The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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May 2, 2013

Turbine tour leaves good impression of Ashtabula County

JEFFERSON — Winds that buffet Lake Erie could blow some economic development into Ashtabula County, officials said.

On Monday, more than two dozen people connected with a northeast Ohio wind turbine project learned the county’s transportation offerings — especially its ports — would be a boon to their program. The visitors left impressed, Brian Anderson, Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County executive director, said Wednesday.

“It was very well received,” Anderson said. “They saw some potential and value here.”

Twenty-five people associated with the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., including potential engineers and vendors, toured the county. Special emphasis was paid the county’s deep-water ports in Conneaut and Ashtabula, Anderson said.

“There was a nice presentation (on the ports),” he said. “Both sides learned quite a bit.”

Last year, LEEDCo received federal funding for a project that would erect turbines in Lake Erie. Initially, LEEDCo will install nine 3-megawatt turbines in the lake seven miles offshore of Cleveland, according to a statement from the county. Many more could follow, and there’s a chance some could sprout in the lake north of Ashtabula County.

Ultimately, dozens of turbines could be installed in the lake. Local companies could play a big role in creating the components for the massive generators, officials have said. In the short term, however, local officials want LEEDCo to consider local ports for the transport of the pieces that will eventually become the first turbines in the water.

Local ports offer a “good balance” of easy access, proximity to railroads and low congestion, Anderson said. “They’re not overly crowded,” he said.

Visitors asked plenty of questions about the ports, infrastructure and available acreage, Anderson said. The first of the turbines could be constructed within the next two years, he said.

The LEEDCo project, dubbed “Icebreaker,” would blend European companies well versed in the manufacture of turbines with local contractors, officials said in a recent statement. “When you look at the infrastructure available near the ports, the properties available for development and local industries that have competitive technology in the wind energy market, Ashtabula County has a lot to offer,” Sean Ratican, county port authority executive director said in a statement.

While the Cleveland site for the first turbines “is an optimal location to test offshore wind energy,” studies have proved the county’s Lake Erie winds are the best along the lake, Ratican said in the statement. “So future development and job creation (in the county) is possible should LEEDCo secure additional funding,” he said.

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