WASHINGTON, D.C. – A proposed wind farm on Lake Erie has failed to win major federal funding that would have provided nearly $50 million toward the goal of producing wind-powered electricity in a few years.
While the so-called Icebreaker project of the Cleveland-based Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., or LEEDCo, shows promise, the U.S. Department of Energy appeared to judge three other offshore wind energy projects as closer to being ready. Those projects, off the coasts of New Jersey, Virginia and Oregon, will get up to $47 million each.
The Department of Energy, or DOE, says that each of these could demonstrate that offshore wind energy is a realistic and nearly immediate goal. Each is expected to produce power for the nation's electrical grid by 2017.
LEEDCo got a lesser prize of about $3 million to continue finalizing its designs. It earlier won $4 million and had raised another $1 million in private funding.
The significantly larger grants will go Fishermen's Energy for five 5-megawatt (5 million watts) direct-drive wind turbines three miles off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey; Principle Power for five 6-megawatt direct-drive turbines 18 miles off the coast of Coos Bay, Oregon, and Dominion Virginia Power for two 6-megawatt direct-drive turbines 26 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The New Jersey project will feature a twisted jacket foundation, simpler and easier to build than a traditional offshore wind foundation, the DOE said. Three legs are twisted around a central column, giving it a trussed design that looks like a radio tower, federal officials say.
The Oregon project will use a triangle-shaped semi-submersible, floating foundation, installed in water more than 1,000-feet deep. It will have a ballast system to keep it stable. This holds promise for development in other Pacific Coast areas with significant wind but with water depths too great for traditional bottom-mounted foundations.
The Virginia project will use a twisted-jacket foundation and will test a hurricane-resilient design to ensure that offshore wind is a sustainable energy source in hurricane-prone Atlantic waters, DOE said.
These were drawn from six demonstration projects including LEEDCO's. Although LEEDCo and others lost out, the Department of Energy singled out LEEDCo and a University of Maine project for offering "additional innovative approaches that, with additional engineering and design, will further enhance the properties of American offshore wind technology options."
LEEDCo expressed disappointment, issuing a statement but declining to discuss the matter further. The $3 million award "will allow LEEDCo to continue making progress on its groundbreaking engineering and technology development work as we evaluate other options for moving the project forward," said the statement from company president Lorry Wagner.
The statement said that LEEDCo continues "to believe in a bright future for offshore wind power in the Great Lakes and in the technical and commercial viability of our Lake Erie-based project. Our world class team has a strong track record of overcoming obstacles, and we are confident that together we will find new and innovative solutions to this latest challenge."
LeedCo hopes to eventually build six turbines, each generating 3 megawatts on a site seven miles northwest of downtown Cleveland. The power would be transmitted in a buried cable to Cleveland Public Power's substation on North Marginal Road near Burke Lakefront Airport. The turbines would be built on "monopile" foundations, which the nonprofit LEEDCo says are widely used with wind turbines in the North Sea.
The federal money would not pay for the entire project, as it would not for any of the projects. About $80 million more would have to come from outsiders including European banks.
President Barack Obama's administration says wind power is among the panoply of sources required for what it calls an "all-of-the-above" energy policy.
In announcing the three winners, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, "Offshore wind offers a large, untapped energy resource for the United States that can create thousands of manufacturing, construction and supply chain jobs across the country and drive billions of dollars in local economic investment. " The major grants announced today, Moniz said, "further this commitment -- bringing more clean, renewable energy to our homes and businesses, diversifying our energy portfolio, and reducing costs through innovation."