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Pay Attention To Lake Erie Wind Turbines In Ohio For Clues To New York Proposal

Western New Yorkers will be paying more attention to what’s happening off the shores of Cleveland now that the Ohio Supreme Court has affirmed the Icebreaker wind project.

It’s an interesting test case — and one that we hope state officials learn from before making any commitments to a similar proposal to put wind turbines in Lake Erie from Dunkirk to Buffalo.

The Cleveland plan includes a six-turbine wind-powered electric-generation facility on 4.2 acres of submerged land in Lake Erie located between 8 and 10 miles off the shore of Cleveland that is expected to generate 20.7 megawatts of electricity. A similar plant has been proposed for Lake Erie between Dunkirk and Buffalo by the Diamond Generating Corp. featuring some 50 turbines has been loudly opposed by many in Chautauqua and Erie counties.

Opposition has been largely esoteric, however, focusing on potential damage to the lake bed, affects on fish habitats or the turbines killing bats and birds. What happens with the Icebreaker project will be more illustrative than an already overdue study of freshwater wind turbines in New York by NYSERDA.

There are questions whether or not the Lake Erie wind turbines designed by Icebreaker can survive Lake Erie winters, which have more surface ice than saltwater oceans and seas. The design of the Cleveland turbines’ moorings is also a new design in a lake that is buffeted by ice shoves four months a year, according to Scientific American.

The Cleveland project will also answer questions about economics. Typically offshore wind projects sell electricity at more expensive rates than on-shore projects — and Lake Erie wind turbines are a massive investment if the electricity they produce is too expensive to be marketeable to consumers or if the lake damages the turbines to the point that additional maintenance increases their already high electric purchasing price.

As we noted earlier, there has been massive local opposition to putting turbines in Lake Erie. The Icebreaker project could assuage some of those concerns, or it flop and be the death knell for similar projects.

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