More than 4,500 consumers have pledged to buy power from Lake Erie-based wind turbines – and pay extra for it, the company planning a lake turbine project said today.
“Community engagement and support are critical to our success, and the support we have received . . . is very encouraging for the future of offshore wind in the Great Lakes,” Lorry Wagner, president of the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., or LEEDCo, told a crowd of about 200 at the new Cleveland Convention Center today.
Since April, LEEDCo has offered the public a way to support the project, by signing a “power pledge” in a door-to-door campaign and on its website.
The idea is to show independent power companies, such as FirstEnergy Solutions and more than 30 other competitors now licensed to sell electricity in Ohio, that there is a consumer demand for the wind power.
The majority of the consumers who have pledged to buy the green power are in Greater Cleveland, though some who visited LEEDCo’s website are in other states.
The pledge is a simple form in which consumers are asked whether they will pay extra in monthly bills for a portion of the power they buy.
The form also asks consumers to say how much more they are willing to pay for the wind-generated electricity.
In an interview following his remarks, Wagner said the pledges would be important when LEEDCo applies for its licenses and when it talks with the independent power suppliers.
He said several independent companies had already contacted LEEDCo to ask how they would be able to buy and market the project’s power.
“There are some that are interested in offering only green products,” he said.
The latest consumer to sign a pledge is U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur.
Calling the Great Lakes “the Saudi Arabia of wind,” the Toledo Democrat said the project will be important “for science, for sustainability, for the future of our young people.
“Nothing could be more important than helping America become a sustainable nation,” she said in remarks before filling out a pledge form.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson also addressed the crowd.
“This project creates a sustainable economy because money spent on renewable energy installation tends to remain in the community, creating jobs and fueling local economies,” Jackson said. “This is the type of project that I envisioned when I launched Sustainable Cleveland 2019 four years ago to transform our economy.”
Cleveland Public Power has already pledged to buy 25 percent of the project’s electricity, or up to 5 megawatts, he said,
LEEDCo’s “Icebreaker” demonstration project aims by 2017 to build and operate six 3-megawatt wind turbines seven miles offshore. The project would create about 500 temporary jobs.
LEEDCo has chosen Siemens Corp. of Germany to build the turbines in its U.S.-based factories. Siemens specializes in offshore power, building lighter, simpler machines that are proving to be less trouble-prone and are capable of standing up to ocean winds.
Siemens has supplied turbines to a huge, offshore project in Great Britain with a generating capacity of more than 600 megawatts. In comparison, the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant supplies about 800 megawatts.
A task force funded in part by Cuyahoga County, the Cleveland Foundation and similar groups initially proposed lake-based wind turbines as a way to create a new industry in Ohio.
Other states – Iowa, for example – have expanded their manufacturing economies by welcoming the wind turbine industry.
There are wind farms in Northwest Ohio, where the wind is stronger and more consistent. But other regions of the state are not as favorable.
Winds over Lake Erie are the best in the state, tests originally conducted by the nonprofit Green Energy Ohio discovered. Winds throughout the Great Lakes account for more than 20 percent of the U.S. offshore wind energy resources.
Some utilities are not enthusiastic about wind turbines.
Because turbines generate power intermittently, they pose a problem to utilities operating conventional power plants, which have to be inefficiently throttled back when wind power shows up on the high-voltage grid.
Grid managers, including PJM Interconnection headquartered near Philadelphia and the Midwest Independent System Operator in Indianapolis, say they now have the means to more precisely balance the amount of power generated with the demand, on a real-time basis.
LEEDCo is currently funded with a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and is planning to compete for a $46.7 million DOE grant later.
The Lake Erie project is the only fresh-water wind turbine project in the United States at this time.