Energy / Renewable Energy / Wind Energy

A new green future is building on Lake Erie

Cleveland is on track to lead a nascent offshore wind industry in the U.S., creating clean energy and jobs for a city in need of both

A 90-foot barge is used to extract soil samples and perform pressure tests in Lake Erie, where Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation plans to erect six wind turbines next year. (Photo by Mort Tucker/LeedCo)

CLEVELAND — “Lorry Wagner has spent more than a decade attempting to convince the world that Cleveland has all the ingredients to be a giant in the world of renewable wind energy. The argument hasn’t always worked, but the president of the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LeedCo), by now, has mastered the math.

The Great Lakes, he says, span 94,000 square miles of surface water, with Lake Erie rippling out 10,000 miles all on its own. The U.S. coastline for the Great Lakes adds up to more than 4,500 miles, more than double the span of the Atlantic coastline of 2,165 miles and more than triple the 1,293-mile-long coastline of California, Oregon and Washington.

Wagner believes that the offshore wind energy industry has focused its attention on the Atlantic Ocean because that’s what East Coast analysts know. The first such project launched in 2016 near Rhode Island’s Block Island. Also, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey have put policies in place to try to become the U.S. leader. ‘But almost everybody who we bring to Cleveland to learn about our project, and they see Lake Erie for the first time, they say, ‘Holy crap, that’s an ocean out there,’”” he says.

Ocean or not, in 2019, Lake Erie will be the proving waters for the region’s first offshore wind farm, developed by LeedCo in partnership with a new for-profit company, Icebreaker Windpower. That company was created by the Norway-based Fred.Olsen Renewables, which has numerous onshore and offshore wind energy projects in Europe.”

— Daniel J McGraw, Next City

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