Jun
11
2010

Great Lakes potential for offshore windpower

Lake Erie offshore wind potential
Lake Erie offshore wind potentialCourtesy Less Salty

Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo)

LEEDCo is leading efforts to build, install, and deploy an offshore wind farm on Lake Erie. An initial five wind generators (20-megawatts, enough to power 16,000 homes) are to be located near Cleveland, Ohio, with a 2012 completion target. The expected cost is projected to be $100 million.

The 20 MW venture is just the initial phase. If the test phase is successful, LEEDCo would like to see the Lake Erie wind farm generating up to 1000 MW of energy by 2020. ConsumerEnergyReport

LEEDCo recently announced a long-term partnership with GE who will provide the 5 direct-drive wind turbines for LEEDCo’s 20-megawatt offshore wind project.

Obstacles to the Great Lakes wind project

Many hoops and hurdles need to be traversed before obtaining major financial commitments. (learn more at Cleveland.com

  • Approval from at least 16 federal and state agencies, including the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. LEEDCo has yet to file any permit applications but does meet weekly with an interagency task force, the Lake Erie Offshore Wind Team, that Strickland created 18 months ago.
  • Concerns that the turbines will harm birds and bats. A $350,000 study is under way, including radar, laser and acoustic identification of bird and bat flight paths. The proposed site will need a four-mile radius of air space in which few if any birds have been detected.
  • How to anchor the towers in Lake Erie. Engineers must determine whether to sink steel piles down to bedrock, typically some 60 to 80 feet below the "glacial till" on the lake bottom. If pilings are needed, officials are uncertain whether the region still has the capacity to produce enough of the heavy steel that would be required.
  • A way to get the power to shore. Underwater cables from the turbines to shore would need right-of-way approval from the state.
  • The impact of winter ice. Plans call for an ice cream-cone shaped foundation at the water's level, which forces the ice down and breaks it, hopefully saving on cost, LEEDCo's Wagner said.
  • A means of paying for the project. Financing details are still tenuous -- and could be more complicated than the engineering, said Wagner.
  • Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

    bryan kennedy's picture

    This sure sounds like a cool project, but man that is a long and difficult check list before this project starts to look profitable.

    posted on Fri, 06/11/2010 - 3:04pm
    ARTiFactor's picture
    ARTiFactor says:

    I think GE is hoping it will eventually lead to big profits. Those generators are huge, too. Four times the capacity of regular ones.

    posted on Fri, 06/11/2010 - 3:14pm
    Shana's picture
    Shana says:

    WOOT to my home state! I think it would be pretty great if Lake Erie--once so polluted--could become a source of renewable energy.

    More on the bird issue:
    "Wind energy development’s overall impact on birds is extremely low (<1 of 30,000) compared to other human-related causes, such as buildings, communications towers, traffic, and house cats."

    Source: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy05osti/37657.pdf
    (you may have to reload this link if it looks like gobbledygook)

    posted on Wed, 06/23/2010 - 11:59am

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