By Ruth Fletcher, The Sault Star, www.saultstar.com
Some say there is a mythical creature that inhabits the deep waters of Lake Superior. They believe that it carries many spines and that a slap of its long broad tail churns the waters of the lake into a rising white froth. The name of this legend is Mishepechu and its pictographic shape on a cliff face at Agawa Bay has drawn viewers for dozens of decades.
This mythical creature soon might have more company out in the lake. There is talk of implanting wind turbines along the shore to help alleviate some of our sagging energy needs. The towers would help the situation but they come with a high cost. And you thought your hydro bill already had a ridiculous delivery charge! We first need to examine what we can do to conserve our uses, to curb our addiction to electricity. Whatever happened to using less? Here’s a coupla thoughts.
How about computerizing shower heads so that all one gets is a three-minute shower every 10 minutes? What about stuffing the washing machines just once a week? Or only three TV monitors for every 500 square metres of a sports bar? And, can power companies store or re-cycle the excess energy they create instead of dumping it into the ground?
I’m sure everyone has a little list that could help.
However, it seems that offshore wind turbines are now the hot ticket item. If you can believe Google, wind farms are appearing as the preferred global alternative. Norway just installed a deep water experimental tower almost eight kilometres offshore. At a cost of $66 million, StatoilHydro raised a Hywind Deep-Water turbine 213 feet above the waterline and plunged its supports 110 metres to the ocean floor. A steel spar, filled with water and rocks for ballast and balance, holds the turbine and three stabilizing cables keep it fast to the seabed to keep from capsizing.
The Beatrice Wind Farm Demonstrator Project, at a cost of 41 million pounds, saw two five-megawatt wind turbines installed adjacent to the Beatrice Oil field, 25 km off the east coast of Scotland. China plans to line their coastline with the towers and the UK hopes to power every household with them by 2020.
The cost is phenomenal and since many platform and mooring solutions have yet to be discovered, the price will climb. Then there’s the maintenance. Are there experts ready to tackle the problems of freeze-ups, rolling ice pans and rip-roaring winds? And what will the repairmen charge? With Ontario’s gargantuan deficit, we better hope they work for free. Otherwise our Green Technology will have to change its name. Red Technology will be the term of the day as we fall into the abyss of deep debt.
The Lake Superior shoreline north of Sault Ste Marie is now a target for the wind energy developers. The talk of such towers off the shore of Mica and Alona bays has raised the hackles of hundreds and hundreds of Lake Superior aficionados. The whole lake comes into focus. People are expressing their love for this waterscape. They are saying that is a sacred space, a global wilderness that needs to remain free of an industry that wants to drive enormous steel poles into the heart of its bedrock floor.
Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world set their compasses to Lake Superior’s energy. Watching the waltz of its untamed waves, feeling the silk of its cool shoulders and hearing the million songs within its vast voices, are experiences that cannot be bought or duplicated. Lake Superior is the broadest body of fresh water in the world. And we can still drink it. As the world yearns to quench its thirst we must be careful. Perhaps it is best to poll the planet and ask our universe to unfold a master plan.
Or we can check with Mishepechu before a huge slap of the tail catches us all off guard.
Ruth Fletcher is a Sault Star district correspondent, covering area north of Sault Ste. Marie in the Montreal River region.