The Ohio Department of Natural Resources opposes open lake wind turbines such as the ones that an energy task force has urged Cuyahoga County commissioners build on Lake Erie, a state wildlife biologist said.
Mark Shieldcastle, who spoke to the Greater Akron Audubon Society on Tuesday night at the Sand Run Metro Park in Summit County, said it would be nearly impossible to monitor the mortality rates of migratory birds killed by open water turbines.
“We’re trying to get land-based studies first,” said Shieldcastle, a wildlife biologist with the Crane Creek Wildlife Research Station between Sandusky and Toledo. “There are a lot more ramifications and challenges to look at the risks to birds in open water. I wouldn’t know where to start.”
Last month, the Cuyahoga Regional Energy Development Task Force said it would recommend to county commissioners that the region pursue a wind energy project that would place four to 10 turbines at least three miles out on Lake Erie.
The wind turbines would be the first of their kind in the United States and the only fresh water windmills in the world. Europe has water-borne turbines.
According to research by the task force, 10 windmills could produce up to 20 megawatts, providing energy to thousands of businesses and homes. Windmills about three miles out on Lake Erie could capture wind speeds of about 16 mph.
The energy task force is reviewing research on turbines’ environmental impact and will track studies by the University of Toledo and the Great Lakes Science Center, Bill Mason, chairman of the task force and Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said in a statement released Tuesday.
A critical component of the task force’s recommendation include the retention of an expert to study the impact of wind turbines on Lake Erie’s ecology, including birds, bats and their migratory patterns in Northeast Ohio, Mason said.
Amy Gomberg, environmental advocate for Environment Ohio in Columbus, said new technology would help developers build the turbines in sites that would greatly reduce impact on birds that earlier turbines posed in other states.
“Coal-burning power plants release soot, smog and mercury,” Gomberg said during a phone interview on Tuesday. “All of these pollutants not only have an impact on birds, but all of them have an impact on people.”
Gomberg said she favors wind energy because it is the “cleanest, renewable energy opportunity Ohio has and it would also bring new jobs to the state while breaking the dependence on out-of-state energy sources.”
A report issued in November by Environment Ohio said that in the next decade, “Ohio could harness at least 10 percent of our electricity from wind, the equivalent of powering over a million homes and produce 10,000 manufacturing jobs.”
Now Ohio has only one “utility scale wind farm” in Bowling Green, where four windmills generate power for more than 2,000 homes.
“Before any development can occur, developers can do environmental analysis to find out where the best sites are,” Gomberg said. “I don’t believe wind developers would put up wind turbines where they would have a negative impact on birds. It would make them look bad.”
By April McClellan-Copeland
Plain Dealer Reporter
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