The Supreme Court of Ohio has approved the permit to construct North America’s first freshwater offshore wind-powered electric-generation facility.
In a 6-1 decision, the Supreme Court found the Ohio Power Siting Board appropriately granted a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need to Icebreaker Windpower. The company proposes to construct a six-turbine wind farm about 10 miles off the coast of Lake Erie near Cleveland. The project has been billed as a small-scale “demonstration project” to test the viability of offshore wind farms in Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes.
Opponents to the project challenged the Power Siting Board’s decision, primarily arguing that the state has not received enough data on whether the facility poses significant harm to birds and bats. Writing for the Court majority, Justice Jennifer Brunner explained that the board collected the necessary research to allow Icebreaker to begin construction, while also requiring far more data before the company can operate the turbines.
“Rather than requiring Icebreaker to resolve those matters before issuing the certificate, the board determined that the conditions on its grant of the application were sufficient to protect birds and bats and to ensure that the facility represented the minimum adverse environmental impact,” Justice Brunner wrote.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Patrick F. Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly, and Melody Stewart joined Justice Brunner’s opinion.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sharon L. Kennedy explained that the board held the project to a lesser degree of scrutiny because the proposed wind farm is a first-of-its-kind demonstration project. However, state law does not make exceptions for demonstration projects, and the board failed to make the required findings regarding the environmental impacts of the proposed facility, including its impact on aquatic and avian wildlife, before issuing the certificate, she stated. If more relaxed standards should apply to demonstration projects, that decision must be made by the legislature, she wrote.
Filed Under: News, Offshore wind