Cleveland wind project awarded $40 million DOE grant to develop Lake wind farm

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The U.S. Department of Energy is awarding $40 million to the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. to build a six-turbine pilot wind farm in Lake Erie by the end of 2018.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur with LEEDCo
 U.S. Rep.Marcy Kaptur said the Cleveland-based project to build a pilot wind farm eight to 10 miles offshore in Lake Erie could be the beginning of a wind corridor running from Buffalo to Erie to Toledo and extending points west and east. Kaptur announced that the U.S. Department of Energy is awarding $40 million to the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. to build the first-ever fresh-water wind farm in the Lake.

The award caps a 10-year struggle that began as an idea in the mind of Cleveland Foundation President and CEO Ronn Richard upon his arrival in Cleveland.

The money will be delivered in three $13.3 million grants provided LEEDCo. continues to meet engineering, permitting and construction goals set by the DOE.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur announced the grant Friday morning on a Great Lakes Science Museum patio overlooking the lake. Mayor Frank Jackson, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and LEEDCo President Lorry Wagner spoke about solving the engineering problems and overcoming political obstacles to get the project this far.

To make the award, the DOE withdrew funding from two offshore ocean projects that had not kept up with the department's interim engineering benchmarks.

LEEDCo's decision to adopt the European-designed "Mono Bucket" foundation, which eliminates pile driving int the bedrock below the lake bed, may have been crucial to the DOE's decision to fully fund the project.

LEEDCo Mono Bucket foundation.jpegMeasuring 45 feet in diameter, the steel Mono Bucket includes a steel pole attached to its bottom. The bucket would be sunk and placed open-side down on the lake bottom with the large-diameter pole extending toward the surface of the water. When engineers pump the water and air from the bucket, the structure will dig itself into the Lake floor. The device has been used in Europe.LEEDCo

Kaptur said the small wind farm should be the beginning of a new wind-powered energy grid along the southern shores of the Great Lakes from Buffalo to Toledo initially but extending into Canada and points west as well.

"There is something that will be born here that is larger than this installation. What will be born is the concept of a new grid, not just for this region but for the entire Great Lakes," she said. 

"It isn't every day that a place in America receives $40 million. I congratulate the collaboration that you have managed to achieve here and the perseverance that allowed this project to both be funded and carried forward."

Jackson and Budish focused on the potential economic impact of the project, which from the very beginning has been seen as a way to jump-start manufacturing. 

"This is about positioning Cleveland and the region for the future," said Jackson. "We already have manufacturing of [turbine] parts in this region. This will give us the ability to not only manufacture parts but to assemble turbines here. We want to position Cleveland be an exporter . . ., to provide this technology to North America."

Budish said the project "represents the best in collaboration" in this community and between the county and the city. So many people, so many organizations worked together to make this happen," he said.

Budish recalled sitting in an office listening to Ronn Richard talk about building hundreds, even thousands, of turbines in the lake and thinking to himself, "I don't know about this guy."

By John Funk, The Plain Dealer on May 27, 2016 at 1:20 PM, updated May 27, 2016 at 2:32 PM