On May 21, the Ohio Power Siting Board recommended conditional approval of the $126 million Icebreaker six-turbine wind project proposed in Lake Erie, but with over 34 conditions that were believed to doom the project. The major restriction was that the wind farm cannot operate at night between March 1 and November 1, which was required to limit risk to birds and bats. The requirement made the wind farm financially infeasible, particularly because the best wind resources generally occur at night. The ruling was appealed, and facing political pressure from dozens of northeastern Ohio elected officials, the board reversed course and eliminated the condition. The developer, however, must still produce a radar monitoring program for birds and bats, and an avian and bat impact mitigation plan before beginning construction, which is not required for land-based wind projects.
If built, the 20.7-megawatt Icebreaker Wind farm would be the nation’s first freshwater offshore wind farm, opening up the Great Lakes for industrial wind development. Under the plan, Cleveland Public Power (CPP) would purchase two-thirds of Icebreaker Wind’s output. CPP is owned by the city of Cleveland, and already has rates that average 13 percent higher than the local private utility. As of last fall, the developer was looking for large energy users to purchase the remaining output.
CPP ratepayers and their representatives need to consider the cost of offshore wind power, which is one of the most expensive technologies being considered in the United States, with only one small wind farm actually operating off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island. According to the Energy Information Administration, the levelized cost of offshore wind is over three times higher than the levelized cost of natural gas combined cycle or onshore wind technologies. In the case of Block Island, the wind farm was cost competitive with the inefficient diesel generators the island had previously used to generate electricity, getting the diesel from floating tankers ferried across 18 miles of water.
The Icebreaker project still faces opposition and the project’s approval could be challenged in court. Some believe that the final decision will be determined by the Ohio Supreme Court.
DOE Supported the Project
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $40 million to the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation to build a six-turbine pilot wind farm in Lake Erie by the end of 2018. The funds were to be delivered in three $13.3 million grants, provided the company continued to meet engineering, permitting and construction goals set by the Department of Energy. The company previously received three DOE grants totaling $10.7 million. The $40 million award would make the federal share over $50 million.
Here again is another use of taxpayer funds that the Obama/Biden administration initiated for a controversial renewable energy project, which supports the notion that the government should not pick winners and losers in energy markets. Candidate Biden has more of these types of projects planned in his environment and “clean energy” plans.
New Yorkers Need to Be Aware
New York State is considering allowing massive industrial wind turbines to be installed within a few miles of the shorelines of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Two New York State documents released in June discuss industrial wind turbines in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, which will be needed to meet Governor Cuomo’s goal of 70 percent renewable energy by 2030. However, there are several technical issues pertinent to installing wind turbines in the Great Lakes presented in the papers.
Offshore industrial wind turbines will need to be massive in order to be cost competitive because they are extremely expensive to install. Both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are less than 60 miles wide making the proximity of the wind turbines to the shoreline necessarily closer than ocean-based turbines. Lakes Erie and Ontario are the smallest and already the most stressed of the five Great Lakes due to industrial runoff and other uses along their shores. They are also heavily used for recreation of all types.
Because there are limitations in the size of commercial ships which can safely navigate the locks and waterways in and leading to the Great Lakes, only turbines less than 4 megawatts could be transported and installed, unless “development of a new or adapted fleet of construction vessels” is achieved. A limit of four megawatts in turbine size may make development in the Great Lakes economically unfeasible, as larger turbines are typically more efficient than their smaller versions.
Another issue is the problem of ice in the Great Lakes. While floating foundations are being developed for use with turbines in the oceans, freshwater ice presents a problem due to lateral forces imparted by ice and freezing of the substructure.
According to the White Paper, these projects would interconnect in the region of the state with the greatest proportion of renewable energy development relative to native load. According to New York’s grid operator, new renewable energy will displace older renewable energy projects upstate unless transmission upgrades allow the power to be transported downstate. Upstate New York already gets 88 percent of their electricity from zero emission sources including nuclear and hydropower, meaning that the new capacity needs to reach New York City and Long Island where 70 percent of their electricity is generated from fossil fuels.
Other issues of concern include recreational boating, fishing, tourism, commercial shipping, and wildlife-especially bird and bat seasonal migration, which is one of the issues the Ohio Power Siting Board had with their original restriction on night operation.
The Ohio Power Siting Board caved under political pressure on its proposed restriction regarding night operation of the Lake Erie wind project during migratory season, which will result in ratepayers incurring very high electricity rates if the Lake Erie Wind Farm becomes operational. Clearly, other cost effective options are available to the city. New Yorkers also need to evaluate carefully construction of wind farms in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario to ensure that the stunning panoramic views, ecology, and economies of the Great Lakes are not at risk.
And Americans need to assess Joe Biden’s energy policies to realize that there will be more taxpayer funds that will be spent on expensive renewable energy projects as he implements his climate and “clean energy” plans, because these go way beyond the Obama/Biden renewable projects of a decade ago.