CLEVELAND – The Ohio Power Siting Board has ruled that the Lake Erie Wind Development Corporation’s application to build wind turbine’s in the lake is now complete and a formal review – including hearings – will soon begin.
Before that process can get underway, LEEDCo’s developer, Icebreaker Windproject, Inc., must send copies of the massive application to public libraries and to local governments and explain how the public and municipalities can be involved in the case, said Beth Nagusky, LEEDCo’s director of sustainable development.
As the first freshwater wind farm in the world, Icebreaker is a $126-million demonstration project. The goal is to prove it can be done and can stand up to shifting lake ice, opening the door to large future developments.
Icebreaker’s six-turbines would be located eight to 10 miles northwest of downtown. The power they generate would flow through an under-lake bed cable to a Cleveland Public Power substation on Lake Road near the old CPP power plant, now popularly known as “the whale building,” visible from the East Shoreway.
First proposed by the Cleveland Foundation in 2003, the project has been awarded a $50 million federal grant and attracted Norwegian wind farm developer Fred. Olsen Renewables, which has created a U.S. subsidiary for the project.
LEEDCo must also submit an application fee before the siting board’s formal evaluation begins, and that is going to cost about $50,000, according to the siting board’s letter to Icebreaker. Typically, an application fee for such a small wind farm would be about $10,350.
“Due to the novelty and potential complexity of the staff investigation, it is anticipated that this application fee will not cover all the [siting] board’s expenses associated with this case,” Asim Haque, chairman of the siting board, wrote to the company. “The initial application fee shall be increased by $39,650. Additional invoicing may be necessary.”
David Karpinski, an engineer and LEEDCo vice president of operations, said the company expected the higher application fee. “We have to fund the [state] staff time for all the work. This is right in line with what we thought.”
The siting board held up Icebreaker’s application in April after determining that the company had not fully explained its plans to monitor the impact of the construction of the project on birds and bats and on fisheries and aquatic life.
Since then Icebreaker has firmed up its agreements with environmental consulting groups to monitor the impact of the project on birds, bats, fish and other aquatic life before, during and after construction of the wind farm. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources will also, by agreement with Icebreaker, check those monitoring results. Icebreaker filed those details with the siting board about 10 days ago.
Once the siting board’s evaluation officially begins, the board will set a public hearing 60 to 90 days in the future and the staff will begin its evaluation, which could include requests for more information and documents. There will be a public hearing in Cleveland and at least one or more administrative hearings in Columbus. In other words, the process will move much like a utility rate case. Objectors can officially intervene. Anyone can submit letters both for and against the project.
Construction is now expected to begin in 2019 rather than the summer of 2018.
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