Energy Department proposes funding for Ohio’s first offshore wind project

Turbines in the distance at a beach.

Enlarge / A simulated image of turbines in the distance out on Lake Erie. They are very tiny and in the middle left section of the horizon. Notably, this simulation is used to show that the turbines will hardly be a blight on Ohio's beach views. (credit: Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation)

An energy development group has been working for years to put together Ohio's first offshore wind project. That might sound odd for a state so far from the sea, but the benefits of offshore wind (strong, consistent gusts and relative proximity to major population centers) translate to wind turbines that are placed in freshwater, too. Consequently, an area eight miles off Ohio's Lake Erie coastline is slated to see six new 3.45 megawatt (MW) turbines as part of a 20.7MW pilot installation.

On Thursday, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued an Environmental Assessment stating that proceeding with the plan would not cause any "impact to the human environment." In an additional finding published by the DOE this week, the department added that it did not believe that the offshore wind project would cause significant damage to migratory birds, either. Finally, the DOE proposed an unspecified amount of funding for the project, which will be the first freshwater offshore wind project in the US and one of the first offshore wind projects overall.

The DOE's conclusions are good news for the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) and Norwegian investor Fred Olsen Renewables (FOR), which will help develop the "Icebreaker" project, as the turbine installation has been called. Interestingly, the turbines will be secured to the lake using a "Mono Bucket" foundation, with a suction-based design that's similar to what's been used on offshore oil-drilling platforms in the North Sea. The design, LEEDCo says, uses "the best and lowest-cost technology for sites 25 meters and less."

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