CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Icebreaker Windpower, Inc., the company created by Fred. Olsen Renewables, USA, to build a pilot wind farm in Lake Erie, has filed formal applications with the Ohio Power Siting Board.
The company is proposing to build a demonstration six-turbine wind farm in the lake about 8 to 10 miles northwest of downtown at an estimated cost of $126 million.
Each of the six turbines will be slightly larger but much more powerful than the one at Lincoln Electric near Interstate 90. From shore, they will appear to be about the size of half a dime on the horizon.
The farm will have a total generating capacity of 20.7 megawatts, small by power plant standards but large enough to prove the concept that lake-based turbines can be built here and can stand up to lake currents and ice floes.
The application and its 13 supporting exhibits containing test results and engineering analyses is nearly 1,900 pages long.
The documents cover everything from the environmental impact of the construction to the farm's impact on birds, bats and aquatic species, to the engineering supporting the construction of the turbine platforms and the buried cable that will deliver the power from the farm to a Cleveland Public Power substation (popularly called the "whale building") just north of the Innerbelt.
Icebreaker hopes to win approval from the siting board this summer, though opponents could alter that schedule if they retain lawyers and formally intervene to fight the application.
The siting board has already held an informal public meeting here about the project. The agency will now schedule at least one formal public hearing here to take testimony for and against the project. A court reporter will make a record of the hearing.
As in any regulatory case, the siting board has already begun accepting written comments from the public in the case.
Icebreaker has permit applications pending with the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard. The federal agencies held a joint public meeting on the project last fall.
We think a pilot project is a great way to start and also the best way for local industry to get involved."
The DOE has awarded the project $50 million, deliverable in a series of small grants as the company meets the agency's timetable, design requirements and environmental assessments. So far, the DOE has invested about $10 million in the project, said David Karpinsi, vice president of operations for LEEDCo.
Fred. Olsen Renewables USA is preparing to buy LEEDCo's intellectual assets (think environmental impact assessments and other studies). Fred. Olsen has already paid for geological testing of the lake bed and other impact studies demanded by regulators.
LEEDCo was incorporated as a non-profit in 2009 to seek federal funding and begin a search for off-shore wind turbine engineering companies and contractors, turbine suppliers and companies capable of doing environmental and biological impacts of the projects.
The project's roots go back to 2005 when the Cleveland Foundation and Cuyahoga County created and funded a task force to explore the idea that building lake-based turbines could serve as a way to create a wind turbine manufacturing center here for all of the Great Lakes.
Federal studies show that the "best winds" in Ohio for wind turbines occur over the lake.
Fred. Olsen Renewables, USA, a subsidiary of Oslo, Norway-based Fred. Olsen Renewables, hopes eventually to build hundreds of turbines in the lake, said CEO David Brunt.
Future projects would, however, be subject to the same rigorous scrutiny and permitting procedure that Icebreaker has undergone.
In an earlier interview, Brunt 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.
The siting board application is careful to point out that at this time the company has no plans to build additional turbines at the site.
The project's mono bucket foundations were developed in Europe for wind farms in the North Sea. The foundations are designed to work their way into the sea or lake bottom without pile driving. The giant steel buckets will be fabricated here.
MHI Vestas Offshore Wind, based in Denmark, will supply the ocean-tested turbines.
IceBreaker anticipates hiring hundreds of people when construction begins in the summer of 2018 and has been working with the Cleveland-based Great Lakes Wind Network to find subcontractors and workers now.
The LEEDCo website and the GLWN website are continuing to offer early registration. LEEDCo held a well-attended meeting in December to explain to contractors, engineering firms and other companies what it will take to bid for the work.
Once built, the wind farm will require just 28 employees, according to LEEDCo, which will result in $1.6 million in wages and $6.7 million in "total economic output" annually.
Cleveland Public Power has agreed to take 25 percent of the total power generated. Another 30 percent will go to various municipal power companies served by American Municipal Power. Formal contracts are pending. Cuyahoga County has agreed to purchase about 8 percent of the output. The rest of the electricity will flow into the regional high-voltage grid.
Because the total megawatt output of the wind farm is relatively small, it is not expected to have a noticeable impact on customer bills.