Wind turbines on Lake Erie could blow the rust off the region and mark it as a world leader in alternative-energy development, officials say.
A Cuyahoga County task force on Thursday proposed the Lake Erie Wind Energy Center, featuring up to 10 wind turbines on the lake and a research center on land spurring new businesses and jobs.
“We can change the entire image, from a rust-belt city to a city of the future,” Ronn Richard, head of the Cleveland Foundation, told a crowd of 60 at the Great Lakes Science Center. “This kind of push would help Cleveland reclaim its place as a major economic and cultural force on the world stage.”
Cuyahoga County commissioners immediately embraced recommendations from the energy task force, a 23-member body appointed last summer.
Commissioners have pledged to cover one-quarter of the estimated $800,000 needed to find a project manager, study the concept’s feasibility and craft a strategy to deal with daunting financial, environmental and regulatory hurdles.
The Cleveland Foundation will match the county grant. Officials will also seek money from the Fund for Our Economic Future, a regional coalition of foundations, and the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the local chamber of commerce.
There are no wind turbines operating on fresh water anywhere in the world. The plan calls for up to 10 wind turbines on the lake as a demonstration project.
The 10 turbines would stand some 300 feet above the water and crank out up to 20 megawatts of power. That’s enough to light up 6,000 homes.
The turbines would spin about three miles offshore, possibly on land leased by the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.
Wind monitoring at Cleveland’s water-intake crib, which lies about 3Â½ miles offshore, shows sustained winds of 16 mph.
Erecting turbines and hooking them to the electric-power grid is estimated at $40 million. The effort would need heavy public subsidy before the private sector jumped in, officials said.
“This is not a slam dunk,” said Richard Steubi, the Cleveland Foundation’s expert on advanced energy.
“We need a much more detailed action plan, especially on how it will be financed.”
Columbus will be receptive, said Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who also heads the Ohio Department of Development.
The department has grants of up to $5 million under its new Ohio Wind Production and Manufacturing Incentive Program, Fisher said.
He noted one study that shows Ohio ranks second only to California in the potential for new job creation from manufacturing wind components.
The region is rich with companies that could do the work, including Eaton Corp., Timken Co., Mittal Steel Co., Parker-Hannifin Corp. and Lubrizol Corp., Fisher said.
The task force proposal includes a wind research center, likely located in Cleveland.
It could include testing facilities for new, turbine components and could tap the brainpower of local universities and NASA Glenn Research Center, which has done extensive turbine testing.
The Lake Erie turbine project would take three to six years to complete.
At the same time, Cleveland will begin wind monitoring at several of its water-treatment plants and look at the feasibility of land-based turbines hooked into Cleveland Public Power, Mayor Frank Jackson said.
To spur the pace of wind-energy development, the county task force called for policy reforms in Columbus.
More than 20 states have policies requiring a chunk of their electric power be generated by renewable sources.
“Other states pull further ahead every day,” Cleveland Foundation’s Richard said.
County Prosecutor Bill Mason, who chaired the task force, said Northeast Ohio could become a fertile hub of wind-energy innovation “but only if we seize the opportunity in a timely fashion.”
By Tom Breckenridge
Plain Dealer Reporter
Plain Dealer Reporter John Funk contributed to the story.
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9 February 2007
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