Although a final decision has yet to be taken, Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation’s (LEEDCo’s) Icebreaker Wind windfarm project on Lake Erie could have been thrown a lifeline that means that it can go ahead after all
The company said an amendment offered by Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, could lead to a so-called ‘poison pill’ condition imposed on the project being removed.
Ms Mertz stated at an Ohio Power Siting Board meeting on 17 September 2020 that she believed there were some “valid objections” to what LEEDCo says is a ‘questionable’ night-time shutdown decision that affected the feasibility of the Lake Erie wind project.
The amendment was unanimously approved. However, the revised ruling has yet to be drafted and voted on.
The project developers said they were extremely pleased with the amendment and grateful to the numerous project supporters.
LEEDCo president Dave Karpinski said he is keen for the official vote to take place, after which LEEDCo looks forward to working with the State of Ohio on additional steps needed to make the project a reality.
“This is an important and positive development for Ohio, and we want to thank Mary Mertz for hearing our concerns and introducing this amendment,” said Mr Karpinski. “I especially want to thank Representative Jeff Crossman and Senator Sandra Williams who, as non-voting members of the board, strongly advocated for this project and on behalf of transparency, clean energy and new jobs.”
LEEDCo has been planning the Icebreaker project for more than 11 years. The project is expected to create more than 500 jobs and generate US$253M in economic impact during construction and throughout the life of the project.
The 17 September decision follows a LEEDCo appeal for a rehearing on the siting board’s May decision to mandate the windfarm cease operations every night from March until November.
LEEDCo said that shutdown mandate contradicted evidence presented. OPSB staff had recommended the project without the condition and the state’s own experts testified that the condition was not needed. LEEDCo said it was “stunned” by the board’s ruling that included the provision.
In addition to Senator Williams and Representative Crossman, 30 additional legislators comprising a quarter of the Ohio General Assembly sent a letter to the State a month ago encouraging the board to revisit the puzzling May ruling.
LEEDCo also thanked Senate President Larry Obhof and Senator Steve Wilson for issuing a statement that encouraged the board not to preclude any development that detracted from Ohio consumers having an abundant diversity of energy options to choose from.
Independent studies have also concluded that the project poses limited risk to birds and bats, and LEEDCo has committed to measures that would minimise any adverse impacts on wildlife.
Icebreaker, if constructed, could be the first freshwater wind project in North America. It could help Ohio to tap into the fast-growing US offshore wind industry.
“Icebreaker Wind is a tremendous opportunity for the state to diversify its economy and a win for clean energy options in Ohio,” Mr Karpinski said. “Already, more than 275 area companies in Ohio have registered to be a part of it.”
Ohio has the largest wind energy manufacturing base of any state in the US, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The project has earned approvals from regulatory agencies including the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, US Army Corps of Engineers and US Fish and Wildlife Service. It has the support of many environmental groups, including the National Audubon Society, Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Ohio Environmental Council. It has been opposed by the coal industry.