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Environment


Door-to-door selling of a wind farm in Lake Erie
Groups goal is to shift Ohio from coal to wind power
Story by MICHELLE KANU


 
In The Region:

In Ohio, roughly 80 percent of the electricity we use comes from coal-fired power plants. One Northeast Ohio group wants to change that by installing a wind farm in Lake Erie. If it succeeds, this will be the first offshore wind farm in the United States. For Ohio Public Radio, WCPN’s Michelle Kanu has this story about the team’s efforts to get public buy-in for the idea.

LISTEN: Lake Erie wind push

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When Lorry Wagner looks out over Lake Erie, he envisions six, gigantic turbines churning the breeze into energy seven miles offshore. 

“To the average person standing on the dock, when they look out they will see these small objects on the horizon. Even though they’re about 465 feet tall, from the vantage point on the shore they’re going to be about the size of a dime on a clear day,” he says. 

As the president of the non-profit Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, or LEEDCo, Wagner is spearheading an effort to design, build, and operate a wind farm that could generate enough power for 8,500 homes for a year.  His group already won a $4 million award from the Department of Energy to explore the project, and it’s vying against seven groups from other states for a second wave of money—an extra $47 million. 

“We’re doing the preliminary engineering now, selecting the right foundation, getting our permit applications in, building public support, selling the power,” he says. “And the next phase is to do the final engineering, secure the permits, get the financial close, and then start building it in 2016 and then complete it in 2017.” 

A project of this scale involves a lot of brain power—and a lot of regulatory hurdles. LEEDCo has 15 different groups helping it get clearance from various environmental, federal, and state agencies. 

Dave Nash is one such ally. He’s a partner with the environmental law firm McMahon DeGulis in Cleveland. 

“Key agencies are the Ohio EPA, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Power Siting board, the Federal Aviation Administration. We have to make sure these turbines aren’t in the flight paths for Burke Lakefront Airport or Hopkins Airport.” 

Nash says coordinating among so many agencies is a challenge, especially since none of them has experience with offshore wind farms in North America.  He says they have to work together, and sometimes invent protocol. 

“We have to … sort of invent if there are gaps in the current regulations because the regulations were written at a time when no one really thought about putting wind turbines in the Great Lakes, or offshore, even in the Atlantic Ocean for that matter.” 

While Nash is busy getting regulatory approval, another LEEDCo staffer is trying to get the blessing of the Northeast Ohio community.

Door-to-door pitch
On a tree-lined residential street in Lakewood, Eric Ritter is going door-to-door, asking people to sign a pledge to buy a percentage of their electricity from the future wind farm.  Ritter introduces himself – and the project -- to one homeowner.

But the concept isn’t always a quick sell.  Some say turbines are an eyesore and too expensive to build.  Others say solar power is a much cheaper source of renewable energy.  And this homeowner is concerned what wind power will do to his electric bill.

“I’m just not going to commit to buy until we know what kind of dollars it’s going to cost per kilowatt hour,” the homeowner says.

But Ritter is not deterred. “Let me briefly explain what this is,” he says.  “Public support is really important to get this first project off the ground.  And there’s a really powerful way you can help, and that’s to sign this.  And it’s called the power pledge.” 

Ritter and his team of 10 have been canvassing Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, and Ashtabula counties. He says their efforts are paying off—more than half the people they talk to are willing to listen, and 3,500 people have already signed on.

Willing to pay a little bit more
“The fact that 60 percent of people say that they’re willing to pay a little bit more to get their electricity from this project, and that that’s consistent no matter who the canvasser is and no matter what community that they go to, that’s a really powerful message to send to investors, to electricity marketers.”

Demonstrating public support is only a small part of what will make LEEDCo’s wind farm enticing to the Department of Energy. The feds want to fund projects that can generate offshore wind energy at a lower cost. In February, only three groups will be awarded the additional money to actually build and install the turbines.

Back on the shore of Lake Erie, Lorry Wagner says if LEEDCo wins the next round of money, the project could boost employment for the region.

“We’ll have about 500 jobs in building it and this is engineering, banking, legal, permitting, biology, you name it, as well as construction.  And about 10 percent of those jobs will ultimately be permanent.” 

Wagner says LEEDCo is counting on some investment from its partner companies to help finance the project.

Listener Comments:

Mr. Ritter, I am embarrassed by your disingenuous "bandwagon appeal" publicity rant. It is well known that wind electricity is high in true cost and very low in true value. Off shore wind economics are far worse than land based wind economics, which are pathetic in NY, PA, OH, MI and Ontario. President Obama was informed by his White House staff that an on-shore wind project in the far windier Pacific Northwest required 65% of its cost to be borne by taxpayers! (Google "Shepherd Flats Wind Internal White House Memo") And then the machines steal hours and revenue from conventional plants we have already built and are still paying for. Doh! Even Homer Simpson would be ashamed. Then again, Homer at least knows that if we must subsidize electricity sources, at least we should subsidize the dependable ones that can truly replace fossil plants instead of just being parasitic to them.

Energy policy is complicated. And wind sells itself only by misdirection and confusion within the complexities of the power system. Want to learn more? MasterResource dot org.


Posted by: Tom Stacy (Zanesfield, OH) on October 24, 2013 7:10AM
I feel compelled to respond to Mr. Ritter, who continues to claim that wind turbines in Lake Erie will reduce our reliance on coal, the "dirtiest" energy source available. First, I challenge Mr. Ritter to find ONE wind project, anywhere in the world, that has resulted in the permanent closing of a coal plant. I have not been able to find any, and to the contrary, have read multiple articles claiming that nowhere in the world has a coal plant been successfully closed because a wind farm has supplied the sustained, reliable energy needed to keep the lights on! In England, where there are coal plant closings to accommodate wind energy, they have been forced to purchase nuclear power from France, pay again for that, and pay also to have it transmitted to the UK.
Regarding wind being so much cleaner than coal, lets look at what happened in Wethersfield, NY on 1/16/2012. The DEC reported that just ONE turbine at the Noble Environmental Power wind farm leaked 400 gallons- yes, 400 gallons(!) of transformer oil before it could be contained! An onshore project, the DEC was able to apply absorbent matter in the affected area, but then removed 45 TONS of contaminated soil to a regulated landfill! What would happen in Lake Erie? The answer is obvious- 400 or more gallons of filthy oil from each leaking turbine would destroy the lake, and ultimately make its way through the canal and river to Lake Ontario, and perhaps even the St. Lawrence River. Show me your plan, Mr. Ritter, for containing such hideous oil spills in the Great Lakes. These spills are not a rare occurrence. There are reports worldwide. Offshore turbines leak, collapse, and are hit by lightening- there is no known way to control the damage.
What about turbine blades that are damaged or just age out? Made of carbon fiber, they are neither recyclable or able to be incinerated. They are too toxic. In Denmark, with 6,000 aging turbines, thus 18,000 monstrous blades, Denmark's leading business journal reported in 2011, "There exists no solution". The solution has been made obvious throughout California and in Hawaii- just walk away and end up with an oily, rusty, industrial junkyard.
How many thousands of tons of cement are manufactured, transported to wind farms and poured into the ground (or lake bottom, in this case) for each turbine? Cement manufacturing and transporting is NOT clean.
Please don't try to sell wind power as clean. It is not as clean as it appears on the surface. Our fragile lakes can not withstand this kind of assault.
I hope enough people in the Cleveland area will do their homework before it is too late.


Posted by: Suzanne Albright (Rochester, NY) on August 24, 2013 4:08AM
There are significant bird, bat, and even butterfly issues involved in building 50 story or higher industrial wind turbines in Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes. It is TRUE as as been commented on that these turbines have blades that have a diameter of over a football field -300 feet plus and they move at the blade tips from 150 MPH-nearly 200 MPH.

Lake Erie has a major bird migration across the entire length of the Lake. Over 90 per cent of birds migrate at night (this number includes most waterfowl, songbirds) and are very susceptible for death by turbine blade at these massive 50 story plus WTs. Great Britain (German, Danish companies) plans to construct turbines that will be 650 feet tall---you think our governmemnt officials won't go along with turbines that tall?

Locally bird migration is just tremendous at Burke Lakefront, Headlands State Park in Mentor, and Conneaut, Ohio just to name a few local hotspots. Birds must land and take off at their resting spots on both sides of the lake. In doing so it makes them especially vulnerable to death by wind turbine. Inclement weather which our area is famous for can cause birds to go down quickly, especially vulnerable are waterfowlcrossing the lake or roosting and feeding in all areas of the lake.

The wind developers lie and tell you of studies done but they did not tell you these consultants work for the wind industry primarily and are not independent.

To learn more about bird, bat, butterfly migration over/in /around Lake Erie Please go to

Long Point Waterfowl Association
BlackSwamp Bird Observatory
Citizens Against Lake Erie Wind Turbines
Ontario Wind Resistance
Hawk Migration Association of North America
Industrial Wind Alert

DO NOT BELIEVE WIND SALESMEN-The only GREEN they care about are the dollars in your pocket.
Ralph


Posted by: Ralph Walsh (Ashtabula, Ohio) on August 24, 2013 1:08AM
People will benefit by reading Wayne Wegner's (The Wildlife Wizard) good report:

"Location, Location, Location... Migration, Migration, Migration" at:

http://ontario-wind-resistance.org/2011/12/16/location-location-location-migration-migration-migration-2/, Wayne Wegner, The Wildlife Wizard.


Posted by: Mary Kay Barton (Silver Lake, NY) on August 23, 2013 10:08AM
Mr. Ritter, your dismissal of the facts about wind in an attempt to sell this antiquated technology to the public is laughable. We may as well try and replace 25% of our naval fleet with sailboats, or 25% of our truck fleet with horse and buggies. Reverting to antiquated technologies of the past will NOT provide the modern, reliable power that modern society demands.

Apparently Mr. Ritter, you did not comprehend my previous post, so I'll say it again:

Because wind is NOT reliable, predictable, or dispatchable, it provides virtually NO Capacity Value, or firm capacity (specified amounts of power on demand). Thus, wind needs constant "shadow capacity" from our reliable, conventional power sources, and can NOT replace conventional generators.

This redundancy makes wind one of the most expensive, least efficient sources of energy on the utility grid. Big Wind CEO, Patrick Jenevein admitted in his WSJ op-ed, "Wind Subsidies? No Thanks," that “consumers pay twice” for this redundancy.

On a per kWh basis, wind receives 80 times the public subsidies received by fossil fuels, despite producing no reliable electricity capacity. (See more at: http://www.masterresource.org/2012/08/local-wind-subsidies-more-waste-new-york-states-money-road-to-nowhere/)

“Ramping" our conventional generators up and down in order to accommodate wind's skittering flux on the grid forces conventional generators to run much less efficiently, thereby increasing their CO2 emissions - much the same as a car stuck in stop-and-go traffic uses much more gas (and thus more emissions). Iowa exemplifies this.

According to USEIA data, as Iowa's installed wind capacity has grown over the past decade, so has their coal usage and their CO2 emissions. Iowa's increase in coal generation at a time of relatively static demand, has occurred despite its’ substantial increases in wind output.

Wind salesmen like Mr. Ritter, have yet to explain why Iowa's coal generation


Posted by: Mary Kay Barton on August 23, 2013 9:08AM
After knocking on close to 20,000 doors all across Northeast Ohio, I'm happy to say that nay-sayers like Suzanne, Alan, Tom, and Mary are definitely in the minority.

The Power Pledge is proving that people are concerned about where we get our electricity. 80% coal and less than 1% renewables is an unsustainable and unhealthy mix. Offshore wind gives Northeast Ohio the best opportunity for a significant local source of clean renewable electricity.

Concerns about the impact of turbines on lake ecosystems are legitimate but overblown in our region. This wind turbine favorability analysis (http://leedco.org/images/stories/documents/Lake-Erie-Wind-Favorability-Analysis-web.pdf) produced by the OH Department of Natural Resources identifies hundreds of square miles of ideal locations for wind turbines--mostly in the eastern half of the state. Migratory birds tend to avoid crossing the Lake in our region because the nearest land mass is so far away, and if they do cross here they fly high enough to avoid the turbines altogether.

LEEDCo is dedicated to pursuing offshore wind in a measured and conservative way. By starting with a 6-turbine pilot project, we can measure the real world impact on ecosystems and learn how to overcome technical challenges. We expect Project Icebreaker to help demonstrate that the impact on lake ecosystems are minimal.

I hope readers recognize how incredibly nonsensical other commenters' concerns about the intermittent nature of wind are. Let me get this straight... you're concerned that we still have to use coal fired power plants as back up to wind power? What's the alternative? Even more coal fired electricity? This concern seems totally disingenuous.

The reality is that the intermittent nature of wind poses technical challenges that can be overcome. Grid operators are improving their demand and wind forecasting systems every year, and the pollution reduction consequences will be significant for our region. Wind turbines on Lake Erie mean that when the wind is blowing there is less demand for the oldest, dirtiest, and least efficient coal fired electricity.

LEEDCo is dedicated to building a long term offshore wind industry in Northeast Ohio that ultimately creates thousands of jobs and generates billions in gross regional product.

I don't want to completely beat up the nay-sayers -- so here's some good news for you: if you don't want your electricity from this project, you don't have to buy it. We're taking an opt-in approach. The Power Pledge is proving that there are plenty of people who share my concerns about where our electricity comes from, are excited about the economic development opportunity offshore wind represents, and would be willing to pay a little bit more to make this first project happen.

If you support(no matter where you live) you can help by signing The Power Pledge at leedco.org.


Posted by: Eric Ritter (Cleveland, OH) on August 23, 2013 6:08AM
Because wind is NOT reliable, predictable, or dispatchable, it provides virtually NO Capacity Value, or firm capacity (specified amounts of power on demand). Thus, wind needs constant "shadow capacity" from our reliable, conventional power sources, and can NOT replace conventional generators.

This redundancy makes wind one of the most expensive, least efficient sources of energy on the utility grid. Big Wind CEO, Patrick Jenevein admitted in his WSJ op-ed, "Wind Subsidies? No Thanks," that “consumers pay twice” for this redundancy.

On a per kWh basis, wind receives 80 times the public subsidies received by fossil fuels, despite producing no reliable electricity capacity. (See more at: http://www.masterresource.org/2012/08/local-wind-subsidies-more-waste-new-york-states-money-road-to-nowhere/)

“Ramping" our conventional generators up and down in order to accommodate wind's skittering flux on the grid forces conventional generators to run much less efficiently, thereby increasing their CO2 emissions - much the same as a car stuck in stop-and-go traffic uses much more gas (and thus more emissions). Iowa exemplifies this.

According to USEIA data, as Iowa's installed wind capacity has grown over the past decade, so has their coal usage and their CO2 emissions. Iowa's increase in coal generation at a time of relatively static demand, has occurred despite its’ substantial increases in wind output. (See more at: http://www.masterresource.org/2011/12/economist-magazine-debate-ii/)

With approximately 200,000 industrial wind turbines installed worldwide today, wind has NOT significantly reduced CO2 emissions - anywhere. Rounded to nearest whole number, the total worldwide electric generation from wind today is ZERO! That's right - ZERO!

Consider New York State’s experience with wind to date.

I live in Wyoming County of Western New York State - not far from Erie. There are already 250 industrial wind turbines sprawling throughout entire towns here, with another 59 going up this summer. Contrary to Mr. Walker's claims, NO meaningful permanent jobs have been created here, and nobody is getting free, or reduced rate electricity either. In fact, quite the opposite is true. New York State has been cited as having the most expensive utility rates in the continental U.S.

Much of what used to be one of the most beautiful areas in New York, has been turned into a sprawling industrial wind factory. Many of my friends’ homes have been rendered virtually worthless. Let's be real - Would you buy and move your family into a home with 430 foot-tall towers and their 7-ton blades spinning overhead - only hundreds of feet from your home??? I have yet to meet anyone who would.

And what have we gotten for all this environmental and civic degradation?

NY's 16 installed wind factories produced an average 23% Capacity Factor (actual output) in 2012. Which one of you would buy a car that only operated 23% of the time? You wouldn't. You couldn't afford to. It's that simple. Any other piece of equipment that had such an abysmal performance record would have been dubbed a LEMON and relegated to the trash heap a long time ago.

Consider the fact that ONE single 450 MW gas-fired combined cycle generating unit located near New York City (where the power is needed in New York State), operating at only a 60% capacity factor, could have supplied more electricity than all of New York State's 16 installed "wind farms" combined. AND, that ONE single 450 MW gas-fired combined cycle generating unit would significantly reduced CO2 emissions -- with only about 1/4 of the capital cost of the wind factories -- WITHOUT the unwarranted civic and environmental degradation, negative human health impacts, massive bird and bat mortality caused by these giant "Bird Cuisinarts," and the property value losses that sprawling wind factories create - both at the "wind farm" sites, and due to all the added transmission lines that must be added to NYC.

Furthermore, that ONE gas-fired plant would actually create REAL, full-time jobs -- unlike the "wind farms," which have been figured to cost $11.45 Million per job created, and as a result, cost over 4 jobs lost elsewhere in the economy.

Now consider the fact that offshore wind has been estimated to cost 3x - 4x more than onshore wind.

If you want to chase people, businesses, and industries out of Pennsylvania by defacing the natural beauty of the Great Lakes and "skyrocketing" your electricity rates, pursuing the ‘green’ energy boondoggle of wind power is a sure means to that end.

People need to educate themselves about these energy issues if we hope to maintain reliable, affordable power for all Americans. We need sound scientific, economic, and environmental energy policies based on facts, not fear. A good place to start is by reading "The Wind Farm Scam," by Dr. John Etherington (http://www.amazon.com/Wind-Farm-Scam-Independent-Minds/dp/1905299834), and by visiting the science-based website, Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions at www.WiseEnergy.org/.


Posted by: Mary Kay Barton (Silver Lake, NY) on August 22, 2013 9:08AM
Please educate yourselves about the industrialization of Lake Erie and all the Great Lakes. This is a critical point-the wind industry is on the cusp of destroying our beautiful and important Lake Erie. Mr. Wagner did not tell you that several years ago he was preaching that Lake Erie had a design capacity for 17,000 industrial wind turbines (only U.S .waters?).

He sees wind turbines when he looks out over the lake waters. I still see a beautiful a Lake vista, safe drinking water -both critical to us. I see in the future hundreds of millions of birds, bats, even monarch butterflies being impacted (killed) by giant circulating blades (moving at nearly 200 mph at the blade tips). In optimum winds. Fish will be impacted by low frequency sound waves these monsters produce-similar to sonar problems dolphins, whales, other animals already affected at England's offshore turbines.

Follow the money is a common phrase but explains this whole plan to destroy Lake Erie with wind turbines. The cost will be huge to the U.S. taxpayer and electric ratepayer for this inefficient, (and must be backed up by conventional power plants) source of electricity. And it is not needed here. The Cape Cod offshore wind project is now estimated to cost us $ 2.5 BIllion Dollars for 130 industrial wind turbines.

See Great Lakes Wind Truth, National Wind Watch for information. Please make an effort to save Our Great Lake Erie. Also see the Obtario website for Citizens Against Wind Turbines in Lake Erie.
Tom Wasilewski
Edinboro, PA
814-734-3653. (Former Clevelander)


Posted by: Tom Wasilewski (Erie, PA) on August 22, 2013 6:08AM
Its a shame the media in Ohio won't cover the many negatives associated with the LEEDCO Icebreaker project. Please call me to discuss this matter because Ill tell you the truth about why this is such a horrible project for Lake Erie and the state of Ohio and I don't get paid for talking to you either. I can be reached at 315-594-2742. Your article doesn't even mention "Icebreaker".


Posted by: Alan Isselhard (Wolcott, NY) on August 21, 2013 12:08PM
On 6/15/2013, I sent a letter to each of the Cleveland Foundation Directors explaining the negative impacts of an offshore wind farm in Lake Erie, or any of the Great Lakes. I then sent the same letter to EVERY town and city council person in every community from Avon Lake at the west end of the area east to Ashtabula, about 100 letters in all. I did not get ONE single response. As Al Isselhard states, this is a HORRIBLE idea, and will lead to the demise of Lake Erie as we know it. Comments I have read from readers in the Cleveland area state that they support getting free of our dependence on foreign oil. In reality, about 1% of U.S. energy comes from oil!!! Wind turbines require up to 800 gallons of oil and other lubricating fluid EACH- oil that will possibly leak into the lake, need periodic changing and disposing of. Wake up people- this has NOTHING to do with foreign oil. Read my letter. I will be happy to share it if this publication is interested, and then ask yourselves why no one, not ONE director or town council person has responded, reached out to protect constituents, and spoken up about the negative impacts of wind energy. Who do they represent? Citizens or the big wind industry?


Posted by: Suzanne Albright (Rochester, NY) on August 21, 2013 5:08AM
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