Lake Erie Offshore Renewable Project Has Wind At Its Back
Department of Energy Awards LEEDCo $3.7 million in 3rd Phase Funding
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), today praised the award of an additional tranche of $3.7 million by the federal Department of Energy to the Cleveland-based non-profit Lake Erie Energy Development Co., or LEEDCo. This project is the only Great Lakes proposal competing to complete the pre-construction phase of the nation’s first offshore wind demonstration project in Lake Erie, a freshwater ecosystem.
“Lake Erie is the Saudi Arabia of wind, and today’s award should be a gusher for northern Ohio,” said Kaptur. “This wind power project will begin to unleash Lake Erie’s full renewable power potential and contribute to creating a more competitive energy marketplace. As a new foundation stone with potential to produce up to 20 megawatts of power from natural resources, LEEDCo’s innovative vision can help transform energy production and distribution for northern Ohio’s residents and tens of thousands of businesses. Because Lake Erie serves both the US and Canada this development also harkens toward a future that could link Ohio and Ontario in a new energy partnership.”
Kaptur is the Ranking Member on the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, which has funding and oversight responsibility over federal energy programs.
LEEDCo’s pilot project of six large wind turbines, located eight to 10 miles northwest of downtown Cleveland, will generate enough electricity initially—enough to power approximately 17,000 homes.
This is the third such award for the non-profit LEEDCo, currently considered an “alternate” project, rather than a “finalist” project administered by the DOE Advanced Technology Demonstration Program.
The recent veto by New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie of a wind energy financing proposal essentially killed the future prospects of Cape May, NJ-based finalist Fishermen’s Energy proposal for its wind project off the coast of Atlantic City.
The demise of the New Jersey wind project should clear the way for the Lake Erie-based project to be upgraded to a finalist, making the project eligible for additional federal wind funds. Since May 2014, LEEDCo has achieved significant milestones and overcome all of the weaknesses identified in DOE’s project evaluations.
“Convincing DOE to make the LEEDCo project a finalist is our next goal,” said Kaptur.
Today’s DOE funds represent the third and final phase of demonstration project funding for LEEDCo’s “Project Icebreaker Development Phase 3,” meant to completepermitting, engineering challenges, securing purchasing agreement contracts, and soliciting bids for construction and materials. With these funds, LEEDCo will have received $10.7 million in federal support to date.
“Cleveland Public Power already receives about 1.5 percent of its energy from hydropower from Niagara,” said Kaptur. “Coupled with this innovative, renewable wind-based project, our region moves closer to securing a modern energy grid along Lake Erie's south coast to transform energy production and distribution. This third step is a real turning point.”
LEEDCo has partnered with Fred Olsen Renewables and is headquartered in Cleveland. The venture has a 50-year lease from Ohio for the offshore project and is working to complete the remaining permits it needs from federal and state agencies. Moreover, LEEDCo has secured offtake commitments for 65 percent of future output through power purchase agreements.
Kaptur continued: “The strength of the Icebreaker project, as opposed to its competitors, lies in LEEDCo’s commitment to leverage offshore wind energy with local Ohio-based jobs in the steel, construction, and transportation industries. Today’s announcement and the demise of the New Jersey wind project make it possible to upgrade LEEDCo to a finalist so they can get the turbines in the water as soon as possible.”
The LEEDCo project is the only freshwater, wind project in development in the United States and will play an important role in unlocking the tremendous offshore wind energy potential of the Great Lakes which represents 20 percent of the United States’ total offshore wind energy capacity.