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The Lake Erie wind farm: Ready for its close up

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/03/16 @ 11:00am  |  Posted in Clean energy

All of Northeast Ohio stands to benefit from a Lake Erie wind farm. It can have the legacy of belching yellow smokestacks and burning rivers remade.

<br />Lorry Wagner, President of LEEDCo, the high powered group building a wind farm for Northeast Ohio in the waters of Lake Erie.

When the news arrived this year that Icebreaker, a project to build a Lake Erie wind farm, won a $40 million federal grant, it gave a huge boost to the prospects of the 20.7 megawatt pilot project. With an experienced, Dutch wind developer also on board, it is looking more and more likely that we will see slender white turbines spinning 100% carbon-free power into 5,000 Cleveland homes in the near future.

“Building offshore wind on the Great Lakes is our best opportunity to generate clean energy locally,” Lorry Wagner, president of LeedCo, the non-profit group leading Icebreaker, told Bloomberg News.

There is more to it than clean power. The collective leadership that has gathered in Cleveland to enable this monumental project needs to be recognized. Leaders of large philanthropies and businesses have voiced support and invested time and money into making wind our preferred source of power. They did it because of how many Northeast Ohioans stand to gain by the effort.

Northeast Ohio still gets 70% of its power supplied by coal. Having a viable, clean alternative source of energy this close to production makes it more likely that all of us will one day be able to power our homes and vehicles from wind coming off the lake—which has an estimated 1,000 megawatts of potential to be tapped.

When the first six turbines are built, 8 miles off the coast of Cleveland, it will prove how wind energy works. It will create new jobs for Clevelanders and provide companies located in Ohio that are part of the supply chain for wind turbines an economic boost.

The most ardent doubters who argue that Ohio doesn’t want renewable energy as its future power source will have to challenge their assumptions, because wind power moves across municipal boundary and stands to benefit Cleveland as well as Lakewood, Bay Village, Euclid and Mentor.

Northeast Ohio is in a favorable spot to gain from federal grants and policies that have brought down the cost for wind power—to the point where in many parts of the country, it is now cheaper than coal. A bonafide wind farm on Lake Erie will elevate the prospects for more renewables across Ohio. Leaders like Cleveland Foundation President Ronn Richard unabashedly told the 500 people assembled at the Cleveland Sustainability Summit that it is high time state leaders step up and jettison the failed state policy to freeze renewable energy. Off shore wind is ready for its close up, and Northeast Ohio is poised to use it in taking control of a more secure and sustainable energy future.

LEEDCo will host an important public meeting tonight, Thursday, Nov. 3, in Lakewood to gather ideas in preparing for the Ohio Power Citing Board, which makes key decisions for the project to move ahead.

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