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Wind power heading our way

Marc Lefkowitz  |  12/11/08 @ 4:10pm

Wind power in Cleveland is "no longer a matter of whether, but when?" said Case President Barbara Snyder at the opening of yesterday's 'Building an Advanced Energy Future for Offshore Wind' conference.

Case has invested $200,000 in plans for the world's first freshwater wind turbine off the shores of Cleveland and a complimentary research center. Case is home to the Great Lakes Energy Innovation Center which raised more than $4 million from Cleveland and Maltz foundations to build the wind farm and a local knowledge base that will be used to establish renewable energy companies of the future. One million dollars went to hire JW America, a company with roots in Germany and some massive wind projects under its belt, to study the feasibility.

This conference gathered all of the players for an update on the study, which will be released in April 2009, and related issues like regulations and environmental concerns.

Peter Mandelstam, head of Bluewater Wind, noted the challenges in placing turbines in Lake Erie. They include:

  • Higher (per kWh) cost because coal is cheap
  • Ice floes ? increased the cost of the foundation
  • Depth ? has to be 30 ft. or less which means it might have to be closer to the shore and so it could create view-shed obstructions

"It may be a tad more expensive in terms of cents per kilowatt hour, but there are so many benefits," he said, noting clean tech jobs and tons of carbon dioxide avoided.

The Energy Innovation Center and the city of Cleveland have been working on the technical issues such as ice pressure on the foundation and wind shear on the blades. A special laser sensor that can capture data on pressure from ice mounting on the foundation of the water intake crib was installed below the surface of the water, says David Mattheisen, a professor at Case working on the project.

How many jobs will be created from a 2-10 turbine pilot project in Lake Erie, and from the renewable energy sector in Ohio? And how are we going to meet the demand through workforce training?

Emily Amato, director, Emerging Industries and Technologies at Cuyahoga Community College said Tri-C's new Green Tech Academy opening in 2009 would begin training the estimated thousands of workers in Ohio's green economy. One of the certificate programs-on wind turbine mechanical systems (the state's first)-would train, in the short term, 300 to 600 wind technicians. That's a realistic number as the Ohio's Renewable Portfolio Standard, passed this year, ramps up, Amato says.

Leading occupations for green industry include carpenters, electricians, operations managers, machinists, welders, and industrial truck drivers (Ohio Jobs Fact Sheet pdf).

One concern shared by members of the Ohio Wind Working Group (OWWG), which met during the conference, is the skilled labor force, such as laid off Mittal Steelworkers, needs to be re-trained soon, before too many move out of the area.

"We're training folks for wind jobs, but also for general electrical, airfoils and composite repair, and we're partnering with Max Hayes High School and the STEM school at the Great Lakes Science Center," Amato said.

Aaron Godwin, of wind turbine manufacturer Renaissance Group and an OWWG member, is concerned that candidates they're seeing have unrealistic salary expectations and need added training. He would like a 'dating service' or an intermediary to pre-screen recent trainees.

Joe the turbine maker said they're sending recent hires to Denmark for training. That made Jacob the head hunter bristle-he wants to keep the jobs and training local. "This is a hot industry. I know people who are willing to move from the coasts and take a pay cut to get in."

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