Lake Erie wind farm gets $40 million in federal funding

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A drone took this image of a barge collecting soil and data from the lake bed of a proposed Lake Erie wind farm in 2015. Image: Lake Erie Energy Development Corp.

A drone took this image of a barge collecting soil and data from the lake bed of a proposed Lake Erie wind farm in 2015. Image: Lake Erie Energy Development Corp.

By Josh Bender

America’s first freshwater offshore wind farm will soon stand in Lake Erie eight miles from Cleveland.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded $40 million to the project’s developers, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp, The project is only the second offshore wind farm in the country.

Construction of six wind turbines within a two-mile stretch begins in the summer of 2018. It will operate by the end of that year, said David Karpinski, the corporation’s vice president of operations.

The turbines stand 80 meters tall and will produce enough energy to power 6,000 homes, he said.

The project will demonstrate the potential for offshore wind farming in the Great Lakes, as it will only produce a small fraction of what a typical coal or nuclear plant can produce, he said.

The project is the region’s logical next step in the growth of renewable energy, he said. The flat land west of the city lacks sufficient wind; the hilly terrain eastward makes wind farming difficult.

The project was inspired by the success enjoyed by offshore wind farms in Europe, where the industry has been growing for the past 25 years, Karpinski said.

Construction, transport and manufacturing for the project will create 500 jobs, he said. A smaller, long-term workforce will maintain the wind farm, but its size is yet to be determined.

Ecotourism and maintenance will create more long-term jobs for Clevelanders, said Trish Demeter, managing director of energy programs for the Ohio Environmental Council, a Columbus-based environmental lobby.

“There is a lot of potential for innovation surrounding this project,” she said. “We will be the first in the water.”

There are no active plans for other offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes but that will change, said John Sarver, a board member of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, a Lansing, Michigan-based green energy advocacy group.

But there are other challenges elsewhere.

Unlike shallow Lake Erie, the greater depth of the other Great Lakes necessitates expensive floating wind turbines, he said. The price tag makes offshore wind turbines a tough sell for the other lakes.

But technological advances will change that, Sarver said.

Norwegian energy giant Statoil already uses floating turbines, and University of Maine researchers are testing a floating turbine prototype to see if it is feasible to bring here, he said.

The project’s status as the first freshwater offshore wind farm brings unique challenges and benefits, Karpinski said. While engineers must account for icy Midwestern winters, they don’t have to worry about the corrosive salt and punishingly high waves that can affect an ocean-based farm.

The first American offshore wind farm is being built this summer off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island, in the Atlantic Ocean, he said.

The Cleveland farm’s distance from areas heavily populated by people and wildlife reduces some risk.  Fewer of both are likely to be bothered by noise. Birds and bats are less likely to be caught in the spinning turbines, Demeter said. However some risk to wildlife remains.

“There is no development without environmental impact, and the tradeoff here is a good one,” she said.

The safety risks posed to the relatively few birds living near the farms are outweighed by the environmental benefits of shifting away from fossil fuels, Karpinski said.

7 thoughts on “Lake Erie wind farm gets $40 million in federal funding

  1. Please refer to wind turbine projects as wind factories not wind farms. There’s nothing bucolic, pastoral or agricultural about wind factories as they are industrial in nature.

    Ive fought the Leedco “Icebreaker” project in Lake Erie since its inception for many reasons. Ive also fought terrestrial wind projects as well for several years. I am part of the Great Lakes Wind Truth grass roots group that opposes wind turbine projects. We are especially against any turbines in any of the Great Lakes. If Leedco is successful then in short order all the Great Lakes will be populated with hundreds and maybe thousands of these horrible monsters. What gives Leedco and any Ohio group favorable to offshore wind energy the authority to violate Ohio’s Public Trust laws?

  2. We are waiting for a complete backlash, actually, it is en route, so hold onto your hats. Would like to see that turnaround in my lifetime.

    Here is what TN Senator Lamar Alexander said about another desecration of Nature recently int he Senate:

    Wind farms fatal to wildlife, inefficient

    Recently, Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander took to the floor of the United States Senate to discuss an important issue: a proposed wind farm that would be located in Cumberland County if approved.
    He was joined in opposition by U.S. Rep. Diane Black, also a Tennessee Republican, who wrote to several federal agencies voicing her concerns. You can find Alexander’s presentation and Black’s letters on our website at http://www.tnwf.org.
    So why are they so vocal in their opposition to a seemingly well-intended project? “Clean energy” like wind power must be a positive thing for the environment, right? And it must therefore also be good for wildlife, yes?
    The truth is that the impacts of wind farms are significant, and they are not positive for Tennessee’s environment and wildlife. If you look at the 23 wind turbines proposed for Cumberland County, each 600 feet tall – three times the height of Neyland Stadium, with blades as long as a football field – and plainly visible from Interstate 40 and the surrounding area, you begin to understand the scope.
    A sufficient amount of wind to run the turbines would be available only 18 percent of the time, and the Tennessee Valley Authority says it doesn’t even need the electricity the wind farm would produce.
    From an efficiency standpoint, it costs $52 an hour to subsidize wind power production, versus 84 cents for hydroelectric power – and the project will produce only a fraction of what is generated by the Watts Bar Dam nearby.
    The Crab Orchard Wind Farm as proposed would cover 1,800 acres, not including the large transmission lines to service it – a change in habitat requiring clear cuts and large applications of herbicide to maintain.
    It doesn’t make financial sense, and it would alter the natural landscape forever. All of that wind through all of those turbines also produces a lot of unpleasant noise.
    But what about the impact on wildlife?
    Each year, wind farms are responsible for the deaths of more than 1.4 million birds and bats – in just two months at the Backbone Mountain wind farm in West Virginia, 2,000 bats were chopped to pieces by the turbines. When federal investigators discovered the carcasses of 38 golden eagles and 336 other protected birds at two wind projects in Oregon, PacifiCorp Energy was assessed a $2.5 million fine for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
    Simply put, wind farms kill wildlife both directly and indirectly, and lots of it. Add to this problem the cost, the negative effect on quality of life for area residents, the gross inefficiency of wind power production and the fact that we don’t even need the electricity it would produce, and the reality sets in. Any cost-benefit analysis on this project tells a clear story – the massive and permanent effects of wind power production are not worth it.
    The question we must ultimately ask ourselves is this: Do we want to use public tax dollars to subsidize an unneeded private business to chop up our public wildlife?
    Michael Butler is CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. The federation’s website is http://www.tnwf.org.

    We urge your readers to be part of the vast movement towards ending the green fog. We all want cleaner and safer energy. That is a no brainer. But is also very clear now, very clear, that industrial wind does one thing, and only one thing: make developers rich on the backs of a completely degraded environment, and that includes human health.

  3. This is an important, no – VITAL – migratory pathway for birds every spring and fall! Could not be in a worse area for wildlife! 6,000 homes? Big flippin’ deal!! So NOT worth the trade off!

  4. This project “will soon stand in Lake Erie eight miles from Cleveland”? Since when does the DOE give such authority when there are NO PERMITS for this project? In April 2014, the required permits from the USACE, ODNR and OPSB, along with recommendations from the USFWS were NOT granted due to 18 or more omissions, insufficiencies, and even incorrect information (possibly intentional)- primarily environmental (!) in their pathetic excuse of an application for permits. I encourage Mr. Bender to read the information on the PUCO website. It clearly proves the sloppiness and corner cutting techniques of LEEDCo. I will never, under any circumstances support industrialization of our precious Great Lakes by any industry, let alone one that is well known for its money grabbing from hard working taxpayers. Further, this is merely an “add on” industry, can never stand alone, will always need conventional back up. In Ohio, this is still coal! And it is well known throughout Europe, where the wind industry is collapsing (due to increasing CO2 from ramping of back up sources- primarily coal, from unsustainable costs to tax and rate payers, short lifespan of turbines and inability to decommission them properly, etc!!), that this debacle has no viable place in the future of the energy mix. So, here we are in the greatest fresh water source on earth- hoping to destroy it with these filthy turbines made of steel, powerful magnets (made in China by sickening and killing Chinese peasants, farmers and livestock during the toxic extracting and manufacturing process of needed minerals), unrecyclable monstrous fiberglass blades, lubricating fluids (all sounds like toxic soup in the lake) and more. But again- there are no permits. And… our government continues to feed the corrupt wind industry trough anyway, and well meaning journalists jump for green joy without doing their homework…

  5. What a boondoggle from start to finish. The Danes are finishing their dreams of offshore wind due to incredible debilitating costs. What is it we don’t understand from the European experience? That wind turbines don’t work? Need 100% back up from reliable sources 100% of the time? That wind power is unhealthy, destructive and a major source of increasing CO2 and GHGs?
    End the dogma and the hype and the LIES. GET RID OF THIS STUPID PROJECT IMMEDIATELY. Refund the American people the 40 million and also the 10 plus that these hyenas have already gouged the taxpayer with.

  6. The trade off is a good one? Let’s see some real data first. Birds and bats are already struggling for survival and turbines in flyways are several more nails in their coffins. Hunan greed is never satiated.

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