Are Wind Turbines About To Cover Lake Erie’s Horizon?
Published: Monday, July 8, 2019
By: John Lipaj, Lake Erie Foundation Board Member
Icebreaker is proposed to be the first offshore wind turbine facility in the freshwater Great Lakes and opposition has rapidly increased as people learn the truth about this plan. It will consist of six 480’ high wind turbines, located eight miles northwest of Cleveland, or just about five miles from the Lakewood and Rocky River shorelines.
Icebreaker was started by the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo), a Cleveland based non-profit. But it has agreed to sell all assets to Fred Olsen of Norway, a large multinational corporation. The assets that Fred Olsen purchased include the submerged land lease, giving them the “rights” to the bottom land under Lake Erie for 50 years.
Fred Olsen will also receive about $50 million in U.S. taxpayer subsidies through two U.S. Department of Energy grants, U.S. Production Tax Credits, U.S. Investment Tax Credits, and they’ve been granted a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) tax break by Cuyahoga County.
In addition, Cuyahoga County and Cleveland Public Power, which can currently purchase electricity from the Grid for $34 per megawatt hour, have agreed to pay 500% more to purchase Icebreaker’s power at $181 per megawatt hour, plus annual increases. Ratepayers will pick up the tab.
LEEDCo executives have stated during public presentations that Icebreaker “has no intent to build any more than six wind turbines.” They have also stated in their application now before the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), “the Applicant (Icebreaker) has indicated that it has no plans for further expansion at this point of interconnection.”
The truth is the project’s backers do have bigger plans for Lake Erie beyond Icebreaker. Dave Karpinski, LEEDCo VP of Operations, said: “Our vision is 5,000 megawatts over the next 10 to 15 years.” The facts say that to produce such power would require building about 1,450 wind turbines in Lake Erie.
Why Offshore Wind Power in the Great Lakes?
LEEDCo claims “winds blow stronger and more consistently over water than over land, and better match when energy demands are highest.”
Norm Schultz, President Emeritus of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association (LEMTA), disagrees. “Northeast Ohio’s highest electric demand is when air conditioners are running in July and August,” says Schultz. “But that’s the time the wind is typically the weakest. The turbines cannot match energy demand. And, the overall average wind speed on Lake Erie is only about 15% higher than onshore in Northwestern Ohio.
“So why would we spend 250% more to build turbines in the lake than on land to pick up an unpredictable increase in wind speed of only 15%?” Schultz asks. Our tax dollars could be better spent placing renewables like wind and solar in parts of the country where we’ll get more carbon reduction per dollar spent,” Schultz argues.
Icebreaker officials claim: “Wind power is a clean, abundant, and renewable energy source. Unlike nuclear power, wind produces no waste products or risks of tragic accidents.”
Tom Sullivan, founder of NoLakeErieWindFarm.org, has a different perspective: “Wind turbines operate – on average – only about a third of the time. They can’t produce power if the wind speed is too weak or too strong. They’re also prone to mechanical failures, which is why you see so many on land not turning, even on windy days.
“The rest of the time,” continues Sullivan, “traditional power plants need to by cycled up to meet power needs. Moreover, there are examples of wind turbines catching fire and leaking oil. When this happens to Icebreaker units, the oil will go into the lake threatening our drinking water supply and violating the U.S. Clean Water Act,” maintains Sullivan.
Sherri Lange, a founder of Great Lakes Wind Truth, calls attention to Ontario’s nightmare with wind power. “Higher energy costs from wind power have resulted in manufacturing job losses here in Ontario. Proponents of Ontario’s Green Energy Act (GEA) of 2009 claimed it would create 50,000 new jobs and establish Ontario as the center of renewable energy manufacturing in North America.
“But the truth is Ontario has lost 300,000 jobs since the Green Energy Act,” confirmed Lange. “Manufacturers have left to escape energy costs which have tripled due to the higher cost of wind power. Interestingly, LEEDCo is making the same claims in Ohio, which simply cannot be supported. And, Ontario has now imposed a moratorium on offshore wind development in any of the Great Lakes.”
Many opponents also see similarities between claims made by LEEDCo and New Jersey’s proposed Nautilus Offshore Wind, which was touted by its developers as “a pilot project to develop the infrastructure and skilled workforce that will establish New Jersey as a leader in the offshore wind industry.”
But the State found the project was deemed too costly and unable to demonstrate it would have a net economic benefit to customers who would pay for it.
“Simply stated, the Nautilus proposal contains a price too high and benefits too tentative,” said New Jersey Public Utilities President Joseph Fiordaliso in rejecting the project. “The state law promoting offshore wind requires developers to show a net economic benefit to ratepayers, who will ultimately foot the cost of the electricity generated by the wind farms.”
David Strang, a Cleveland area resident believes that the State of Ohio must reach the same conclusion about Icebreaker. “Ohio’s citizens will not benefit by the construction of Icebreaker,” said Strang.
“Governor DeWine says that protecting Lake Erie is one of his top priorities,” Strang added, “He can prove it by demanding the completion of a thorough, independent, Environmental Impact Statement before allowing the Ohio Power Siting Board to bring Icebreaker to a vote.”
Strang added that anyone who opposes the construction of wind turbines in Lake Erie can help by signing the petition to Governor DeWine which is on www.saveourbeautifullake.org as well as at www.lakeeriefoundation.org.
This article first appeared in the Summer Issue (Jul/Aug) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.