Wednesday, August 29, 2007

No longer "the mistake on the lake"

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River. The former was declared biologically dead and the latter occasionally caught fire -- both the result of pollution. We also had a mayor (Ralph Perk) whose hair caught on fire when he got the bright idea to cut the ribbon of a new industrial complex with a blowtorch instead of scissors.

Cleveland's Chamber of Commerce motto during the 50's (may still be) "The Best Location in the Nation". Unfortunately, the slogan that seemed to stick was "The Mistake on the Lake".

Now Cleveland is showing real leadership in exploring the offshore wind potential off the coast of the once-maligned and abused (but now vastly cleaner) Lake Erie. (GW)

Commissioners approve yearlong Lake Erie wind turbine study

Project would sit three miles offshore

Tom Breckenridge
Plain Dealer
August 24, 2007

A German company that knows how to harness wind power is the best candidate to judge whether Lake Erie breezes can spin off power and jobs, Cuyahoga County commissioners say.

Commissioners voted Thursday to select a team led by juwi international to do a yearlong feasibility study of building wind turbines on the lake and establishing a wind-energy research center nearby.

Commissioners also approved a deal with Case Western Reserve University to run the research center, under Case's newly formed Great Lakes Institute for Energy Innovation.

Case will kick in $200,000 for the $800,000 feasibility study. The county, the Cleveland Foundation and the Fund for Our Economic Future will contribute the rest.

An energy-development task force formed by the commissioners one year ago has been pushing the wind turbine project. It would have an iconic array of up to 10 wind turbines spinning three miles or more off the shore of downtown Cleveland.

They would be the first wind turbines on fresh water in the world.

More importantly, an affiliated research-and-development center would develop turbine design and technology for an industry that's in its early stages, officials say.

That could attract wind-energy manufacturers and suppliers to the region, with the potential for hundreds of jobs.

That's the hope, at least. Commissioners selected the juwi team as best among three proposals, and will now try to hammer out a contract with the German company to study the cost, regulatory and engineering hurdles. Thorny issues include lake ice and bird flyways.

County Prosecutor Bill Mason, who heads the task force, says Greater Cleveland should "blaze the trail" on developing fresh-water wind turbines.

But the task force also owes the community a "rational decision on whether we should do it or not."

It will be expensive. Task force member Richard Stuebi, an energy expert with the Cleveland Foundation, estimated that each megawatt of offshore power would cost $3 million to develop. That's twice the cost of on-shore turbines.

With a project of up to 20 megawatts, that's $60 million. The juwi study will look at potential funding sources and a business structure for the project.

Juwi's team includes DLZ Ohio Inc., a minority-owned engineering firm with Cleveland offices, and Germanischer Lloyd Wind Energy, a leading certification body for wind projects in Europe. The company's legal counsel is Squire Sanders & Dempsey.

Mason emphasized that wind energy won't take off in Ohio unless it joins 28 other states in adopting a policy that requires utilities to generate a percentage of electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.

On average, those 28 states will require utilities to supply 16 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2019, Stuebi said.

The advocacy group Environment Ohio released a study Thursday arguing that utilities should supply 20 percent of their power from renewables by 2020.

The policy would create up to 3,100 jobs, benefit farmers who would lease land for turbines and increase the gross state product by $8 billion, the report concluded.

The group is urging Gov. Ted Strickland to include the requirement in his upcoming proposal on electric utility regulation.

Ohio's utilities are not enthusiastic about such a mandate, saying wind and solar generation will cost more to produce.

Reporter John Funk contributed to this story.


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