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Published: Saturday, 3/31/2012

Wind-farm accord for Lakes reached


TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The Obama Administration and five states announced an agreement Friday to speed up consideration of plans for offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes, which have been delayed by cost concerns and public opposition.

Under the deal, state and federal agencies will craft a blueprint for speeding regulatory review of proposed wind farms without sacrificing environmental and safety standards. The Great Lakes have no offshore wind turbines, although a Cleveland partnership announced plans last year for a demonstration project that would place five to seven turbines in Lake Erie about 7 miles north of the city, generating 20-30 megawatts of electricity. Offshore wind projects also have been proposed in Michigan and New York.

Critics say they would ruin spectacular vistas, lower shoreline property values, and harm birds and fish.

Supporters describe the lakes' winds as an untapped source of clean energy.

Administration officials said the region's offshore winds could generate more than 700 gigawatts -- one-fifth of all potential wind energy nationwide. Each gigawatt of offshore wind could power 300,000 homes, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania signed the agreement. The other three states with Great Lakes coastlines -- Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin -- declined invitations but could join the partnership later, an administration official said.

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