The development of a wind turbine farm off the coast of Lake Erie was the focus of a presentation by Dr. Lorry Wagner, president of the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, in the Chapel on April 4.
The private, nonprofit regional corporation is working to build wind turbines in Lake Erie and eventually help stimulate an entire off-shore freshwater wind industry.
“What can we do to make Ohio better?” Wagner asked during his talk to students and faculty. “We have a great opportunity to reduce coal use over the next 20 years by focusing on using natural gas and renewable energy.”
Wagner is a professional engineer with several degrees from Purdue University and extensive experience in wind turbine technology. He previously served as president of Azure Energy, a renewable energy development corporation based in Solon. At Azure, Wagner played a leading role in the installation of the wind turbine at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, and has been involved in the development of several wind projects.
The corporation’s Icebreaker project will install five to seven direct-drive wind turbines in Lake Erie, seven miles northwest of Cleveland Browns Stadium, at an estimated cost of $120 to $150 million. Construction will begin in 2014 and the initial 20- to 30-megawatt project is expected to annually produce electricity equivalent to the needs of 5,000-6,000 average U.S. homes. The project’s goal is to generate 1,000 megawatts by the year 2020.
This is the first freshwater project of its kind in North America and continues Northeast Ohio’s historical ties to wind energy. In 1887, Cleveland-based engineer Charles Brush built what is believed to be the first wind turbine to generate electricity to operate the elevators and water pumps in his mansion on Lorain Avenue. In 1974, the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland developed the modern wind turbine, a 100-kilowatt turbine at the Plum Brook Station in Sandusky. In 2006, a wind turbine was installed at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland.
In 2011, Lincoln Electric installed the state’s largest wind turbine to generate power for one of the welding manufacturer’s factories and, this year, Case Western Reserve University installed two wind turbines in Cleveland’s eastern suburbs.
Off-shore wind farms have grown across Europe and Asia to the point where it is now a $400-billion industry, Wagner said. Building, installing and maintaining the turbines created almost 45,000 jobs in Europe in 2010, and China, Japan and South Korea are currently competing to see which country can build the world’s largest wind farm.
In addition to developing a renewable energy source, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation believes Ohio is positioned to benefit economically from the growth of wind energy.
“Ohio is currently the leader in manufacturing onshore turbines as well as a leader in the wind supply chain industry, which creates a ripple effect with other jobs,” Wagner said. “Ohio’s (six deep-water) ports along Lake Erie also mean the state can serve as hub for the rest of the region.”
Worldwide the industry continues to grow. Both the United Kingdom and Germany are expected to have 30 percent of their energy produced by off-shore wind by the year 2020, while Denmark if moving toward having 50 percent of its energy come from a combination of off- and on-shore wind.
“Does it work? Yes. Does it create jobs? Yes,” Wagner said. “It just needs to be made more affordable. From an economic standpoint, an on-shore wind project will break even in four to seven years, while off-shore right now is about 20 years because it is a new industry. When any industry first starts it is more expensive and that is the case with off-shore energy.”
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