Lake Erie Energy Development Co., or LEEDCo., has been planning wind turbines in Lake Erie for a decade.
With six turbines 8 miles north of Cleveland, the nonprofit LEEDCo. hopes to prove the technology can work here, as the first offshore wind farm in North America. The $126 million, 20.7-megawatt project dubbed Icebreaker could open the door to large future developments.
But as a public hearing nears, opposition has cropped up from boaters and other Lake Erie lovers. There have been meetings at Cleveland Yachting Club and Edgewater Yacht Club.
“If we want wind, let’s build it onshore. Don’t build it out in the lake, which is the source of clean drinking water for 11 million people,” said John Lipaj.
The Ohio Power Siting Board will meet at 6 p.m. July 19 at Cleveland City Council Chambers for a public hearing. A hearing for expert testimony will take place Aug. 9 at the Ohio statehouse.
Already this month Power Siting staff recommended to the board that they allow the project, writes John Funk of The Plain Dealer. If approved, developers would still have to clear a bird and bat monitoring plan in order to operate at night, except during the deep of winter. Construction could begin in 2021.
“A lot of people following this for a long time never thought it would get close to happening,” Lipaj said.
So what’s the deal? Let’s get the basics. And vote in our Tylt poll below.
The turbines have received support from union workers, business owners and environmental groups.
“Our support runs very deep,” said Beth Nagusky, LEEDCo’s director of sustainable development. “Our opposition is very shallow and narrow.
Opponents, including boaters, have unified under the group Save Our Beautiful Lake.
What do they disagree on?
LEEDCo. says Icebreaker Wind will create over 500 jobs in Northeast Ohio and is projected to have a $168 million local economic impact over the project’s 25 year life.
Opponents say they’re worried about the cost of maintaining the turbines in a frozen lake; the industrial lubricants inside each turbine; the plight of birds, bats and fish in the lake; and a future development of more than 1,000 more wind turbines by LEEDCo.’s partner, Norway-based Fred Olsen Renewables. They doubt Icebreaker will create new permanent jobs for Ohioans. And they fear that Cleveland Public Power’s agreement to buy a portion of the electricity generated by the turbines will drive up Clevelanders’ electric bills.
What’s the current focus?
Much of current controversy focuses on whether Clevelanders will be able to see the 480-foot turbines from land.
Opponents say yes, with renderings of white turbines visible from shore. LEEDCo. says no way.
“That picture is just a fantasy on their part,” Nagusky said.
LEEDCo.’s visual impact study shows that on sunny, blue-sky days (which make up 18 percent of days in Cleveland), if you held out your hand at arm’s length, the six turbines would look as big as half your thumbnail.
Dave Strang of Save Our Beautiful Lake said that’s for the six-turbine project. The group’s renderings represent the much bigger set of turbines Fred Olsen could develop after the demonstration project.
“I think they’re being very disingenuous to lead people to believe it’s a six-turbine project and then it’s over,” Strang said.
What comes next?
Nagusky says any future project would require further approvals.
Save Our Beautiful Lake wants to stop the whole thing now.
“Lake Erie’s 1,450 wind turbines would be visually imposing from the west shore of Lorain to the eastern shore of Headlands Beach. With thousands of fixed and flashing navigational and aviation lights at night, the wind turbines would look like a giant airport in the lake — not to mention the THUMP-THUMP-THUMP sound of each spinning turbine,” says the group’s website.
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