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Group behind Lake Erie wind turbines anxious to move plans forward after court ruling

Posted at 5:50 PM, Aug 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-11 19:01:50-04

CLEVELAND — One day after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the Lake Erie Development Corporation (LEEDCo) could move forward with plans to build six massive wind turbines in Lake Erie those behind the project are savoring their victory.

“Very happy to get this news, we’ve waited now for nearly a year for the court to rule,” said Will Friedman, President and CEO of the Cleveland and Cuyahoga County Port Authority as well as a LEEDCo board member. “We’re so pleased that we can try to move this project forward.”

LEEDCo, created in August of 2009 is a public-private regional economic development partnership with an eye towards one day harnessing the winds that travel over Lake Erie. Initial plans call for six massive wind turbines to be built 8 to 10 miles off the coast of Cleveland.

They would be placed out of the shipping lanes and beyond most recreational use. The Icebreaker Wind Project as it is known would generate enough electricity to power 7,000 homes.

When News 5 first reported on the plans in 2018, the hope was that LEEDCo would be able to clear the remaining regulatory hurdles and have the wind farm up and running at the end of this year but there were challenges ahead of them.

Concerns about threats to migrating birds and other wildlife were addressed requiring radar systems to monitor peak times of activity and patterns for migrating birds while also requiring the turbines would not be spinning at night from March 1st through June 1st until they could prove post construction the bird and bat collision monitoring plan satisfies Ohio Department of Natural Resources

This week’s ruling was related to a legal challenge by residents of the Cleveland-area village of Bratenahl who sued to stop the project, arguing the Ohio Power Siting Board didn’t have enough evidence to determine the project’s environmental impact and that the project doesn’t serve the public interest as defined in Ohio law.

The court ruled 6-1 that the board had multiple studies before it that found a low impact on birds and bats. The court also said the board properly determined the project would have “a minimal impact” on the public’s ability to enjoy Lake Erie.

“I personally believe this project has as much potential as really anything out there to generate good jobs, new industry, clean energy and just be a boost to our economy here and it’s something where we can be in the lead,” Friedman said. “This would be the first in deep water in a Great Lake.”

Despite the court delays, he says Cleveland is still positioned to be at the forefront of what he calls the offshore wind boom. “Which is happening all over the world, it’s happening on the East Coast and we can be the center of it for the Great Lakes if we can move this project forward.”

The legal delays though Friedman acknowledged have forced them back a few steps in some areas. “These legal delays, they’re costly and what happens is when you get engineering design work done and then it’s obsolete three or four years later, you have to go back to the drawing board. So if we can be in the water building in 2026 that would be fantastic.”

Cleveland resident Ray Desrochers said given what’s happening in the world the project makes sense given the global warming and energy headwinds the world is facing.

“I think it’s a good idea, I think moving to renewable energy sources is a really good pursuit, particularly considering all of the climate challenges we know we’re having right now.”