A proposal to put 700 wind turbines along the shores of Lakes St. Clair and Erie, each about as tall as a 40-story building, is provoking controversy in Canada and the U.S.
The turbines, planted on the lake bottom and arranged in grids jutting more than 3 miles out into the lakes, easily would be seen from the marinas and mansions of the Grosse Pointes, as well as from Rockwood, Gibraltar and Grosse Ile.
Some residents on both sides of the border are worried about how the windmills would affect shoreline property values, fishing, boating and bird migration. The turbines would be on major migratory pathways for birds at several major wildlife refuges, including Point Pelee, Ontario, and the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge.
Seven hundred offshore wind turbines are being proposed for Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair including 165 turbines north of Lakeshore and wind farms off Amherstburg, Colchester, Kingsville and Leamington.
SouthPoint Wind of Leamington had already proposed 15 turbines in three spots off the shores of Kingsville and Leamington. If SouthPoint gets approval for that project, it is proposing a 1,400 megawatt project with 13 wind farms: three in Lake St. Clair and the rest south of Essex County and Chatham-Kent in Lake Erie. Each wind farm could have 55 turbines and could be one to 2.5 kilometres from shore.
“Why should we be the guinea pigs?” Leamington Deputy Mayor Rob Schmidt said Wednesday.
If it could be the first offshore wind farm anywhere in fresh water, there should be more research done, Schmidt said.
There are offshore wind farms proposed on the Great Lakes including Lake Ontario but none approved or constructed in the province.
A proposal to put 15 wind turbines as close as one kilometre offshore in Lake Erie should require an environmental assessment, Gord Meuser, a spokesman for the group Citizens Against Lake Erie Wind Turbines, said Friday.
SouthPoint Wind has completed its environmental screening report but Meuser said the group will be asking that it be bumped up to an environmental assessment with more studies specifically on Lake Erie and the impacts the turbines could have here. He said there aren’t other freshwater wind turbine projects for comparison.
“We’d be the guinea pig,” Meuser said.