A New Generation: LEEDCo Harnesses the Power of Lake Erie Winds

Arklow Wind Turbine. Photo courtesy of Donny Davis at LEEDCo. 

With zero offshore wind turbines in U.S. waters, this form of energy generation is a new concept to most people. New to Campus District’s 1900 Block is Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo), working to familiarize Northeast Ohioans with the benefits of building an offshore wind industry. LEEDCo is a regional non-profit directly representing Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Lake, and Lorain Counties in addition to the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Foundation, and NorTech. Their initial project, Icebreaker, is designed not only as a blueprint for larger commercial development, but for making Ohio a leader in all areas of offshore wind, from research and development to manufacturing. Icebreaker is a five to seven turbine project seven miles out into Lake Erie waters, northwest of Cleveland Browns Stadium.

“Building the first project isn’t just about bragging rights,” said Donny Davis, Community Relations at LEEDCo. “Being first shows leadership and shows the private sector that Ohio is committed to building this industry.” In other words, LEEDCo wants the “first-mover advantage” so companies will locate along Ohio shores of Lake Erie before they go to Michigan or Ontario.

LEEDCo has several focus areas including public outreach, research & engineering partnerships, and supply chain development. Education is key. Just as the first project promotes market barrier removal with utilities and regulatory agencies, building a small project will help garner citizen support and is equally important. 

To better understand why anyone would dream of putting windmills in Lake Erie, is partly explained with a quick geography lesson. For starters, winds are stronger and more consistent than onshore. When paired with the fact the offshore turbines are larger, the potential for electricity generation increases. Another factor is the proximity to existing markets along Lake Erie shores are places like Cleveland, Lorain, Euclid, and Ashtabula. Lastly, Erie is the shallowest of all other Great Lakes – making installation more cost effective than other lakes.

LEEDCo emphasizes the initiative is not about simply saving polar bears. Their overarching goal is to represent the public interest and creation of jobs. The more the industry develops globally, the harder it is to ignore as a major opportunity for Ohio. Europe is the market leader with employment levels at 40,000 people in offshore wind alone. These jobs can range from construction to commercial diving.

Some key areas which would experience growth from the emerging industry include ports, universities, and manufacturers. Ports, for starters, are the backbone of the industry as projects are launched here.  Ohio’s six deepwater ports can play an integral role in not only building its own projects but other parts of Lake Erie and throughout the Great Lakes. As for manufacturing, Ohio is top ranked in onshore wind. While offshore wind’s scale is larger, with consistent policies coinciding with a pipeline of projects, manufacturers can re-tool their assembly lines to compete in a global supply chain.

For more information regarding offshore wind in Ohio, please visit www.LEEDCo.org.

Donny Davis

Donny Davis manages Community Relations for LEEDCo.

Volume 2, Issue 3, Posted 5:12 PM, 03.01.2012