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LEEDCo wind turbine projects in Lake Erie now in doubt

Funding for a project by Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. to develop wind turbines for clean energy in Lake Erie took a major hit when the U.S. Department of Energy announced the organization would not receive a $47 million federal grant.
LEEDCo appeared April 7 before the U.S. Department of Energy to give a 50-minute presentation for the grant that was deemed critical to the organization’s success.
Named “Icebreaker,” the six-turbine offshore wind project was slated to be the first of its kind in Lake Erie.
Icebreaker competed with five offshore wind projects and three were selected for funding.
Those chosen May 7 were located off the coasts in New Jersey, Oregon and Virginia, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Energy.
LEEDCo was completing the engineering design, securing power purchase agreements and project finance, and developing the local supply chain, and construction was scheduled to begin in spring 2017.
“Although LEEDCo’s Icebreaker project was not selected, DOE has offered to make a significant investment through a different funding stream to continue the Front End Engineering Design on our project’s foundation, turbine, electrical, and data collection systems,” according to a statement posted on LEEDCo’s website.
Efforts to contact LEEDCo President Lorry Wagner were unsuccessful.
“We are disappointed not to be selected for the program in which we were originally competing, but we are encouraged by DOE’s continued support of our world-class team’s groundbreaking engineering and technology development work,” the statement said.
LEEDCo said it continues to believe in the viability of the Icebreaker project and in a bright future for offshore wind power in the Great Lakes.
“We will be evaluating other options for moving forward,” the statement continued. “LEEDCo wishes to thank its many partners, supporters and stakeholders for sharing our vision of expanding the role of renewable energy in Northeast Ohio’s economy; their ongoing support will be integral to all future plans.”
LEEDCo was founded in 2009 and members include Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Lorain and Lake counties, the city of Cleveland, the Cleveland Foundation and NorTech.
As a public-private partnership, the agency represents Northern Ohio’s public interest in offshore wind and works to develop the initial 20- to 30-megawatt demonstration project in Lake Erie, seven miles off of the Cleveland shoreline.
If successful, the goal was to work toward a 1,000 megawatt target by 2020.
Lake County Commissioner Robert E. Aufuldish is that county’s representative on LEEDCo’s board.
Aufuldish said the DOE decision was a huge blow to the organization’s effort.
“I think that’s the end of LEEDCo unless the Department of Energy suddenly gets more money,” he said. “LEEDCo will have no money to operate, there is a small staff.”
He said the DOE did award LEEDCo a much smaller amount – $5 million to basically fulfill present contracts.
Aufuldish thought national leaders were supportive of the project that would be the first wind turbine project in the world to be built in fresh water.
“We actually thought the (Obama) Administration would step forward and someone in the president’s office would say this project is as good as on the East Coast or Gulf (of Mexico).”
Aufuldish said seven banks were lined up to provide 15-year loans to the organization to help build the turbines and the grant money would have been the seed money to start the construction.
Lorain County Commissioner Ted Kalo is his county’s representative on LEEDCo’s board.
Kalo said there hasn’t been a meeting yet to fully discuss the grant, so he didn’t want to speculate on the future for LEEDCo or what the next steps may be.
“I’m disappointed we weren’t in the first three, but there are other avenues we can go after for the future of wind energy in Northeast Ohio,” Kalo said.
Aufuldish said he expects there will be a debriefing meeting to tell board members why the grant submission wasn’t successful.