A Norwegian wind farm developer has pledged to build the first United States offshore wind farm in Lake Erie, according to Ohio newspapers.
Fred. Olsen Renewables, a European power producer, has agreed to back a nonprofit consortium in Ohio that’s been trying for several years to develop a $120 million pilot wind farm project northwest of Cleveland.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Ashtabula Star Beacon are reporting the company has agreed to buy research for an undisclosed sum from Lake Erie Energy Development Co., or LEEDCo., a Northeast Ohio public-private partnership founded in 2009.
The Norwegian developer began working with the Ohio group last year on plans to harness Lake Erie wind with a six-turbine demonstration project dubbed “Icebreaker.”
If completed, it would be North America’s first freshwater wind farm and the first offshore wind farm in U.S. waters. The company hopes to begin construction in 2018, assuming no hurdles in the lengthy state and federal permitting process.
Project developers say offshore wind power in Lake Erie could generate “5,000 megawatts over the next 10 to 15 years.” The Icebreaker pilot project by itself would peak at about 20 megawatts.
Icebreaker would connect to Cleveland Public Power’s high-voltage grid.
In 2014, LEEDCo signed a 50-year bottomlands lease for the project site, about 7 to 10 miles northwest of downtown Cleveland. The U.S. Department of Energy has given the consortium about $7 million in research and development grants over the past three years, with another $3.7 million grant in the pipeline.
The consortium aims to establish Lake Erie as a central hub for U.S. offshore power generation. Projects in other states, including proposals on Lake Michigan, have failed to hurdle financing obstacles and criticism from locals.
The Lake Erie project is competing for about $40 million in grant funding with wind farm proposals in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The energy department extended a deadline in November for those projects to meet key milestones.
The energy department estimates the gross wind power of all five Great Lakes could exceed 700 gigawatts.
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