Cuyahoga County seeks to buy wind power indirectly from LEEDCo, planned solar array, July 22, 2016

By John Funk, The Plain Dealer
July 22, 2016

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cuyahoga County wants to support the wind turbine project in Lake Erie by purchasing a portion of the output for the next 20 years.

To do that, the county plans to switch 15 of its buildings, including the Justice Center complex, to Cleveland Public Power, which would buy the power for the county from the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., or LEEDCo, and re-sell it at cost to the county.

CPP has already agreed to buy 25 percent of the nearly 21 megawatt output of the six-turbine pilot project. The turbines will be built 7 to 10 miles offshore northwest of downtown and be barely visible from the city.

County Executive Armond Budish has asked County Council to authorize the administration to negotiate a power purchase agreement with CPP. Council is expected to assign the request to a committee at its upcoming Tuesday meeting.

Budish said the deal, at a discounted rate, would be expected to save the county $2.5 million over 25 years and create about 500 new jobs in the next 10 years.

Mike Foley, the county's director of sustainability, said by law the county cannot contract for more than 10 years, but LEEDCo needs at least a 16-year contract in order to meet the terms of the $40 million grant the U.S. Department of Energy has awarded the project. He said the county anticipates signing a second 10-year contract at the end of the first decade of operation.

Foley said the county would also ask for legislation in the fall authorizing it to negotiate with a still-to-be-determined investor of a 4 megawatt solar array that would be located on a 25-acre brownfield.

"This would be a test case for large-scale urban solar," said Foley. "We would be combining solar and wind and supporting locally generated clean energy."

The village of Minster in north central Ohio had a similar-sized solar farm built in 2015. An independent investment group paid for the project, taking advantage of a generous 30 percent tax credit and accelerated depreciation for the first five years.

Such arrangements allow for the city or county to purchase the array after the depreciation has lowered the market price. Solar panels are guaranteed 20-to-25 years.

Cuyahoga County expects to buy nearly 9 percent of the roughly 21 megawatt output of the pilot wind farm the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo) is planning to build in Lake Erie in the summer of 2018. In this photo taken in the summer of 2015, the Farrell 256, a 200-foot crane barge owned and operated by the Donjon Marine Co. of Erie, Pa., anchored about 10 miles offshore carrying a crew of geotechnical engineers who mapped lake floor, determined its soil characteristics and too scores of core samples for detailed analysis. (Courtesy DOSECC Exploration Services)