Lake Erie wind farm fails to make cut for major federal funding

May 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Siemens 3.0DD 1.jpgThe Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. wants to use light-weight Siemens wind turbines like this one for a pilot wind farm in Lake Erie.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A proposed wind farm on
Lake Erie has failed to win major federal funding that would have provided
nearly $50 million toward the goal of producing wind-powered electricity in a
few years.

While the so-called Icebreaker project of the Cleveland-based
Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., or LEEDCo, shows promise, the U.S.
Department of Energy appeared to judge three other offshore wind energy projects as closer to being ready. Those projects, off the coasts of New Jersey, Virginia
and Oregon, will get up to $47 million each.

The Department of Energy, or DOE, says that each of
these could demonstrate that offshore wind energy is a realistic and nearly
immediate goal. Each is expected to produce power for the nation’s electrical
grid by 2017.

LEEDCo got a lesser prize of about $3 million to continue
finalizing its designs. It earlier won $4 million and had raised another $1
million in private funding.

The significantly larger grants will go Fishermen’s
Energy for five 5-megawatt (5 million watts) direct-drive wind turbines three
miles off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey; Principle Power for five
6-megawatt direct-drive turbines 18 miles off the coast of Coos Bay, Oregon,
and Dominion Virginia Power for two 6-megawatt direct-drive turbines 26 miles
off the coast of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The New Jersey project will feature a twisted jacket
foundation, simpler and easier to build than a traditional offshore wind
foundation, the DOE  said. Three legs are
twisted around a central column, giving it a trussed design that looks like a
radio tower, federal officials say.

The Oregon project will use a triangle-shaped semi-submersible,
floating foundation, installed in water more than 1,000-feet deep. It will have
a ballast system to keep it stable. This holds promise for development in other
Pacific Coast areas with significant wind but with water depths too great for traditional
bottom-mounted foundations.

The Virginia project will use a twisted-jacket
foundation and will test a hurricane-resilient design to ensure that offshore
wind is a sustainable energy source in hurricane-prone Atlantic waters, DOE said.

These were drawn from six demonstration projects including
LEEDCO’s. Although LEEDCo and others lost out, the Department of Energy singled
out LEEDCo and a University of Maine project for offering “additional
innovative approaches that, with additional engineering and design, will
further enhance the properties of American offshore wind technology options.”

LEEDCo expressed disappointment, issuing a statement
but declining to discuss the matter further. The $3 million award “will allow
LEEDCo to continue making progress on its groundbreaking engineering and technology
development work as we evaluate other options for moving the project forward,”
said the statement from company president Lorry Wagner.

The statement said that LEEDCo continues “to believe
in a bright future for offshore wind power in the Great Lakes and in the
technical and commercial viability of our Lake Erie-based project. Our world
class team has a strong track record of overcoming obstacles, and we are
confident that together we will find new and innovative solutions to this latest
challenge.”

LeedCo hopes to eventually build six turbines, each generating
3 megawatts on a site seven miles northwest of downtown Cleveland. The power
would be transmitted in a buried cable to Cleveland Public Power’s substation
on North Marginal Road near Burke Lakefront Airport. The turbines would be
built on “monopile” foundations, which the nonprofit LEEDCo says are widely
used with wind turbines in the North Sea.

The federal money would not pay for the entire
project, as it would not for any of the projects. About $80 million more would
have to come from outsiders including European banks.

President Barack Obama’s administration says wind
power is among the panoply of sources required for what it calls an “all-of-the-above”
energy policy.

In announcing the three winners, Energy Secretary
Ernest Moniz said, “Offshore wind offers a large, untapped energy resource for
the United States that can create thousands of manufacturing, construction and
supply chain jobs across the country and drive billions of dollars in local
economic investment. ” The major grants announced today, Moniz said, “further
this commitment — bringing more clean, renewable energy to our homes and
businesses, diversifying our energy portfolio, and reducing costs through
innovation.”

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