Jul 17 2013

Offshore, Inshore: Wind Development in the Great Lakes

Published by under Student blog entries

When asked to consider offshore wind, I would always think of potential installations along the Atlantic coast of the US. Perhaps it is because I am an OBX local, I often forget that there are other major bodies of water in the US than the oceans. Offshore wind developers have not been so nearsighted.

Map from Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Consortium Fact Sheet: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/pdfs/gl_mou_fact_sheet.pdf

Wind Resources at 90m from Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Consortium Fact Sheet: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/pdfs/gl_mou_fact_sheet.pdf

The Lake Eerie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) is presently the spearhead of the offshore wind project in the Great Lakes called Icebreaker which will hopefully be running by 2017. The Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force (GLEDTF) having previously initiated investigations into Ohio’s energy resources in 2006, formed LEEDCo in 2009 to specifically address wind energy off the Northern Ohio coast. LEEDCo has been part of a public campaign to raise awareness and enthusiasm for the economic benefits of an offshore wind energy in Ohio. Their most recent effort involved a public outreach campaign through which they asked Ohio residents to sign a Power Pledge to demonstrate community interest in paying for higher energy utilities that come from the newly developed alternative energy sources.

The president of LEEDCo, Lorry Wagner, promoted the economic benefits of an offshore wind energy program in a recent interview with a local news outlet, Smart Business: Cleaveland. In a region that has seen a significant decrease in its population (Wagner states that Cleaveland’s population of 914,000 in 1950 has dwindled to 393,000 in 2013) partially due to the outsourcing of jobs, a permanent employer in the area could bring many economic benefits. He goes on to explain that there hasn’t been trouble generating interest for people younger than 40, or older than 65.

The challenge is getting people 40 to 65 to do something different and if I had the answer to that, I’d be king of the world.-Lorry Wagner (07.01.2013)

Despite a demographic with lagging interest, Icebreaker has received $4 million in funding from the Department of Energy as the only Great Lakes wind project. The current plan is to install between five and nine Siemens 3.0 MW Direct-Drive a minimum of 7 miles from Cleaveland in Lake Eerie.

Not everyone has been so enthusiastic about offshore wind in the Great Lakes, or offshore wind in general. Ontario will not allow the

North Sea Offshore Wind Turbines Source: Hans Hillewaert, Creative Commons via http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Technology/2012/06/20/Study-Bigger-wind-turbines-are-greener/UPI-11521340222182/

installation of offshore wind on their Great Lakes coastline or elsewhere citing a lack of environmental impact knowledge. Despite the presentation of data from European offshore wind farms that show negligible impact on biological and geomorphological systems where they are installed, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has not budged on the 2006 moratorium on offshore wind. The European studies have been dismissed as inapplicable as they were conducted in an ocean environment, as opposed to freshwater lake. Since the LEEDCo turbines are in the US waters of Lake Eerie, developers on the Ontario side can hopefully use American studies on environmental impact to shift the position of the MNR.

The development of offshore wind in a freshwater lake system also benefits projects located in the oceans. The Great Lakes are a very different environment than on an ocean coastline, but they both face similar problems in mitigating impact to migrating bird species and aquatic life. The progress of offshore wind projects, of any type, helps smooth the currently disjointed research and permitting process. LEEDCo’s community interest efforts are also particularly promising as they show the public’s willingness to get involved.  Any job or economic benefits in Lake Eerie will only serve as a possible example for the non-energy related positive results that come from the development of this industry elsewhere.



  1. LEEDCo Website (2013)
  2. “Building an Offshore Wind Energy in the Great Lakes” Gregory Jones; SmartBusiness Cleaveland (07/01/2013)
  3. “Signing “Power Pledge” Could Help Bring Wind Turbines to Lake Eerie” Lori E. Switaj; Avon-AvonLakePatch (06/29/2013)
  4. Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Consortium Fact Sheet
  5. “Environment Minister Defends Ban” Peter van Hiel: Niagrathisweek.com, Grimsby Lincoln News (06/20/2013)
  6. ‘Offshore Wind Energy Grows in Great Lakes, but not in Ontario” Tyler Hamilton; The Energy Collective (03/10/2013)



One response so far

One Response to “Offshore, Inshore: Wind Development in the Great Lakes”

  1.   Stephan Hearnon 15 Jul 2014 at 4:45 am

    Thank you for your insight into the developments of the Great Lakes wind power development. It is hard to imagine that this has not been harnessed more fully as it would seem that the installation and upkeep would be far easier than off the ocean shore. It is nice to know that the Eerie winds may finally get put to some good use other than just bringing cold and damp to the citizens surrounding it.

    Unfortunately, it would appear that other cities are not as intent on pulling this through as Cleveland. Albany, scrapped a deal in 2010 that could have potentially created clean power of up to 500 megawatts. The main reason this was overturned was due to a lack of funds and the bad economy, which is a fairly short-sighted reason in my view.

    Michigan on the other hand appears to be very engaged in the idea of creating offshore wind farms. After great success with their so-called “Thumb of Michigan”, a land based wind farm, they are eager to begin harvesting the strong winds of Lake Michigan. They have a particularly large percentage of the Great Lakes and with this space could build up to 100,000 wind turbines!

    These are all exciting developments and with the influx of renewable, green energies it is likely we will see more Great Lakes development. It is likely, however, that the Great Lakes region will look to Cleveland and their successes or failures to gauge future interests.

    1. “High costs end New York plan for Great Lakes wind power” Brian Nearing; Times Union (09/28/2011)
    2. “Michigan’s offshore winds harbor vast potential for energy, economic development” Tremaine Phillips; Michigan Environmental Council (Fall 2008)