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Wind group seeks money from county

JEFFERSON – The county is being asked to chip in $15,000 to the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) to sustain the wind-energy development group while it awaits federal funding.

Commissioner Dan Claypool, who represents the county on the LEEDCo board, told commissioners in a work session Tuesday each of the five member counties in LEEDCo is being asked to contribute $15,000. Up to this point, the county has not had to put any money into the project; the Cleveland Foundation has invested millions and Cuyahoga County has invested thousands of dollars in getting the effort off the ground.

Its first project is a demonstration wind farm off Cleveland Harbor, a project that has been on hold while the U.S. Department of Energy reviews LEEDCo’s grant application. The answer was due in August, but it looks like it will probably be December before the group has an answer on the critical grant.

In the meantime, LEEDCo is requesting $75,000 to get it through the dry season. The request didn’t come as a surprise.

“We knew that we couldn’t stay part of it and be on a free ride forever,” said Board President Peggy Carlo.

The board is agreeable to paying its $15,000 share, as long as the money does not come out of the general fund. Claypool said both Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County and the Ashtabula County Port Authority will be asked to contribute, and the county can use economic development impact money for its share, whatever that ends up being after the other groups’ contributions.

Wind energy is seen as an emerging source of energy production for the eastern Lake Erie basin, as well as a driver for new manufacturing and service industries in the region. The lake waters off Ashtabula County are some of the windiest spots on the lake, but building wind farms miles into the lake poses many engineering challenges that put the cost of the power at a competitive disadvantage.