The fight to keep industrial wind turbines out of Lake Erie has become an international effort.
Environmental groups from Spain, France and the United Kingdom have now joined North American organizations in opposing a plan to build a pilot wind farm in western Lake Erie, near the Ohio shore, along the U.S. side of the border.
“I really feel there is a good chance of stopping it. Public outrage can do this,” said Sherri Lange, chief executive of North American Platform Against Wind Power, a Toronto-based coalition opposing wind farm development.
Known as the Icebreaker Project, the wind farm proposed for Lake Erie near Cleveland would involve the installation of six turbines to test the feasibility of building larger wind farms in the lake. It would be the first industrial wind farm in a fresh water lake in North America.
Ontario, meanwhile, has kept a moratorium slapped in place on offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes along its borders with the waterways.
Proponents have described Lake Erie as the Saudi Arabia of wind energy, with the potential for more than 1,000 wind turbines.
But the project has sparked intense opposition from a broad range of environmental groups who say the offshore turbines will disrupt migration routes for birds and bats, damage marine life and pose a pollution hazard.
Lange said she and others thought the Icebreaker Project had been defeated in 2014 after U.S. state officials cited a string of deficiencies, but then the project was given a $40-million grant earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Energy.
David Karpinski, vice president of operations for Leedco, the wind farm developer, said the project is continuing to move forward to gain the necessary government approvals.
“We are continuing to build momentum,” he said. “The detailed engineering is completed and we are moving into the commercial relationships for contractors to source and build what we need here.”
The current plan is to start construction the summer of 2018, Karpinski said.
Last week, the Ontario government said it has no plans to lift its moratorium on Great Lakes wind-farm development that had been imposed five years ago.
Industrial wind farms, with their highrise-sized turbines, have been deeply polarizing in Ontario, especially in the province’s southwest that is home to the largest wind farms and the most number of turbines. Some communities have declared themselves “unwilling hosts” for the projects, which Ontario’s Liberal government embraced with its green-energy law in 2009 as it took away local control over where the projects can be built.
Announced in the run-up to a provincial election, the Ontario government originally justified its moratorium on offshore wind development on the grounds there wasn’t enough scientific information on the potential impact of the turbines in the lakes.