By B.N. Frank
Offshore wind projects are considered controversial and not just because dead whales and other marine life keep washing up on beaches (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). The cost for development in the U.S. continues to increase as well (see 1, 2). Nevertheless, there are American lawmakers who still want to fund these projects (see 1, 2). Of course, others are refusing which has led to companies pulling the plug on them now including one in Ohio.
Lake Erie offshore wind project runs out of steam as board pauses effort
Despite efforts the LEEDCo board announced a temporarily pause to the Icebreaker Wind project.
The nearly 15-year effort to bring the first freshwater offshore wind farm in North America to Cleveland has been officially “paused” by the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo) board of directors.
The board cited “years of delays and obstacles” as the reason, according to a statement issued Friday, Dec. 8.
In 2009, LEEDCo’s Icebreaker Wind project set out to construct six turbines about 8 miles off the coastline of downtown Cleveland as part of a pilot program that would have made it the country’s first freshwater wind farm.
LEEDCo board member Will Friedman, president of the Port of Cleveland, said in a statement that he is disappointed about the suspension of the project, adding the project permits are still active and he hopes it will get back on track in the future.
“This pause is necessitated by a confluence of adverse circumstances and numerous delays resulting in a financial climate where the project’s commercial viability is in question,” he said.
Friedman said LEEDCo’s board is open to the possibility of other developer-owners taking over the project.
As part of the pause, a U.S. Department of Energy’s Office (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy grant of $50 million will be remitted, as LEEDCo is unable to meet the development milestones.
The $173 million energy generation project faced numerous challenges over the years—from private lakeshore residents, state regulators and environmental groups—that Friedman said delayed the project’s timeline and had a chilling effect on financing.
Once constructed, Icebreaker was projected to produce 20 megawatts of clean power, create more than 500 jobs and provide $250 million in economic benefits for the region.
As one of the first of its kind, the project initially went through a nearly three-year environmental assessment regarding bird migration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Despite a positive ruling by the EPA, in 2020 the American Bird Conservancy and Black Swamp Bird Observatory filed suit in federal court against the DOE, arguing the government had not properly regulated the environmental impacts of wind energy facilities.
In addition, the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) enacted what LEEDCo called a “project-killing condition,” mandating that Icebreaker would have to cease operations from sunset to sunrise during the period from March 1 to Nov. 1 to protect migratory birds and bats. That ruling was in opposition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s determination that the project posed “limited direct risk” to migratory birds.
The project also faced a lawsuit from two Bratenahl residents represented by attorneys bankrolled by Ohio coal producer Murray Energy Corp. The suit against the wind farm was heard by the Ohio Supreme Court, which eventually approved the wind farm permit in 2022 after years on the docket.
All of those delays led to “constrained economics for the project,” Friedman said. Coupled with higher interest rates, general inflation and “significantly increased capital costs, especially for materials like steel,” the offshore wind project became financially challenging.
LEEDCo’s private development partner, which was to construct and operate the project, ceased financial support for Icebreaker recently due to the numerous obstacles, according to the statement.
Ronn Richard, LEECCo board chair, said in a statement he continues to be optimistic about the creation of an offshore wind farm on Lake Erie “in his lifetime.”
“LEEDCo has conducted extensive, expert research about the environmental sustainability of offshore wind, laying the groundwork for future projects,” Richard said. “We have sparked a meaningful community conversation about the potential offshore wind can provide and the importance of renewable energy.”
Source: December 08, 2023 | Kim Palmer | crainscleveland.com
Opposition to wind farms – on land and offshore – continues to increase worldwide due to the numerous economic, environmental, health, and safety issues associated with them. Some world leaders have given up on wind projects altogether (along with other “green” projects) as have climate groups and developers.
Activist Post reports regularly about wind power and unsafe technologies. For more information, visit our archives.
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