MUSKEGON — Scandia Wind Offshore met with economic developers and Muskegon and Grand Haven community leaders in three invitation-only meetings on Monday to discuss a $4 billion region wide energy development plan.
The Scandia plan, entitled "the Aegir Project," has three main components: a 500-megawatt wind farm on Lake Michigan four miles off Pentwater, a 500-megawatt wind farm on lake Michigan six miles off Grand Haven, and a smaller, 125 megawatt wind farm at the Muskegon County Wastewater Management System. The plan also incorporates a "test turbine" at the east end of Muskegon Lake as well as research, testing and training at the Grand Valley State University Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center.
Scandia project manager Harald Dirdal said, "There is a window of opportunity for us to attract a wind turbine manufacturer to build a plant here. The race is on."
An offshore wind turbine manufacturing plant would be advantageous for the West Michigan economy with the potential to engage with local parts suppliers and generate 3,000 "permanent industrial jobs." However, West Michigan would first have to prove its viability by guaranteeing one year's industrial output — at least 1,000 megawatts — to attract the offshore wind manufacturing plant, which would be the first of its kind in the U.S. In addition, Scandia has suggested a "public-private" partnership by which the company would agree to compensate $1 million annually to each of the counties where the wind farms are located in order to maintain local support. Eventually, Scandia may offer 5 or 10 percent ownership to the counties as additional compensation.
Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis, who was in attendance at the meetings, stated
, "From an economic perspective, it's over-the-top good news."
The first challenge will be securing community support. By Sep. 1, Scandia is hoping to know whether or not the visual impacts will be acceptable to Muskegon and Ottawa county residents. If the support is assured, Scandia will begin the expensive research and testing necessary to secure permit approvals and initiate construction by 2015.
President of Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce Cindy Larsen anticipated criticism of the project from the tourism industry.
Trip Johnson, a North Muskegon resident, expressed his support of the development proposals with the same sense of urgency as Dirdal. "Why don't we try leading? Let's see what we can do."