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Icebreaker wind project proposed for Lake Erie needs to find more financing soon

If the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo), the non-profit behind Icebreaker, is not successful in securing additional financing by the end of the year, the Department of Energy will likely rescind what’s left of the $50 million grant it extended to LEEDCo nearly a decade ago, advocates said. That would almost certainly spell the end of the Icebreaker, said Will Friedman, president and CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Proponents of the Icebreaker wind project proposed for Lake Erie are working diligently to find the rest of the money necessary to bring the project to fruition.

Advocates have been talking with state legislators and others in Columbus to see if they can help with the long-delayed project, which calls for construction of six wind turbines in the lake eight to 10 miles off Cleveland.

If the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo), the non-profit behind Icebreaker, is not successful in securing additional financing by the end of the year, the Department of Energy will likely rescind what’s left of the $50 million grant it extended to LEEDCo nearly a decade ago, advocates said.

That would almost certainly spell the end of the Icebreaker, said Will Friedman, president and CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.

“I think it would be hard to reconstitute the project without that,” said Friedman, who is on the LEEDCo board and has taken over leadership of the nonprofit since the departure of former president David Karpinski.

If built, Icebreaker would be the first freshwater wind project in North America.

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – Proponents of the Icebreaker wind project proposed for Lake Erie are working diligently to find the rest of the money necessary to bring the project to fruition.

Advocates have been talking with state legislators and others in Columbus to see if they can help with the long-delayed project, which calls for construction of six wind turbines in the lake eight to 10 miles off Cleveland.

If the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo), the non-profit behind Icebreaker, is not successful in securing additional financing by the end of the year, the Department of Energy will likely rescind what’s left of the $50 million grant it extended to LEEDCo nearly a decade ago, advocates said.

That would almost certainly spell the end of the Icebreaker, said Will Friedman, president and CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.

“I think it would be hard to reconstitute the project without that,” said Friedman, who is on the LEEDCo board and has taken over leadership of the nonprofit since the departure of former president David Karpinski.

If built, Icebreaker would be the first freshwater wind project in North America.

It’s estimated that Icebreaker will cost about $173 million to finance and construct, Friedman said, and LEEDCo has only lined up a portion of the money. There is about $37 million remaining from the DOE grant, he said, and Cleveland Public Power has agreed to buy one third of the 20.7 megawatts of electricity that Icebreaker would generate.

That leaves a significant funding gap, he said, and while it’s imperative that LEEDCo find commitments to purchase all the power Icebreaker will generate, it’s not clear how that alone will be enough to allow the project to go forward.

“We’re just trying to come up with some ideas that might be acceptable,” Friedman said. " .... State help is crucial. I mean I just can’t emphasize that enough.”

LEEDCo is not saying state legislators need to cough up a chunk of money, he said, but “they could enable some help for the project that isn’t necessarily a direct grant from the state.”

Support could come from non-public sources, as well, he said. That could include Norwegian developer Fred. Olsen Renewables. It has been working with LEEDCo on the project, which is called Icebreaker in part because the technology would allow the turbines to be protected from a frozen lake.

Ronn Richard, chairman of LEEDCo and president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation, which has invested $4 million in Icebreaker over the years, said he had meetings with legislators and others in Columbus last week that included discussions about Icebreaker and “ways to move it forward.”

He declined to say who he met with or to provide specifics but said there were “some good conversations.”

Richard said a variety of scenarios are possible. Asked about the chance that surcharges could be placed on utility bills to help cover the cost, he said “that could be one possibility, if they were de minimus.”

Rep. Kent Smith of Euclid, an Icebreaker supporter is the ranking Democrat on the House Public Utilities Committee, said he met with Richard and that it is his understanding that Rep. James Hoops, a Republican from Napoleon who chairs the committee did as well.

Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer have reached out to Hoops for comment.

Ohio Sen. Matt Dolan, a Republican from Chagrin Falls who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he has approached state officials, including the state’s economic development arm JobsOhio about helping move the project along.

Dolan said he’s been trying to educate others about the value of the project in terms of the jobs it would create for the state and the attention it would bring to the Cleveland area.

The Republican-controlled legislature has showed little inclination to promote wind farms on land. Earlier this year, it passed Senate Bill 52, which gives counties the ability to veto large wind projects rather than leave approval up to the Ohio Public Utilities Commission. Most of the wind farms in Ohio are in the northwest quadrant of the state where wind is considered most favorable.

Proponents of SB 52 cited their belief that giant wind turbines disrupt the rural character of communities and take up land that might otherwise be used for development.

But advocates are hoping that an offshore demonstration project such as Icebreaker, where the turbines would not be very noticeable, will garner more support.

Friedman said he believes the concerns over property rights and setback issues that characterize the debate over wind farms on land are less of a concern when the turbines are “out in the lake where there’s nobody around.

Richard said Democrats and Republicans “might be more champions for this project because it’s offshore.”

Besides funding, there’s also one last legal hurdle for Icebreaker to get over before construction could begin.

In May of 2020, the Ohio Power Siting Board issued a “conditioned certificate” for the construction of the Icebreaker, but it was with a stipulation that the turbines would not be allowed to spin overnight during certain months out of concern for the impact on birds and bats. That stipulation was viewed by LEEDCo as a “poison pill” that would have prevented the project from moving ahead.

In September, the board lifted the stipulation, prompting a lawsuit from opponents who continue to assert that the turbines would be harmful to migratory birds. The Ohio Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Dec. 7.

“We’re operating under the assumption right now that that will go our way,” Friedman said.


Source: https://www.cleveland.com/n...

OCT 20 2021
http://www.windaction.org/posts/52907-icebreaker-wind-project-proposed-for-lake-erie-needs-to-find-more-financing-soon
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