HURON – Green energy proponents are trying to save a stalled effort to build a wind farm in Lake Erie near Cleveland.
And they apparently won’t get any help from state Rep. D.J. Swearingen, R-Huron.
Swearingen says he is “vehemently” opposed to providing state money to save the pilot project to build six wind turbines. He said he’ll fight any effort to fund it in the Ohio House.
The proposed Icebreaker wind project was supposed to build six wind turbines eight to 10 miles offshore of Cleveland. And finishing that pilot project was supposed to be the first step in developing a big wind power industry Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes, putting wind turbines offshore to avoid the disputes that often develop on land between wind power companies and local residents.
But the project apparently needs a new source of funds, and Swearingen says he opposes putting state money into it.
“This inefficient project would jeopardize not only the ecology of the lake but would also directly threaten the culture and local economy that exists on Lake Erie and is enjoyed by so many throughout and beyond the borders of our state,” Swearingen said in a statement announcing his opposition.
“If this pilot program for Project Icebreaker cannot be funded without the assistance of a ratepayer subsidy, then how can the entire project, which includes an additional plan of 1,500 windmills, possibly be successful without further subsidies? I vehemently oppose this request,” he said.
Efforts to get Icebreaker going began in 2009 when the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo) was created. The project apparently got a big boost in 2016, when the U.S. Department of Energy awarded a $40 million grant Previously, the Department of Energy had awarded three earlier grants totaling $10.7 million, according to a 2016 article published by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
While $37 million remains from that grant, supporters say that the money might be withdrawn soon if the project doesn’t meet goals to make progress.
The total estimated cost for Icebreaker is $173 million.
Swearingen said he understands an amendment to an unrelated bill may be offered in the coming weeks on the House floor to provide funding for Icebreaker.
Supporters of Icebreaker say the project was damaged and delayed by an obstacle imposed by the Ohio Power Siting Board, which must approve or reject state energy generation projects.
The board approved Icebreaker in May 2020 but stipulated that the wind turbine blades must be shut off every night for eight months every year to lessen the impact on birds.
The board reversed itself in fall 2020, but opponents responded to that reversal by filing a lawsuit. The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the case on Dec. 7, but a court ruling could be months away.
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