By Craig Walker
A public hearing on Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation’s (LEEDCo) Icebreaker Wind project was held in July at Cleveland City Hall Council Chambers before the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). Icebreaker Wind is the first proposed freshwater wind farm in North America, about 8 to 10 miles off the coast of Cleveland, Ohio.
“The six-turbine Lake Erie project will put Cleveland on the international map as a progressive, forward-thinking city that is advancing clean energy,” Steve Luttner, a representative for LEEDCo, said during the hearing. LEEDCo is a not-for-profit organization spearheading Icebreaker Wind and dedicated to building offshore wind in the Great Lakes Region. “Our global environment — including birds and other wildlife — is often under siege from pollution and other climate-related pressures. Clean energy can help alleviate these considerable issues.”
Nearly 200 people attended the hearing, including project stakeholders, marine organizations, wildlife advocates, Ohio residents, and other interested parties. It gave people a chance to speak up before the project’s adjudicatory hearing on September 24, 2018.
One concern opponents of the project have is the possible impact on birds and bats. The Renewable Director of the Audubon Society, a not-for-profit environmental organization dedicated to conservation, Garry George, shared his concern at the hearing: “The Audubon Society supports wind energy in general — if properly sited and provided there is adequate onsite data collection to inform risk and avoidance and minimization of mortality of the millions of migratory songbirds that migrate across Lake Erie twice a year.”
“Icebreaker Wind has undergone many years of thorough review from 14 local, state and federal agencies,” Luttner pointed out. “LEEDCo has participated in more than 400 public sessions to discuss Icebreaker Wind. We are taking numerous steps to limit any negative impact to birds and bats.”
OPSB recently published its Report of Investigation, after a near 18-month review of the proposed project. The report recommends approval of Icebreaker Wind and finds the project “serves the public interest” and would pose “minimal adverse environmental impact.”
“I urge the people of this area and the Ohio Power Siting Board to approve this project not only for the water we drink, the air we breathe, but the jobs created that will let workers provide for their families,” Carl Scheutzow of Medina, OH, said at the hearing. He is a self-described fisherman, boater, and solar consultant.
LEEDCo has stated that Icebreaker Wind would create over 500 jobs in Northeast Ohio during construction, and provide $168 million to the local economy over the project’s 25-year life. It ensures local labor and manufacturing will be used when possible.
According to LEEDCo’s website, Icebreaker Wind would provide three key benefits.
1. Offer a scalable source of renewable energy in Lake Erie
2. Create jobs and economic prosperity in the region
3. Help clean our air and water resources
If final certification is granted in September, the project is expected to start construction in 2021.
For further information on the Icebreaker project, please visit LEEDCo’s website.