Friday, March 15, 2013

LEEDCo: Building an offshore wind industry in the Great Lakes

Since 2009, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) has been working to establish Northeast Ohio as the Great Lakes center of a vibrant and growing offshore wind industry in the United States.  The genesis for this is Icebreaker, a demonstration project (20-30 MW) in Lake Erie, 7 miles off the coast of downtown Cleveland.  This project will be the first freshwater offshore wind farm in North America and will be a catalyst for offshore wind development across the Great Lakes.  It will create hundreds of jobs and give Cleveland as well as the Great Lakes a path toward a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.

On December 12, 2012, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that they selected Icebreaker as the only offshore wind project in the Great Lakes to win a highly competitive federal grant worth up to $50 million.  The award provides an immediate $4 million investment from the DOE with a private business contribution of $1 million; a collaborative partnership between LEEDCo and the DOE; and it gives us the opportunity to compete for an additional $46.7 million in federal funding over the next 5 years.  Additionally, this selection is a strong validation of offshore wind’s potential in the Great Lakes region.

Over the course of the next year, we will find the most cost effective way to finance the project; navigate the regulatory process to apply for all necessary permits; and develop innovative installation methodologies to address challenges specific to Lake Erie as well as the other Great Lakes.  Ultimately, the down select process for winning the additional funding will be based on how well we complete the above; how we are able to use innovation to drive down the cost of energy; and the extent to which we demonstrate that we are ahead of the other 6 projects.

More importantly, this grant will play integral role in our larger mission to build an offshore wind industry in the Great Lakes.  This region has an enormous opportunity to capitalize on the growing global market for offshore wind, and our robust service sector could become a major player.  Once Icebreaker is complete, those turbines will not only pave the way toward a more sustainable energy economy, but they will provide a platform for collecting environmental data from an operating project.  Additionally, excellent research institutions, like Case Western Reserve University and the University of Michigan, will help us pioneer new methodologies for lowering the cost of energy.  

With the start of the DOE project on 02/15/13, we are one big step closer to building the first freshwater offshore wind project in North America.  This project will bring hundreds of jobs to the region and pave the way for thousands of jobs in the future.  It will provide an immediate source of clean renewable energy, attract businesses from around the world, and become a huge source of civic pride for decades to come.

One day soon, when the skies are clear, we can look out across Lake Erie to see clean energy gracing the horizon—symbols of a promising future for the Great Lakes.

Dr. Lorry Wagner



  1. I must disagree with the notion that projects like this create jobs. That is simply not the case. When discussing the economics of wind, industry advocates talk about job creation but what they are referring to is “gross” jobs which only mean the jobs that can be attributed to the spending of $50 million. What they fail to take into account is the fact that someone (taxpayer and ratepayers) are having to pay the $50 million. While this $50 million may be a boon to the wind industry it is an expense to the rest of the economy. The net effect is higher energy pricing, a loss of economic growth and a loss of jobs. There can be no other outcome.

    1. From the Director of GLWN, Ed Weston:
      What LEEDCo is proposing is the manufacture and installation of machines that create electricity without the risk of rising prices of fossil fuels. And while power from offshore turbines will cost more today, those rates are dropping significantly---in the same ways that we've seen prices fall on personal computers, flat screen TV's, and other new technologies. The real jobs benefit from this investment is the jumpstart to the regional manufacturing and supply chain infrastructure that will be called on to supply next generation turbines to sites across the Great Lakes.

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