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Researchers getting first data from Lake Michigan wind energy study

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MUSKEGON, MI (WTAQ) - Researchers are getting their first data from a vessel that measures average wind speeds high above Lake Michigan.

The idea is to see if it’s viable to put high-tech windmills in the lake, and convert its strong breezes into electricity.

Arnold Boezaart at Grand Valley State University in Muskegon Michigan says the initial data looks promising. In June, the research boat recorded average wind speeds of 22 miles an hour at 410 feet above the water. And speeds of 15 to 20 are commercially viable for wind power generation.

Previous studies measured wind from a much lower angle – but until now, there’s been no data to reflect wind speeds at the heights where a turbine’s blades would spin.

We Energies, the Sierra Club, the state of Michigan, and the U.S. Energy Department have been funding the study. But a lawsuit in Michigan recently cut off that state’s share of the project.

Former Governor Jim Doyle had a task force look into the prospect of generating wind power off Lake Michigan – and the Public Service Commission found in 2008 that more studies were needed.

The study uses a platform boat called the Wind-Sentinel. It’s now in the middle of Lake Michigan. And it will be someplace else next year – but the location has not been determined. 

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