Lake Erie Wind Turbine Project Will Get Public Hearing in November

[image-1]With a fresh environmental assessment from the U.S. Department of Energy, the LEEDCo wind turbine project once again inches closer to reality. A public hearing on the matter, set by the Ohio Power Siting Board, will take place at 6 p.m. Nov. 8 in Cleveland City Council chambers.

We first reported on the LEEDCo project in 2011, when the project was pitched as the nation's first offshore wind farm. We've since lost that specific goal, thanks to an outfit off the coast of Rhode Island. But many in Northeast Ohio are still vying for a set of turbines in Lake Erie, a project that would funnel a renewable energy source into Cleveland Public Power's infrastructure. All told, the power generated from the turbines should support 7,000 homes in the area.

The proposal: six 3.45-megawatt wind turbines rising out of the water, about eight miles offshore. The $126-million project is dubbed "Icebreaker."

The U.S. Department of Energy offers a mostly glowing review of Icebreaker's environmental impact. The document describes how Icebreaker will affect water and air quality, noise, lake use (including recreation), wildlife and other matters.

One of the most frequently cited criticisms of wind turbine infrastructure is the propensity for bird and bat deaths. The north-south corridor across Lake Erie is a major migratory path for millions of birds each year. The Icebreaker turbines will swivel to a different pitch during active migration periods and will feature flashing red lights at night (which correspond typically with a decrease in bird and bat collisions). An ornithologist declared Icebreaker to be one of the lowest-risk projects he'd worked on.

If all goes well in future Department of Energy reviews, up to the final environmental assessment, Icebreaker will be able to unlock additional federal funding.

The Ohio Power Siting Board must also approve the project, and the November hearing will suss out the public's support or opposition to the same.