and leader in renewable energy. The wind farm would contribute to the revitalization of the state economy. It is unacceptable for such a positive development to be shot down by a concern about lakeshore aesthetics. For the sake of the environment and the economy, I hope that those in opposition will come to see the good that can come from this project.

Joe Sugiyama is an Engineering sophomore.

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