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Lake Erie wind project gets federal OK

The proposed $126 million Lake Erie wind energy project has gotten over a big environmental hurdle.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in cooperation with other federal agencies, on Tuesday, Oct. 2, released a final environmental assessment of the project that includes what the agency calls a Finding of No Significant Impact, or FONSI.

“This is the most significant single approval Icebreaker Wind has received to date,” said Lorry Wagner, president of the non-profit, Cleveland-based Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo), in a press release. “We are eager now to earn state approval and move forward.”

LEEDCo is developing Icebreaker Wind with Fred. Olsen Renewables USA.

The wind farm would consist of up to six wind turbines in Lake Erie, approximately eight miles off Cleveland. The turbines would connect to the Cleveland Public Power Lake Road Substation.

“The proposed project will not significantly adversely affect any endangered or threatened species or any critical habitat,” an overview of the environmental impact stated. “The Environmental Assessment evaluated potential impacts to migratory birds and concluded, primarily due to the small size of the project, that there would be both short- and long-term impact but those impacts would be minor.”

Wagner lauded the DOE review in his statement and looked ahead.

“We are eager now to earn state approval and move forward,” Wagner said. “(The project) stands to establish our region as a leader in the exploding offshore wind energy sector, and will yield both environmental and economic benefits for Greater Cleveland.”

A pair of Bratenahl residents have opposed the project before the Ohio Power Siting Board. They are supported in their opposition by Murray Energy Corp., a southern Ohio coal miner, whose outside counsel is assisting in the appeal.

The Icebreaker Wind project is supported by a number of groups, including the Sierra Club, the Ohio Environmental Council and the League of Women Voters.