It has been announced that the Ohio Power Siting Board will be holding a public hearing in downtown Cleveland for the proposed wind farm in Lake Erie.
This will be a valuable opportunity for supporters of clean renewable energy to express their views. The input that the OPSB receives will be crucial in
determining the progress of this visionary project.
Governor John Kasich has made good on a promise to veto legislation that would have prolonged a freeze on Ohio’s renewable-energy and energy-efficiency
standards, clearing the way for significant new clean energy investments.
The standards were initially introduced in a 2008 law that required utilities to make up 12.5 percent of their electricity mix with renewable energy sources by 2025, and cut electricity consumption through efficiency programs by 22 percent by the same year. Then in 2014, legislators passed a bill placing a two-year hold on the mandates for the state to conduct a policy review.
Earlier this month, the Ohio state legislature passed HB 554, which set a renewable energy target of 7.5 percent by 2021, but made compliance with the state’s clean energy standards voluntary for the next two years. Critics argued that making the standards optional would have the same effect as another two-year freeze, and would further weaken Ohio’s clean energy market.
H.B. 554 also made it easier for utilities to comply with energy efficiency targets by “banking” early efficiency gains, which some lawmakers and consumer groups said would increase costs for electricity customers, who ultimately fund the program.
With Governor Kasich’s veto, the original clean energy standards are set to be reinstated on January 1, 2017.
Kasich, who repeatedly warned lawmakers that he did not want to extend the freeze, said approving the bill would have undermined the state’s ability to attract business and create new employment opportunities.
"Job creators have attributed their reasons for expanding, growing and creating jobs in Ohio to, among other things, our state’s stable fiscal health, jobs-friendly tax climate and sound regulatory policies -- as well as our state’s wide range of energy generation options," he said, in a statement. "HB 554 risks undermining this progress by taking away some of those energy generation options, particularly the very options most prized by the companies poised to create many jobs in Ohio in the coming years, such as high technology firms."
Seven major Ohio employers, including Whirlpool, Nestlé, Clif Bar and the National Association of Energy Service Companies praised Kasich for defending the standards in a joint statement released by Ceres.
“Through your veto of HB 554, you have sent a clear market signal that clean energy jobs, investment and innovation are welcome in Ohio,” the statement reads. “Businesses like ours rely on renewable energy and energy efficiency standards in order to cut costs, avoid energy price volatility and stay competitive.”
The veto was also greeted with cheers from environmental groups and cleantech industry advocates.
Before the freeze was implemented, Ohio’s standards supported more than 25,000 jobs, saved Ohioans more than $1 billion on their electricity bills and slashed air pollution in the Buckeye State, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. “With the state’s renewable and efficiency standards back in place, Ohio can reclaim its spot as a clean energy leader, clearing the way for well-paying jobs, millions in investment, and healthier air for all,” said Dick Munson, EDF’s director of Midwest clean energy.
A recent study by EDF and the Nature Conservancy found that increasing Ohio’s mix of energy efficiency and clean energy would create between 82,300 and 136,000 new jobs and provide customer savings between $28.8 and $50.9 million by 2030.
A separate analysis conducted by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute found that meeting Ohio’s energy needs with a combination of renewable energy, energy efficiency and natural gas would save the state $3.3 billion by 2027.
Ted Ford, president of the state-level business association Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, said that Michigan has attracted over $1.1 billion in renewable energy investments over the past three years, while Ohio has been idling. “With this veto, Ohio can begin to move forward with sensible energy policy next year -- one that can bring back advanced energy jobs and investment,” he said.
HB 554 passed with support from Republican lawmakers, led by State Senator Bill Seitz, who referred to the mandates as “socialist policies.”
Other lawmakers said they didn’t want to chain Ohio to clean energy standards with a new Republican administration taking control of the White House.
”We have a new federal administration coming in that could make a lot of different impacts,” said Republican House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, the Toledo Blade reports. “We shouldn’t be stuck in a mandate.”
Support for the bill was not universal, however. Republican lawmakers in regions where the wind and solar industries have taken hold chose to side with Democrats in opposing the legislation.
The Ohio state legislature could override Kasich's veto with a three-fifths majority vote, but failed to meet this threshold when HB 554 passed the House (56-41) and Senate (18-13) earlier this month.
Middough, a nationally ranked 65-year-old locally-based engineering company, has been chosen to design a facility to move high-voltage power from the planned wind farm in Lake Erie to Cleveland Public Power's system. Details here.
Tom McNeilan, an engineering consultant hired to analyze the lake bed, together with a team from TDI-Brooks International of Texas, are taking soil samples from the lake bed. These will be used to determine the best route for the cable that will be buried beneath the lake bed, to connect the wind turbines to the Cleveland Public Power substation on North Marginal Road, just east of Burke Lakefront Airport. Details at: Impact 2016: The path to green energy
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.
Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur on May 27 announced that "Cleveland’s Wind Project qualifies for a [U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)] grant of $40 million in additional funds” to construct turbines on Lake Erie, "unlocking the tremendous offshore wind energy potential of the Great Lakes, which represents 20 percent of the United States’ total offshore wind energy capacity."
Fred Olsen Renewables, the largest independent power producer in the United Kingdom and the fifth largest in Europe, is expected to raise the remaining $70 million. Fred Olsen Renewables is enthusiastic about the upcoming collaboration.
This exciting project began in 2006 as a citizen initiative, named Windustrious Cleveland. As a longtime resident of the city, I have deep respect and affection for its industrial core, and regret that much of it is now underutilized. Ten years ago I realized that, a few miles offshore on Lake Erie, there were strong steady winds that could be used as a clean source of power. In doing so, Cleveland could create a new manufacturing center, involving the building, installing and maintaining of wind turbines. Many people, with a variety of skills, would find rewarding work. On top of that, such an installation would be the first offshore wind farm in fresh water in the world. Our city would take on a leadership position.
It was important to build grassroots as well as official support for this idea. With the aid of creative web designer, Dennis Yurich, I launched the Windustrious website. Jeff Moyer, an inspired composer, wrote and performed a beautiful theme melody for the project. Members of the public, as well as organizational and industry leaders, were encouraged to express their support, and were featured as Windustrious Champions on the website.
To push the project ahead, powerful voices were brought on board, including the influential Cleveland Foundation in 2006. Many public officials were lobbied, as well as heads of environmental and community organizations. I met and talked with members of the wind industry and other industry leaders. I wrote letters, gave presentations, and supported wind energy for Lake Erie at every opportunity. Ronn Richard, President of the the Cleveland Foundation, together with Bill Mason, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, created the Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force. Subsequently many studies were done to investigate the potential for installing a wind farm on the Lake. An official project, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo), was launched in 2009, and geological and further analyses were completed.
All the while, a growing number of Champions added their names and supportive comments to the site, increasing enthusiasm for the project at a multitude of different levels. As I said in a 2009 video, “If this project ever comes to fruition, I want to say thank you to all the Champions who helped to make it happen. You’ve done something very big — not just for Cleveland, but for the planet.”
The current exciting development was fostered by the climate of receptivity and creativity that we initiated. DOE gave small grants to the project at earlier stages, and has now decided that the project's standing among the various competing requests for funding now merits the really large grant that had always been on the horizon.
The green light given to this endeavor by the U.S. government is an enormous boost to the project. Some obstacles, however, may still pose challenges to the successful exploitation of Lake Erie’s powerful and steady wind resource. The lake is the shallowest of all the Great Lakes, which greatly facilitates the placement of turbine bases, but the lake bottom is not as dense and firm as might be wished. This is where the technology developed by Universal Foundation (a company majority owned by Fred Olsen Ocean) comes into play. Their "suction bucket" foundation permits firm anchoring on even the softest of underwater terrains. This is important, as the fresh water of Lake Erie can freeze in a severe winter, imposing appreciable stress on the wind turbine's tower.
The outlook is thus now rosy for the development of the substantial wind resource that Lake Erie represents. In the words of Jeff Moyer's rousing invocation to wind power:
Now we vision mighty turbines
To sustain a cleaner time,
The Lake's turbines are the answer
But the choice is yours and mine.
There is wind on the water
There is power in the breeze
There is wind on the water
See the turbines spin increase.
Wind on the water,
There is wind on the water,
There is wind on the water, evermore.
Lead image credit: Mark Goebel | Flickr
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The U.S. Department of Energy is advancing another $3.7 million to the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. to continue engineering work on a proposed wind turbine project in Lake Erie about seven to 10 miles northwest of downtown Cleveland.
"This additional funding will support LEEDCo's offshore wind research and development progress and work associated with permitting, ... [and with an interconnection] agreement, installation and operations and a maintenance plan," the DOE wrote in a memo to the Ohio Congressional delegation.
The grant is the third the DOE has awarded to LEEDCo, bringing the total federal funding to $10.7 million. Previous grants have helped pay for the development of foundation engineering designs.
The energy department made LEEDCo an alternate or runner-up in 2014 when it announced it would be awarding $47 million grants to offshore projects in the Atlantic Ocean.
But those projects have run into engineering and political problems while LEEDCo has continued to work on the hard engineering involved in placing wind turbines in fresh water, where ice poses an extra foundation problem.
LEEDCo is hoping the energy department will now declare it a finalist and move a primary grant to the lake project since the ocean projects have not met the government's rigorous engineering development schedule.
LEEDCo's decision last year to partner with Norwegian wind developer Fred.Olsen Renewables, the largest independent power producer in the United Kingdom and the fifth largest in Europe, should help.
Fred.Olsen has incorporated a U.S. subsidiary and intends to buy LEEDCo's assets. In the mean time the Norwegian developer has been paying some of the bills.
The $3.7 million DOE grant depends on the LEEDCo and Fred.Olsen partnership providing a $1.9 million cost share, according to a DOE memo, making the total funding now available nearly $5.6 million.
David Karpinski, an engineer and LEEDCo vice president, said the DOE had indicated in November that the project was on track to receive the $3.7 million. "This grant will take us through another year of detailed engineering work," he said. "Fred.Olsen is contributing a cost share now."
Karpinski said the goal now is to complete detailed electrical and mechanical engineering designs -- everything from the wiring and transformers, to underwater cables, to exact foundation specifications and even details as small as ladders on the turbine foundations.
The goal is to have the wind turbines built and functioning by the end of 2018, he said.
U.S. Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the ranking member of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, said her goal at this point is to convince the DOE to make the LEEDCo project a finalist and eligible for major future federal funding.
"LEEDCo has achieved significant milestones and overcome all of the weaknesses identified in DOE's  project evaluations," she said in a statement issued late Wednesday. "This ... project will begin to unleash Lake Erie's full renewable power potential and contribute to creating a more competitive energy marketplace."
As originally conceived when the Cleveland Foundation awarded the first grant to the project a decade ago, off-shore Lake wind farms were thought of as having the potential to generate hundreds, if not thousands, of megawatts -- as much as a fleet of conventional power plants, either coal or nuclear.
The idea was that such a development would have a good chance of creating thousands of manufacturing jobs in Northeast Ohio.
That goal has not disappeared.
LEEDCo is aiming to build a 20-megawatt demonstration project, not a commercial wind farm. In other words, this is a proof-of-concept project.
Current cost estimates, including the research and development already under way, are between $120 million and $128 million. Fred.Olsen Renewables is expecting to raise about a third of that money through private investors. The company is talking to banks, both here and in Europe to finance the remainder.
LEEDCo plans to use six turbines designed for off-shore wind farms around the world on foundations designed to withstand ocean wind and current conditions.
What makes the LEEDCo project different is that it would be the first off-shore fresh water project, meaning the foundation designs would have to be able to withstand ice on the surface as well as underwater ice floes and ice dams.
In the five years since Ontario scrapped all its plans for wind farms on the Great Lakes because we needed more scientific research on them, the government went four years without commissioning any.
Once upon a time, way back in 2009, the province’s Green Energy Act seemed to make it a priority to get windmills built in Ontario waters, as part of a big brave plan to make Ontario a world leader in renewable electricity. We’d kickstart a domestic green-power industry by using ourselves as guinea pigs.
In 2011, the provincial government gave up. It cancelled all the offshore wind projects then in development and put a moratorium on new ones. The lack of documentation around that major government decision is now under investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police, and is the subject of a $500-million lawsuit by Trillium Power Wind Corp., which saw its plan for a wind farm in Lake Ontario off Kingston vaporized by a press release one February morning.
“We were the poster child,” says Trillium’s chief executive John Kourtoff. Trillium was an Ontario-based company trying to give life to the Liberal government’s dream of an Ontario-based industry in wind and solar power. “Till the government came along and cut the bootstraps.”
“We’re taking a cautious and a responsible approach to offshore wind to allow for the development of research and co-ordination,” Premier Kathleen Wynne told the legislature on Wednesday. “The minister of the environment is doing some of that research, looking at the issue to ensure that we protect the health and safety of people and of the environment. We look forward to additional research coming forward, and we stand behind our cautious and responsible approach to offshore wind energy.”
The world has numerous wind farms in ocean waters, primarily in Europe, though ones in lakes are still rare.
You can put up bigger turbines far from neighbours, generating more power while reducing complaints and objections — even a big offshore wind farm can be just specks on the horizon instead of a big thrumming thing close to farms or country homes. Like oceans, the Great Lakes have open space that allows high and reliable winds. Waves and tides on lakes are less of an engineering problem than on oceans.
(Lakes have fish and birds, too, they’re more susceptible to ice, and some people are as protective of their lake views as others are of their rural landscapes. Wind farms on lakes are not worry-free.)
Trillium’s plan was to take maximum advantage of a spot on Lake Ontario, in shallow water but about 15 kilometres from the nearest land, with an underwater cable to plug into the grid at an existing transformer station. It intended to build a wind farm capable of generating about 600 megawatts, triple the capacity of Ontario’s biggest wind farm on land today and equivalent to a standard nuclear reactor.
The 2011 cancellation was devastating, but not the first time Ontario’s offshore wind industry had been whipped around.
In 2007, which was an election year, the Ontario government suspended wind-farm developments in the Great Lakes, awaiting further scientific research. At the time, a proposal for a string of windmills in Lake Ontario was a political problem for the government. The 60 windmills would have been only a couple of kilometres out, easily visible from shore, and would have run from east Toronto to suburban Ajax.
Three months after the election, the government lifted that moratorium. “The information we have acquired will help us and wind developers make better-informed decisions on offshore wind power projects,” said the environment minister at the time, Donna Cansfield. They’d studied each of the lakes, devised rules for protecting them and the life in them, and it was time to roll.
In 2011, which was an election year, the government stopped Great Lakes wind-farm work again. Only this time, any application already underway was dead and all agreements to let companies use lakebeds were torn up. Everything was cancelled, not just paused. Trillium’s financing deal, hours away from being signed, was dead.
The government said it wanted to do yet more science, and especially learn from two lake-based windfarms, one in Sweden and one in development on the American side of Lake Erie. (The Netherlands has had small inland-lake wind farms since the 1990s, but studying those wasn’t on the agenda.)
“When there is greater scientific certainty, consideration of offshore wind development will resume,” the government’s notice said.
So what science did the province pursue?
The Ministry of the Environment got three reports about windfarming in freshwater lakes a little later in 2011. Two were about protecting fish, one about “coastal engineering.”
In January 2015, nearly four years after killing offshore wind developments, the government hired experts to conduct two new studies.
“One report will seek the best available science pertaining to the prediction of noise impacts at land-based receptors from the operation of offshore wind turbines,” said ministry spokesman Lindsay Davidson — as in, will you be able to hear windmills out on the lake if you’re standing on land? That’s a $51,000 project, he said.
“The other will consider the decommissioning of offshore wind turbines and ancillary equipment at the end of their useful life without causing adverse effects to the surrounding environment,” Davidson said. That one’s costing $277,000.
When the environment ministry tendered for the studies, it said it expected conducting them would take six to nine months. Fifteen months later, they’re still in progress. Davidson says the ministry expects to release them by the end of this year.
In the meantime, companies that do wind farms on water have wandered off, says Robert Hornung, the president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
“What’s happened since the moratorium’s been put in place is that those who had an interest in that have started to look to opportunities in other markets. Today we still have no offshore wind operating in North America,” he says.
One project in the Atlantic off Delaware is probably closest to fruition, he says. Other states are pushing ocean-based projects, too: some Massachusetts legislators want to jumpstart offshore wind power there by requiring their utilities to buy thousands of megawatts of power from ocean windmill companies, creating an estimated $10-billion market. British Columbia and Newfoundland have ones that have proceeded in fits and starts.
Since nobody has done any work on offshore wind farms in Ontario since the 2011 moratorium, Kourtoff figures Trillium’s Lake Ontario project is by default still the most advanced. But the company also has a poisonous relationship with the government.
Suppose some way could be found to settle the civil case and the government decided to overlook the police investigation Trillium triggered. “Could we bring back the team? Absolutely. It would take us a few months but we could do it,” Kourtoff says. The trouble would be funding it.
“If they said, ‘Now, we’re going to allow offshore (wind projects),’ who in the world would put money into it unless there were ironclad guarantees?” Kourtoff asks. “In this case, the government would have to be a partner to give any credibility to the international partners who would put up the $2 billion. They’re not going to take any permitting or regulatory risk.”
Hornung is a bit more circumspect but his view is pretty similar: “Any time there’s policy uncertainty or policy change, that’s a negative signal to investors,” he says.
Ontario doesn’t seem in any hurry to change that signal back.
Steve George, Senior Recruiter
Ohio News - "The Ground continues to Swell, for Offshore Wind Power on the Great Lakes"
Around Northeast Ohio there is great interest and support amongst the public at large, and from many businesses and organizations, for the move to make use of the free, clean and everlasting renewable energy blowing out there on Lake Erie - and beyond. A four minute YouTube video demonstrates this very effectively - and shows that this potential can excite even the youngest amongst us!, http://youtu.be/ww2tK9Aoe1I .
What began as a citizen effort in 2006 gave rise to an official project, LEEDCo in 2009. This non-profit corporation has performed a number of studies and engaged in many outreach efforts. It is now in negotiation with Fred.Olsen Renewables - a very large international corporation, based in Norway. Fred.Olsen aims to take over the LEEDCo project, and plans to rely on U.S. manufacturers and local labor to build this installation - and future projects in the Lake, http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2015/12/norwegian_wind_company_to_buil.html
Our Windustrious Future preview image
Our Windustrious Future
Windustrious Cleveland http://www.windustrious.org
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A Norwegian wind farm developer with experience in the North Sea will build the $120 million pilot wind farm planned for Lake Erie.
Fred.Olsen Renewables, the largest independent power producer in the United Kingdom and the fifth largest in Europe, has already partnered with the non-profit Lake Erie Energy Development Co., or LEEDCo.
The two companies have signed an agreement that Fred.Olsen will buy LEEDCo's research assets early next year, said Lorry Wagner, LEEDCo president. He declined, at this time, to reveal the selling price.
LEEDCo. has been planning a six-turbine pilot project in Lake Erie that will be located eight to 10 miles northwest of downtown Cleveland and generate about 20 megawatts of electricity at peak output.
The company has a 50-year lease from the state for the project and is working to complete the more than one dozen permits it needs from federal and state agencies.
The turbines will be slightly larger than the one at Lincoln Electric near Interstate 90, but from shore they will appear to be about the size of half a dime on the horizon.
Fred.Olsen has already incorporated its U.S. subsidiary, Fred.Olsen Renewables USA, that will be headquartered in Cleveland and direct future development.
Fred.Olsen intends to pay for the project with loans it is now discussing with a Cleveland bank and with its own cash.
The company plans to rely on U.S. manufacturers and local labor to build this project and future projects in the Lake. The construction of the pilot project alone is expected to pump $80 million into the regional economy.
LEEDCo's mission has been to prove wind farms can work in the lake and create the conditions to help Northeast Ohio become a wind turbine manufacturing center -- supplying turbines and foundations and installation vessels not only to Great Lakes wind farms, but also to those off the East Coast, which does not have the manufacturing capabilities of the Midwest.
David Brunt, CEO of Fred.Olsen Renewables, said Lake Erie has the long-term potential generating capacity of about five gigawatts of electricity. That's roughly equal to the output capacity of five large nuclear power plants.
"We see potential in this. And we think a pilot project is a great way to start and also the best way for local industry to get involved," he said in an interview.
Fred.Olsen has already on track to spend "several million dollars" in the project, he said, but declined to be more specific. The company paid for the crews and equipment that drilled core samples from the lake bed last summer.
The project is in-line to receive up to $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy next summer, said Wagner, because some of the ocean-based projects originally designated for the big federal grants are failing for one reason or another and won't get them.
"The DOE needs a success. We are clearly the one project in the country that can deliver that," he said.
The two companies expect the six-turbine LEEDCo pilot project will be generating electricity by the summer of 2018. That power will flow through a Lake bed cable to a substation at Cleveland Public Power and then into the regional grid where any company can buy it.
CPP has agreed to buy 5 megawatts of the 20 megawatts the project will generate. Wagner said American Municipal Power will buy some of the power as will the Lakeshore counties that have joined LEEDCo.
But most of the turbine project power is still up for sale, and Brunt and Wagner said the companies are looking for other utilities or power companies to sign long-term power purchase agreements.
Wagner recently told members of Cleveland City Council's utilities committee that LEEDCo has approached FirstEnergy "many many times and at this point they have refused to participate."
Though the electricity will be more expensive than electricity available from traditional power plants, it will only be a small percentage of the electricity CPP delivers. Residential customers will see an 87-cent increase in their monthly bills, said CPP Commissioner Ivan Henderson.
Wagner said the price of the project's power will be above market prices for the first 10 to 15 years while the company pays off the construction debt but far below market prices after that.
Cleveland Public Power has set a voluntary goal that 15 to 20 percent of the power it sells come from renewable sources, said Henderson.
A state rule requiring Ohio's investor-owned utilities to source 12.5 percent of their power from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2025 is currently frozen following a utility lobbying campaign led by FirstEnergy to repeal the law.
Lawmakers must enact new state renewable energy rules by the end of 2016 or see the old rules come back to life. Gov. John Kasich has threatened to veto any new legislation that permanently eliminates renewable energy mandates.
Edited by the author to clarify LEEDCo's mission and Fred.Olsen Renewables status as a wind farm developer.