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Cleveland wind interconnection study includes FirstEnergy; Ohio lacked aggression on EVs

Marc Lefkowitz  |  10/05/11 @ 3:08pm

Northeast Ohio's race to gain a foothold in offshore wind research and development will get a boost thanks to four Department of Energy grants totaling $2.7 million. It's part of a $43 million DOE grant program that aims to "speed technical innovations, lower costs, and shorten the timeline for deploying offshore wind energy systems."

In its quest to build the nation's first freshwater wind farm, Cleveland will look to the results of one grant in particular that deals with the impacts to FirstEnergy as it connects wind power from the lake to its substations and utility grid. Grants will also pay for a design that meets the challenges of citing wind turbines in shallow water conditions found in Lake Erie.

Case won $540,000 to evaluate potential impacts of offshore wind on the electric grid in the Great Lakes region and determine requirements on interconnection points, control systems, and the application of system reinforcements for different transmission system characteristics. CWRU Prof. Mario Garcia-Sanz and FirstEnergy, General Electric, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and PJM Interconnection will lead a three-year study of integrating 1,000MW of offshore wind into the FirstEnergy service area in the Great Lakes region.

The project's goal is to provide regional stakeholders with the knowledge base and capabilities to develop state-of-the-art, long-range strategies for mitigating the impact of offshore wind interconnection, as well as realizing the economic cost reductions and benefits that can be achieved.

The lessons here: Even FirstEnergy, which has a track record of not providing the spark to innovate renewable energy systems in Ohio, can be persuaded to join a renewable energy project once all of the regional politicians, corporations and major institutions are lined up.

Case's investment in hiring professors David Matthiesen and Iwan Alexander are paying off as the pair is part of the research team led by University of Indiana that won $700,000 to monitor wind data from remote sensing, aerial and satellite measurements, and meteorological towers on the City of Cleveland's Water Intake Crib to produce a high resolution (3-D) wind characterization for Lake Erie.

The developer of the Lake Erie wind farm, Freshwater Wind, LLC was awarded $500,000 from DOE to develop a computational model to study how existing wind turbine systems could be optimized for shallow water conditions found in the Great Lakes.

And Nautica Windpower, an Olmsted Falls LLC founded by Dr. Larry Viterna, the former Technical Director of the Great Lakes Energy Institute (GLEI) at CWRU, was awarded $500,000 to develop a conceptual design for a deep water offshore wind farm using lightweight floating platforms with improved access for maintenance. This is the "giant paperweight" concept that LEEDco is pursuing in Lake Erie instead of driving pylons deep into the lake's bedrock.

· In contrast, when the same kind of study-the impacts of connecting Electric Vehicles to the grid-was proposed when states were competing to be early adopters of EVs, the utility and our region's transportation agencies demurred. They had a chance to compete for federal funds to study the interconnection of EVs but declined. Now Ohio is behind primary launch markets for EVs including Southern California, Arizona, Oregon, Seattle, and Tennessee (with Hawaii and Texas expected this year). They did tee up EVs when Nissan and Chevy studied their impact on interconnection with the utilities.

Ohio's wait-and-see on EVs also cost the state in terms of competing for federal grants for pole-mounted charging stations. Some would argue that if it's a good idea, the market would find a place for the likes of Northeast Ohio EV charging station start up, Nathaniel Smith's Recharge Power. But Ohio's refusal to make an aggressive play for the national roll out of EVs put them behind the companies who qualify for $400 million in R&D grants.

"[Ohio has] been a very strong supply chain partner (in the auto industry), and we can continue to do that for electric vehicles," Dave Karpinksi of Nortech told the PD in July. http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2011/07/northeast_ohio_businesses_show.html

The article noted industrial giants Parker Hannifin and Eaton Corp. both produce hybrid systems for large commercial vehicles. And Eaton is a major producer of electric motors. But the companies do their automotive research and development in Michigan and much of their manufacturing in states other than Ohio.

The article doesn't connect Ohio's decision to not prioritize EV start-ups and pursue primary development status as the reason, rather, it states there's a "lack of interest" in EVs in the state.

This runs counter to Eaton's bullish stance on EVs and charging stations in Pittsburgh and in South Carolina (how much more interest can they have then Cleveland?). Eaton projects there will be 400,000 electric vehicles on the roads of North America by 2020, reports the Post-Gazette.

"Cleveland-based Eaton is among the businesses trying to get a piece of the ever-growing market surrounding electric cars. It has partnered with Mitsubishi Motors to make and demonstrate charging stations for the Japanese automaker's iMiEV (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle), which is set to go on sale later this year in some western states; and also has developed demonstration and testing equipment for models including the Chevrolet Volt, an electric hybrid.

· Meanwhile, Ohio's second of three investor-owned utilities, AEP, is studying the impact of EVs. AEP and WalMart installed an EV charging station in the Columbus area as part of their gridSMART® initiative, which is testing smart grid devices, products and technologies, including electric vehicles, for their impact on the utility grid.

· Cleveland Public Power, meanwhile, will take part in a round of pilot projects to test EV charging station. The municipal owned utility will select five locations for electric vehicle stations in Cleveland.

· EVs may eventually play a role reducing Northeast Ohio's greenhouse gases and improving our air quality. Electrifying service vehicles could help diminish the unhealthy blanket of haze that sits on top of us like it did this morning-see the live 'Haze Cam' for some perspective on just how bad living in this fishbowl can look (the image above from the Haze Cam was taken today, and is considered to be in the "good" range).

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