Could the Rust Belt turn into the Wind Belt? The Great Lakes represent 20 percent of the United States’ total offshore wind energy capacity, but not a single wind turbine has yet to be seen. That could start to change soon thanks to a $40 million grant from the Department of Energy for North America’s first offshore freshwater wind farm, located on Lake Erie about eight to 10 miles northwest of downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The funding was awarded to Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) for its “Icebreaker” project that will consist of six 3.45 megawatt turbines (20.7 MW).
“Lake Erie is the Saudi Arabia of wind, and today’s award should be a gusher for northern Ohio,” Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09) said in a recent statement. “This wind power project will begin to unleash Lake Erie’s full renewable power potential and contribute to creating a more competitive energy marketplace. LEEDCo’s innovative vision can help transform energy production and distribution for northern Ohio’s residents and thousands of businesses. Because Lake Erie serves both the U.S. and Canada this development also harkens toward a future that could link Ohio and Ontario in a new energy partnership.”
Acccording to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, LEEDCo’s decision to adopt the European-designed “Mono Bucket” foundation, which “eliminates pile driving in the bedrock below the lake bed,” might have played a role in DOE’s decision to fully fund the project. The total cost of the project is estimated to be around $120 million. In addition to previous federal grants totalling $10 million, Fred Olsen Renewables, the largest independent power producer in the United Kingdom, is expected to raise the remaining $70 million.
The nation’s first offshore wind farm is on schedule for completion later this year. The Block Island Wind Farm is located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Rhode Island. The 30-megawatt, five-turbine project is expected to produce more than 125,000 megawatt hours annually. The Lake Erie offshore wind farm is expected to be completed and operational by the end of 2018.