Let’s face it, most of us don’t associate Ohio with being a leader in renewable power generation. But with the state’s huge manufacturing sector, Ohio is actually the biggest producer of wind energy-related products in the nation. In fact, more than 1 out of every 10 facilities that produce components for the wind energy industry in this country are located in Ohio. It was also one of the top five fastest growing states for wind-generated capacity in 2012.
With all of this momentum and focus on renewable energy sources, Ohio must be generating a lot of its power from alternative sources, right. Well, that’s where you’d be mistaken. Currently the state generates around 80 percent of its Ohio electricity from coal-fired power plants – among the highest percentage in the country. But that may be about to change.
Groups such as the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) are in the engineering phase of designing the nation’s first off-shore wind farm, to be located on Lake Erie. The proposed project would involve six gigantic wind turbines that would generate enough power for 8,500 homes annually.
There are plenty of hurdles still to overcome, including the fact that current regulations were written at a time when off-shore wind turbines were not even considered a viable source of electricity. In addition, the state and Federal agencies that would be required to approve such a project have overlapping authority when it comes to public safety.
Groups that are involved in raising awareness and gaining public support are not deterred by the challenges however. Currently more than 3,500 signatures have been collected, and 60 percent of the customers who would be served by this project have said they would be willing to pay more for the electricity generated.
LEEDCo has already been awarded $4 million from the Department of Energy for the design phase and hopes to win an extra $47 million federal grant to begin the building phase. Their goal is to start building in 2016 and complete the project by 2017. Outside investors would still be required to generate the remaining money necessary, but the group feels they have the right support in place.
If successful, the Lake Erie wind farm could become a model for other, even larger projects. Some states on the East and West coasts have long discussed plans for large wind-farm operations located off shore. It may just be that a Midwest state beats them to the punch.
Whatever the outcome, Choose Energy congratulates Ohio and its residents for their forward thinking and their contributions to renewable energy development. Now let’s hope other states follow suit. Drop us a line to let us know your thoughts and whether you support off-shore wind energy generation.