Lake Erie wind farm to be built by European developer

By John Seewer, Associated Press

Backers say the $120 million pilot project is expected to be up and running in 2018.

OLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A European wind developer will take the lead on building a new wind farm project in Lake Erie that's designed to show the potential for alternative energy along the Ohio shoreline.

Backers say the $120 million pilot project is expected to be up and running in 2018.

Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. announced that Norwegian-based Fred.Olsen Renewables will build the six wind turbines about seven to 10 miles from the edge of downtown Cleveland.

The deal brings an experienced developer to the project and gives it more credibility as they seek additional investors, said Lorry Wagner, president of the Lake Erie Energy Development group.

"Instead of them saying 'Who are you?' they'll now say 'we know who you are," Wagner said.

Fred.Olsen Renewables has wind farms operating or in development in Sweden, Norway, Scotland and the United Kingdom. It's also involved in building wind turbines off the coast of Rhode Island, the nation's first off-shore wind farm.

The company, based in Oslo, Norway, has interest in the future of wind power throughout the Great Lakes region, Wagner said.

Lake Erie Energy Development hopes that its test project will prove wind farms are economically viable and environmentally safe while also displaying that northeastern Ohio can become a manufacturing hub for wind turbines.

Wind projects in the Midwest have advantages over the Atlantic Ocean, Wagner said, because there are no hurricanes and there already is a robust electrical grid with manufacturing plants that need a lot of electricity.

The six turbines are projected to produce up to 20 megawatts. Cleveland Public Power has a deal to buy a quarter of the output. Other potential customers are still being sought.

Complicating that a bit is Ohio's decision to put a hold on a state law requiring the state's utilities to generate a portion of their electricity from alternative sources, such as wind and solar.

A legislative panel in Ohio recommended in September that the requirements for renewable energy be suspended indefinitely. Gov. John Kasich disagreed with the suggestion, offering support for a diverse mix of reliable, low-cost energy sources.

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