March 21, 2010


North Hoyle - England          CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

Wind Energy is a Wonderful Thing
So is Lake Saint Clair.  Unfortunately the latter gets blown away by the installation of the former.  Lake Saint Clair is a small lake.  Twenty six miles north to south by 24 miles East to West.  It's depth averages ten feet; the deepest part being the shipping channel which is dredged to 27 feet.  A mere mud puddle compared to any of the Great Lakes. 

Small but Mighty
She may be small but she is mighty.  At least in economic terms.  Over 3000 commercial vessels chug through Lake Saint Clair every year; many loading and unloading on either side of the Detroit River.  Couple this with the fact that this lake accounts for over one third of the entire Great Lakes sport fishing catch each year and nearly half of the entire Great Lakes sport fishing effort.  More than 167,000 boats are registered on both sides of the lake where boating activities pump an estimated $289 million into the local economies.  Sailboat racing in Lake Saint Clair is world class.  In fact, many of the international rules and regs are determined along its shorlines (including for the Americas Cup Race).  Activities are numerous:  Sport fishing, ice fishing, canoeing, kayaking, wind surfing, sailing, ice boating and swimming to name the most obvious.   Events include various fishing derbys, hydrofoil racing, sail regattas, our local dragon boat racing, and yes...even the Jobby Nooner.

The forgotten Lake
Lake Saint Clair is not one of the Great Lakes.  She is considered to be an extension of the Lake Erie basin.  Perhaps this is why this body of water has been taken for granted and literally abused over the years.  Until very recently it never received the attention that the other lakes have.  Resource management plans were non-existant.  In recent years severe pollution and other problems have drawn attention to urban sprawl, sewer overflows, invasive species, high levels of chemical pollutants, mercury and dangerous levels of bacterial contamination along it's shores.  Beach closures and other public health concerns are common place, while zebra mussels and other invaders threaten native species, sometimes causing physical damage through sheer numbers.   Over the last couple of decades things have been turning around.  Organizations and government bodies on both sides of the border have been addressing issues like sewage overflow, chemical spills and run-off.  There is a catch 22 in all of this:  Just when the the planet's collective mind is riding a massive wave of green, Lake Saint Clair has been caught dead in it's path.  The Ontario Provincial government is clear-cutting the way for 165 wind turbines to be planted in three clusters along the Canadian shore.  For such a small lake whose charm comes from her splendid resources, lucrative income generation and natural vistas this is not a good thing.  The horizons of the lake will be changed forever.  Its as if we are being asked to forget Lake Saint Clair all over again.

The Big Bad Plan
In conjunction with the current Ontario government a relatively obscure company called Southpoint Wind Power has been empowered by the Ministry of the Environment to go ahead with the construction of 715 mamouth wind turbines, 550 of which will be planted two kilometres offshore along the shore of Lake Erie and 165 to be planted in Lake Saint Clair.  Many people are concerned and for good reasons.  Here is the site map for the wind farms.

The red dotted line above runs along highway 401 and old Hwy2 which is a more viable location for these turbines.

Both shorelines are going to be peppered with these wind farms.  For a better perspective people have to comprehend how large these things are.  Each turbine is 410 feet above the waters surface.  Thats equivalent to forty stories tall!   The largest building in downtown Windsor is a little over half of that height.  Imagine 165 of them in Lake Saint Clair.  The northern tip of Pelee Island barely shows on this map but it is six times farther from shore that these farms are and yet the island , as flat as it is, is clearly visible from the mainland.   By contrast, each wind farm will be planted a measly one to two kilometres from shore.  Imagine what that will look like from any vantage point.  In perspective, the turbines pictured above are six kilometres offshore.  With a view like that the novelty of windmills will soon turn into windmill fatigue.  Every public and private vantage will be marred by this sight.  Even during the night there will be no escape for each one will be equiped with at least one aircraft warning strobe and base strobes for boaters.  For a lake the size of Lake Saint Clair these farms will be disasterous to the natural view from any line of sight.  As similies go, looking at Lake Saint Clair will be like having a birds eye view of Zug Island. 

  Red circle is Bell River Marina.  Check out the scale.  Yellow arrrows point to alternative land locations

Other wind farms from around the globe are located 16 to 25 kilometers or more offshore and all are  in seas and oceans.  These lakes are far too small for that.  Especially considering that the surrounding topography is flatter than the prairies.  Equally good for wind generation.  That said, the only rationalle for putting them into these lakes is cost.  No royalties have to be paid to private land owners.  Especially when the government is giving up crown land such as lake beds to the providers.  South Point Wind also gets a heavier subsidy by putting these sticks in the water.  Nineteen cents per Kwh  as opposed to thirteen cents for land based turbines.

Usual and Unusual Beefs
The rightful arguments are many but for Lake Erie and and Lake Saint Clair the following ones from Wind Concerns Ontario are a good start:

How would these wind farms affect property values?  On Lake Saint Clair, for instance, the turbines would be erected offshore from Belle River, Deerbrooke and Lighthouse Cove at the mouth of the Thames River.  TDurbines would be visible from the Grosse Pointes and other communities where home owners pay top dollar for water views. 

# What would be the effect on waterfowl and other migratory birds? Hundreds of turbines would stand in sight of Point Pelee, the southernmost point of the Canadian mainland and a funnel in one of North America’s busiest migration flyways.

# What are the potential costs to tourism, recreational boating and sports fishing? Will the wind farms and surrounding waters be placed off-limits to boaters and anglers?

# Will the safety of drinking water be jeopardized? Pilings for the massive turbines will disturb tons of sediment and could stir up long-buried toxins.

# Why wasn’t the public given proper notice? Elected officials in communities such as Amherstburg and Essex have expressed outrage at being surprised by a project of such size and scope.

“Why should we be the guinea pigs?” asked Rob Schmidt, the deputy mayor of Leamington, suggesting industrial wind farms might be tested in less developed and less environmentally sensitive regions.

SouthPoint Wind is owned by Leamington’s Liovas family, which is well known in the construction industry. Public hearings are planned, including one from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. March 27 at the Puce Sports and Leisure Centre on Old Tecumseh Road in Lakeshore, Ontario.

An hour won’t be long enough if the public is to be reassured about the merits and wisdom of this proposal.

More from that site here:  

Check out the shadow from the blade as the man speaks

Listen...Proper placement is 15 to 20 miles away from land

The sailing community has some unique concerns as well.  For example, the massive farms in Lake Saint Clair all pretty much blanket the existing race circuits.  All clubs will be affected:  Windsor Yacht Club, South Port,  Belle River and Stoney Point not to mention our American counterparts along the north shore.  Each boat is dependant to a large degree on GPS for pinpointing co-ordinates, especially during rough weather and night time navigation.  With all of these turbines in the way, navigation is going to get really tricky to say the least.  There is also the very real and pending danger of distressed boats crashing into these things.  If you think that getting leebowed sucks the air out of your sails take a look at this:

Study:  Wake Effect of Wind Turbines - Horns Rev - North Sea 

For those with the inclination:

Sailing in someone elses dirt has nothing on this.  The leeward turbines are 20 to 30 percent less efficient than the windward lead turbine.  How will that footprint affect sailing a coarse around these things?  Keep in mind that this study was not initiated because of sailing considerations.  It gives eating dirt a whole new meaning.  This footprint pretty much touches upon all club coarses.  Especially the larger invitationals.  Lightning is always a concern to sailors.  Take a look at this:

Notice that these turbines run along side and parallel to a highway.  The 401 corridor would be perfect

Just for Scale
Here are some pics to give a sense of scale to these farms, structures and their environments:

Both pics above are of Horns Rev

Ship delivering props

Cable required for power connection

Rotor blades.  Tugboat is 90 feet.

Your average offshore wind farm.  Will this be a good fit for Lake Saint Clair and Lake Erie?

The Final Solution
Lake Saint Clair and Lake Erie do not deserve this.  If not for all of the arguments that can be made for migratory birds, health, noise, lake bottom scouring and even churning up slumbering toxins, the loss of natural vistas and horizons has to be the biggest concern.  It has to be everyone's concern.  Especially in tiny Lake Saint Clair.  The Provincial government's plan for alternative power is ambitious for sure but it is also reckless, misguided and self serving in these location choices.  The highway 401 corridor is the perfect setting for these 715 turbines and many more.  We all know how strong the winds can howl across that road between Chatham and London.  The prevailing winds from Lake Huron whip right through there.  This southernmost section of Ontario is perfectly flat so there is no impediment there.  The Ontario government needs to know that we are behind them in all of their green initiatives.  They also have to be pragmatic and realistic.  There is no need to junk up these two extraordinary lakes.  Especially when they can achieve the same or greater affect by moving the wind line inland.  Ontario's Liberal government needs to hear that from its constituents loud and clear.  Even if they're only giving everyone a single hour to say so.  We have to get to them loudly, clearly and quickly before they make one very irreversible mistake.  If we are going to go green, we have to go green all the way.
A couple of witches sent in some very good information.  Go to their site here and be sure to look at the video about the impacts that wind farms will have on Pigeon Bay in Lake Erie:


Manny Amadi said...

Great article
Surveys have proved that no wind farm can produce 100% of its maximum power output - the realistic operation output is about 50%. Many wind farms fall well below that. The norm for onshore wind farms is 25% - 30%. That represents a very low output added to the high cost of wind generation

Anonymous said...

Is this a case of two rights making a wrong?

Bubble's Mama said...

Essex County has been extremely apathetic in fighting off this industrial invasion. Bruce Crozier has tried to straddle both sides of the fence - very badly. Most people just don't care. Our politicians have sold out our County to these wind companies. If wind turbines actually did what they claim to do, I would be all for them...but they don't.

Anonymous said...

I still believe in wind over coal any day.
I could care les abotu "sight" lines than anything else when it comes to energy.

Do we want pretty sightlines or do we want little polluting energy?

Grinder said...

This is the first I've heard about it. It's not a question of apathy but of ignorence. This should have been publicized more around here.
We all believe in wind over coal. The issue here is about location. Better effect can be had if the turbines are moved inland from the lake. Someone said it best: "We are creating a wrong with two rights".

Bubble's Mama said...

Anon - But wind does not replace coal -- it never has and never why are you thinking one or the other? Wind has never allowed a single coal plant in the world to be shut down. You have been misled by a very big myth.

Anonymous said...

Wind farm is a misnomer. While advocates are trying to re-market them as "wind parks" the most fitting tag would be "wind factories".

TwoLittleWitches said...

This is the first I've heard about it. It's not a question of apathy but of ignorance. This should have been publicized more around here."


Despite the efforts of groups like CALEWT (Citizens Against Lake Erie Wind Turbines) there is very little knowledge of this issue in the very community affected.

This should be front page news in local newspapers like the Southpoint Sun and the Essex County Crier... and local television stations like A-Channel.

I guess they don't care about their own communities.

So use your blogs, Twitter, Facebook to spread the word. Put sign out on your lawns.

There is no need to ruin our beautiful lakes when better sites are available. Why should we bear all the "social" responsibility when urban turbines are now available and can take advantage of the high winds available on the rooftops of high-rises in the big cities that use all the electricity.

They use it, let them generate it!

This isn't about green energy, it's about GREEN MONEY. Offshore wind is more expensive to develop (paid by our taxes) but PROFITS MORE (for the developer).

greenmyass said...

o.k. all you 'i'm all for wind power but' types... lets all get in our cars and drive out to essex, cry about the ruination of our great lakes, drive back to the city, stop at costco for some great deals, then over to walmart for some plastic stuff, get home and bitch about bike lanes on riverside drive (only if you live/drive on riverside). i guess ill see all you green folks at the next CEA meeting.
p.s. CEA is the citizens environmental alliance... but you already knew that.

Bird Man said...

To Greenmyass:
I have to asume that you are pro alternative energy and love the concept of wind turbines. Everyone is. The difference between us and you is that we are taking the time and putting some thought into all ramifications and consequences of each project. Nobody should just barge into these very permanent things with blinders on. If you and your group are really serious about what you preach then you can also be really serious about learning more as you go. Tonights meeting would be a great place for you to start. Maybe, with a little bit of networking, you can find some more recruits for your group. There is no reason why we shouldn't be wdorking together on this.

TwoLittleWitches said...

No offense greenmyass but sometimes winning smaller battles is as important to the war as the bigger picture.

If developers succeed in putting these monsters in the most unsuitable and harmful sitings imaginable, no place in Canada will be safe.

If they don't succeed here, it would be a small step in the RIGHT direction and set a precedent that might help win other battles.

McGuinty has stripped us citizens and our communities of our rights. Municipal governments should be taking the province to the Supreme Court and we citizens must fight every battle as if it were the only battle. What's next... will our own government start seizing land from unwilling farmers or homeowners in the name of more green development?

Stopping this project is CRUCIAL. We are at THE cross-road.

PS. My husband walks to work year round, we've cut our heating bill in half and our hydro bill by 30% this year. But yes, my computer is made of plastic... so is yours. We do what we can and we teach our children the same.

Anonymous said...

They will drive up energy bills and taxes, they don't help climate change and they don't bring energy independence or give us the power we need. Why build in the beautiful lakes apart from making energy companies and politicians look good to the media and idiots?

This has more to do with creating jobs and appearing green (while shovelling money to their pals) than it does with either climate change or energy independence. It is having the reverse effect. Most of all, this all represents a blurring of the lines between government, corporations and lobby groups.

Everybody wins except the people paying for it and they're the ones who will end up with high taxes, high energy bills and electricity rationing in an age where there should be abundant cheap energy for all. Meanwhile, no new nuclear plants are set to come online because of a political lack of will and a lack of investment capital. The whole thing is a mess.

Anonymous said...

A suggestion: South Point Power is only an instrument in McGuinty's Provincial government ploy to attract "green" voters. While we cannot lose site of what this company (South Point)is up to at any given time, it is imperative for all to point directly to the cause of this effect. Ontario's Liberal Provincdial Government with McGuinty at the helm. His name has to be attached to this project and all that it destroys in its wake. He is making us chase windmills for his own political gain. No matter what the consequences.

Shiny Spoon said...

We've been focusing all of our efforts trying to keep the Asian Carp away and somehow let McGuinty in. What have we done?

Bubble's Mama said...

I say apathetic because in other communities around Ontario there has been meetings with 400 to 1500 show up who told the developer(s) in no uncertain terms...get out of town!

Of course, McGuinty has now hired a czar to help these "poor" developers ignore the "NIMBYs" (a term used to dismiss valid concerns).

Anybody been out near Harrow lately? It makes my stomach turn.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Harrow looks a mess. You start to see these things on approach from McGreggor and it seems as if you are close by. NOT!
Once you get to Harrow you can pretty much follow these things up along Gore Road towards the lake. They are planted all the way up to Meadows on 18a. Thre must be close to 100 of them and they went up just like that. They are kind of neat to look at but you can definately bet that they will wear their welcome out pretty soon. At least they are inland.

Anonymous said...

Thanks MOM. We'll spread the word on the US side. Can't count on our crazy Government though. Same folks who aren't worried about Asian carp in the lakes.

Bubble's Mama said...

What you mean by "at least they're on land"?

They forced these things just 350-400m away from where children sleep and play. These were never designed to built in residential areas. At least 6 families in Ontario have been forced to abandon their homes because of noise and illness caused by these things being built right next to their homes.

If you think your lakefront property values are going to plummet, at least think of the poor saps who will be living much, much closer to them than any of you near the lake turbines.

Anonymous said...

This whole thing is very sad, scary and disturbing. Seems like a futuristic Sci-Fi movie. Wish it were. The reality is frightening.

Anonymous said...

I know I wouldn't want to live anywhere near one of these monsters. The shadows, the noise, the view. I don't even like seeing the strobe lights from the casino at night. I mean really now, why should our night time view of the sky be affected by the blasted casino strobe? How dare they? We should only be electing politicians who have a respect for nature. Leave our skys and our lakes alone! There is nothing more peaceful than a waterview WITHOUT wind turbines and the night-time, star-filled sky without man-made lights. Human beings have a natural need for this, and a right to this.

Anonymous said...

We own a cottage on Lake St. Clair, but are from the States. I hope you don't mind, but I've sent your article to all news media in Detroit, State DNR, MI boating association, Ducks unlimited ans BASS. We need to present as much opposition as possible.
This is a reckless use of natural resources. The possible harm done to the lakes habitats for both fish and foul, and human drinking water from the distruction due to construction has to be measured.
The pricetag is much higher than just cost per kilowatt.

M.O.M. said...


By all means spread the word as far and wide as you can. We are all in this together as we share this wonderful lake. THANK YOU!

Bubble's Mama said...

I always wondered why you Windsorites allow the Casino to pollute your night time skies. The strobe/spotlight circling the sky every few seconds. Why do you accept that?

Anonymous said...

i guess the real shame would be the turbines ruining the view of fermi II.

genius said...

has anyone though of this... instead of the turbines making power, run power to them and use them as fans to blow the pollution back to the states or point them to the shore and keep essex county cooler in the summer! well?