Lorry Wagner could not afford to take off Monday to celebrate Presidents Day.
“We got just one year, and every day counts,” said Wagner, president of the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp.
The group, of which Ashtabula County is a member, is under the gun to demonstrate to the federal government its offshore wind project can clear all the logistical, permitting, fiscal and technical hurdles involved in citing a wind farm in Lake Erie.
Last week, $4 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding began to flow into LEEDCo’s “Icebreaker” project. The one-year award will fund an advanced technology demonstration program to build five to nine wind turbines seven miles off the coast of Cleveland in Lake Erie.
The DOE grant to LEEDCo was one of seven advanced technology, offshore demonstration projects to receive funding. Icebreaker is the only one in the Great Lakes.
At the end of the grant period, the DOE will evaluate the demonstration projects and select three projects that will receive $46 million each over four years. Wagner that kind of money would fund 40 to 50 percent of LEEDCo’s planned project of 20 to 30 megawatts.
Although the demonstration project will be built off Cuyahoga County, the wind off Ashtabula County is even stronger, according to an Ohio Department of Natural Resources study. Ashtabula County commissioners thus support LEEDCo with membership, board representation and cash because of the economic development potential that offshore wind could mean for the county.
“Think of Icebreaker in Lake Erie as the flagship of projects that could be installed in the Great Lakes, which has enormous offshore wind potential,” said Walt Musial, manager of Offshore Wind and Ocean Power Systems at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colo.
Proponents of the project also point to the industry’s supply chain potential for Ohio industry and the maintenance business for ports like Conneaut and Ashtabula.