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Sunday, 04 August 2013 22:00

Funding still in jeopardy for continued offshore wind data collection

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Funding still in jeopardy for continued offshore wind data collection COURTESY PHOTO

While Grand Valley State University’s specialized research buoy collects data at a site in Lake Michigan about six miles offshore between Muskegon and Whitehall, the school has yet to identify further funding to keep the program running beyond this year.

Currently in its third year of data collection, the Lake Michigan Offshore Wind Assessment Project, a collaborative study including GVSU, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, was originally awarded $1.4 million from the U.S Department of Energy, most of which went to purchasing the buoy.

The buoy uses laser pulse technology to test for wind speed data at a range of heights above the water level, as well as collects weather information, wave data and bird and bat counts.

A lawsuit filed by former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox and the Association of Businesses Advocating Tariff Equity (ABATE) against the Michigan Public Service Commission resulted in a key $1.33 million chunk of state funding being rescinded for the project, as MiBiz previously reported. The loss of the funding forced the university to find other partners, including a Wisconsin-based utility.

MAREC Director Arn Boezaart said his team is “actively looking where we go next” after the funding runs out.

“We’d very much like to keep this on the Great Lakes, although we’ve had interest from the West Coast and the East Coast … even the U.K.,” Boezaart said. “We’re reluctant to have it go that direction if we can find a way to finance it to keep it in the Great Lakes.”

Boezaart said he is in discussions with several interested parties and expects to know a definitive answer by early to mid September, although he’s fairly certain the buoy will not remain in West Michigan next year.

The cost to run tests with the buoy ranges from a “scaled-back, modest” effort for around $500,000 per year to about $2.5 million for a “full-bore, answer-all-the-critical-questions test,” Boezaart said.

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