Jim Lynch / The Detroit News
A Canadian company’s plan to place hundreds of wind turbines in Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie has more than a few people on both sides of the border up in arms.
Lynn Kotwicki is one of them. The Royal Oak resident has raced sailboats on Lake St. Clair for years and can’t understand why anyone would think it was the right place to generate electricity from wind.
“We’ve had three races canceled in the last 10 days,” she said. “And each time, it was because there was no wind.”
The lake’s sailing community is just one of the factions lining up to oppose plans from SouthPoint Wind to put turbines in the lakes in Canadian waters. Opponents have expressed concerns over the wind farms’ impact on everything from property values to recreational boating to wildlife.
But even though the turbines would be easily seen from communities like St. Clair Shores and the Grosse Pointes, residents there and others who use the lake are finding they have little recourse in combating the project.
SouthPoint Wind is based in Leamington, Ontario, and the company describes itself as a “developer of green energy.” Legislation passed in recent years has cleared the way for companies to pursue clean energy projects and SouthPoint has proposals to put turbines in Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie that can produce up to 1400 megawatts of electricity.
For Lake St. Clair, that would mean three groupings of turbines with more than 55 of the 400-foot tall generators in each.
“A U.S. citizen who doesn’t like the way the wind farm looks across the lake can’t just go into Canadian court and sue to try and stop it,” said Nick Schroeck, an adjunct professor at Wayne State and executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.
SouthPoint declined to provide a comment and directed those looking for information on the project to the company’s website. Documentation there provides the company’s rationale for proposing to site three wind farms just more than a mile off-shore.
“The location was specifically chosen in order to capitalize on the most profitable areas with shallow water depth, high average wind speed and proximity to the grid connection point,” SouthPoint’s project description reads.
Aside from the aesthetics of placing wind farms in Lake St. Clair, there are practical issues for area residents. Jennifer Hoover of Beverly Hills owns a home in Canada along the southern shore of Lake St. Clair and isn’t happy about the plan.
“It’s frustrating — you pay a premium for the land because it sits on the water and then you pay those taxes each year,” said the 46-year-old, who works as a property manager. “And they can just come in and, on their own whim, decide to throw 50 windmills out in front of our homes.”
Schroeck said that while U.S. citizens may be largely shut out of the debate, Canadian groups are likely to test SouthPoint’s proposals in court once the permitting process is under way. At least one group has formed to challenge SouthPoint over its interest in Lake Erie. The Citizens Against Lake Erie Wind Turbines has moved from circulating petitions to creating a legal defense fund to battle the company.
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