A decade-long effort for a company to put wind turbines in Lake Erie took a major step forward when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday the project can proceed over objections from residents.
The Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., a regional economic public-private partnership that combines the city of Cleveland, the port authority and other coastal counties, now plans to market the electricity that it expects to produce from the six-turbine project called Icebreaker Wind.
“LEEDCo will need some time to regroup, market the power and determine next steps. We could not advance the project in any way while the Supreme Court case was pending,” said Will Friedman, president and CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. “Even though we prevailed today, it’s been a detrimental delay for over a year. With certainty received from the court, we can now focus on marketing the remaining two-thirds of the electricity it will produce.”
A third of the power is already under contract with the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.
Friedman said one estimate shows there will be $70-billion-plus in offshore wind business in the U.S. by 2030. Officials estimate Icebreaker Wind will have a $253 million local economic impact and create more than 500 jobs.
“Other states are nipping at our heels to attract offshore wind and its economic benefits. We don’t want to squander this opportunity and let 15 years of work slip away to other states eager to capture market share,” Friedman said.
The court’s ruling tops approvals for the project from more than a dozen local, state and federal agencies.
The Supreme Court challenge, presented by two residents, focused on if the Ohio Power Sitting Board properly issued construction permits for the project. The court ruled, in a 6-1 decision, the board collected the necessary research to issue the permit.
“Rather than requiring Icebreaker to resolve those matters before issuing the certificate, the board determined that the conditions on its grant of the application were sufficient to protect birds and bats and to ensure that the facility represented the minimum adverse environmental impact,” Justice Jennifer Brunner wrote.
LEEDCo Board Chairman Ronn Richard, also president of the Cleveland Foundation, pointed to Intel’s plan to power its proposed $20 billion facility outside Columbus with 100% renewable energy as an important sign an energy transition is part of the state’s future.
“The Cleveland Foundation has supported Project Icebreaker from its inception because this is about more than clean energy – this is about a healthy economy and a healthy community. Project Icebreaker shows that Northeast Ohio – and the entire state of Ohio for that matter – is open for businesses,” Richard said.
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