Opponents of the proposed industrialization of America’s Great Lakes by building wind turbines in Lake Erie are applauding the recent decision by the Ohio Power Siting Board that the developers are claiming could end the project.
The Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation is behind a project called Icebreaker that would install six demonstration turbines in Lake Erie off Cleveland. On May 21, the seven member OPSB unanimously approved the project. However, it’s subject to 33 conditions relating to a variety of issues — and one very critical condition that’ll require the turbines be feathered (stop turning) every night from March through November to reduce bird and bat collisions when they are migrating in the Lake Erie flyway. LEEDCo claims that condition likely makes the project unworkable.
The list of organizations that have, for several years, been actively opposing turbines in Lake Erie is long. It includes environmental groups, local and national boating and fishing organizations, the Lake Erie Foundation along with major industry trade organizations like the Boating Associations of Ohio, Michigan Boating Industries Association, Lake Erie Marine Trades Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
If Icebreaker is constructed, it would be the first turbine installation in fresh water and only the second in the U.S. waters. The province of Ontario, Canada, on the north shore of Lake Erie banned offshore turbines a decade ago. Opponents label the Ohio project an environmental, economic and aesthetic boondoggle.
According to Michelle Burke, Boating Associations of Ohio executive director: “The industrialization of Lake Erie is unacceptable by any measure. While we are not opposed to renewable energy, there is overwhelming evidence this will be an environmental disaster in a lake that provides drinking water to nearly 12 million people, and that’s just for openers,” she adds.
LEEDCo President David P. Karpinski said Icebreaker backers were “stunned by the order,” which he claims reneges on an agreement reached with the Siting Board’s staff regarding the bird kills. But Lake Erie is an internationally recognized flyway and the seven OPSB members are not obligated to accept any specific staff recommendations.
“This order is not an approval,” said Karpinski in a statement. “We are extremely disappointed the board took this unfortunate step backward for clean energy in Ohio. Throughout the proceedings in this case, we made it abundantly clear that a requirement to shut down the turbines from dusk to dawn for the majority of the year renders the project economically not viable.”
But Burke contends LEEDCo’s plans fail to address many other key issues, too. Among them:
• The turbine installations and 12 miles of transmission cables will uproot nearly 100 years of carcinogen-laced, river-dredged materials now resting on the lake bottom, injecting them into the drinking water supply.
• Wind turbines are known to catch fire, explode — an incident would dump 440 gallons of lubricating oils into the lake.
• The “bucket system” that would be used by a Norwegian contactor hired to do the construction is under environmental fire in Europe.
• Claims by LEEDCo that Icebreaker will create hundreds of good jobs is hype – LEEDCo’s own study says there will be just 159 temporary construction and 9 permanent jobs.
• The cost of the electricity produced will be 550 times higher than the same power currently available on the grid, putting rate payers on the hook.
Above all, LEEDCo has played misdirection with the public by saying the project is only 6 demonstration turbines when, in fact, Karpinski previously revealed: “Our vision is 5,000 megawatts over the next 10 to 15 years. Doing the math for how much each turbine can generate, that would require we install about 1,600 wind turbines in the lake.”
While happy with the OPSB decision, Burke and the opponents do not believe the battle is won, yet. LEEDCo can appeal the OPSB’s decision within 30 days and they’re expected to do so.
“We’re committed to fight for our lake until the plan is permanently abandoned,” she promises. “Lake Erie was once declared dead and was the icon for America’s polluted waterways that lead to the nation’s Clean Water Act of 1972. Since then, we have invested billions of dollars and protections for a successful restoration. It is, without question, Ohio’s most precious natural resource, a magnet for boating, fishing, tourism and quality of life.
“Putting all that at risk for generations to come just cannot be allowed to happen,” Burke emphasizes.