Environmentalists back 'Icebreaker'

The Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) says that its proposed six-turbine “Icebreaker” offshore pilot project has won support from several key local and national environmental groups.

In letters posted on LEEDCo's website, The Ohio Environmental Council, The Nature Conservancy, Environment Ohio, The Sierra Club, Mom's Clean Air Force, Ohio Interfaith Power & Light, and Earth Day Coalition praise Icebreaker as a responsible first step toward building a new clean energy industry in Ohio.

LEEDCo, a nonprofit organization, has a lease option with the state of Ohio for Lake Erie bottomlands located seven nautical miles (12.9km) from shore facing Cleveland. Water depth is about 62.3 feet (19 metres).

LEEDCo says that support from the environmental community is crucial for Icebreaker to secure the permits it needs to begin construction. The letters were included in recently filed permit applications with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Ohio Power Siting Board, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and several other state and federal regulatory agencies.

Those applications also included an environmental assessment determining that the pilot project poses no significant risk to the birds and bats that frequent the area.

Equally important for the project moving forward is financing.

Icebreaker was one of seven offshore pilot projects that each won $4m for initial engineering and design work under the US Energy Department’s Advanced Technology Demonstration Program.

In mid-May, DOE is scheduled to select two or three proposals for $46.6m in additional financing. The winners would be required to match that amount with their own money on a 1:1 basis. This money will be used to complete remaining engineering and design work, plus to help complete construction and grid integration of the pilot projects by the end of 2017.

LEEDCo has assembled a 12-member team of local experts and international partners to develop Icebreaker, the first US freshwater offshore wind farm.

Team members are Bayer MaterialScience, COWI, DNV KEMA, Eranti Engineering, Freshwater Wind, Great Lakes Energy Institute at Case Western Reserve University, McMahon DeGulis, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Offshore Design Engineering, Project Management Consultants, Siemens and URS.

"We are thrilled to have the strong support of the environmental community in Ohio," says LEEDCo president Lorry Wagner. “Their support increases our project's likelihood of success and validates our community-based approach to offshore wind development. We are dedicated to working with all stakeholders to ensure that this project is built responsibly."