Cleveland Could be the Center of Innovation for Clean, Alternative Energy (USA)

Once known for massive steel mills belching smoke into the sky, Cleveland could one day be known as the center of innovation for clean, alternative energy with wind turbines lining the edge of Lake Erie and spreading west across the northern portion of the state.

Don’t hold your breath, you say? Consider this: LEEDCo, a nonprofit group heading Northeast Ohio’s efforts to initiate an offshore wind project, and Fresh Water Wind, a private developer working with LEEDCo to finance, construct and operate the wind turbines, recently signed an option with the state of Ohio for offshore land on which to build a 20-megawatt wind farm.

With this option, LEEDCo and Fresh Water Wind can reserve nine square nautical miles for a wind farm. The parties are already busy determining the best location for the turbines, conducting fishery and bird surveys and acquiring permits, with the intent of building the actual turbines in 2012.

Cleveland is not the first city to devise a plan for offshore wind energy. Groups in Michigan and Canada are looking into building turbines in other slices of the Great Lakes.

A proposal for Cape Wind, a 130-turbine project in the waters off Cape Cod, was approved by the federal government, although it has raised the ire of many conservation groups and individual residents of New England. The Cleveland project, however, seems to be the only one with enough power and support behind it to get the wheels — or in this case, the blades — turning in the near future.

The 20-megawatt pilot project would deliver enough energy to power 5,000 homes, according to Lorry Wagner, president of LEEDCo and a wind energy engineer. The long-term goal is to have 1,000 megawatts of energy produced from wind turbines by 2020; that would be enough energy to power 250,000 homes, according to Morgan.

Long before the power of those massive turbines is unleashed, Cleveland will have the opportunity to establish itself as a leader in every aspect of this alternative energy — from research to construction to maintenance. It is a chance for this Rust Belt city to once and for all put the “mistake on the lake” razzing to rest and declare itself a true pioneer.

This won’t happen overnight, of course. Supporters of the wind energy project have enough confidence in this project, though, to believe that Greater Cleveland can create thousands of jobs and build a regional and national reputation in the wind energy industry over the next several years.

“A lot of business can develop from this,” Wagner says. Technical, engineering and permitting jobs will be in high demand from the beginning. “Our goal is to look to Ohio companies first to see if they can accomplish the task from technical and financial perspectives.”

Non-technical jobs in the legal, administrative and regulatory realms will also need to be placed from the very beginning of the project.

GE, which will be building the turbines for the pilot project, has a local supply chain that could serve as valuable resources, Wagner notes.

Then there are the jobs that have not yet been created, the wind energy-specific roles that will be formed as the project takes shape. For example, skilled crews will have to get the massive turbines offshore and weigh them down.

“There’s the whole maritime industry — ships that will tow the turbines, specialized vessels, crews to do the work,” says Dave Karpinski, vice president of NorTech, the technology-based economic development organization that has been one of the lead players in bringing wind energy to Northeast Ohio.

“Because the equipment is so large, work will have to be done close to where it’s being commissioned, so lots of jobs would have to be located here,” Karpinski says.

In a study commissioned by NorTech last August, it was estimated that 600 jobs could be created in the next few years just through the pilot project. The long-term wind energy project could mean about 8,000 new jobs in Greater Cleveland, the study concluded.

What gets proponents like Wagner and Karpinski really fired up is the potential to build an industry locally that can reach out to help future wind farms in the Great Lakes region and beyond.

Ontario, for example, wants to build 4,000 megawatts of wind energy on the Great Lakes. If Northeast Ohio establishes itself early as an authority in wind farms, it could claim a portion of the jobs that would be up for grabs in the Canadian project.

“We can really be leading the way,” Karpinski says.

Before it can proclaim itself as the leader in the alternative energy industry, Greater Cleveland must first do all the necessary research and answer the questions of individuals and groups who have voiced concerns. “We’ve started surveys in response to regulatory requirements,” Wagner says.

LEEDCo is also meeting with groups to address concerns ranging from the safety of wildlife to the challenges of producing wind energy in the face of significant ice buildup.

“We probably have about 200 groups out there we need to reach,” Wagner says. In one Cleveland district, the councilman has asked LEEDCo to address individual business districts. In Bratenahl, a lakeshore community, a kind of town hall meeting is being set up to talk to residents as a whole.

“Cleveland has been very supportive, including the mayor and the utilities department,” Wagner says. He realizes that, ultimately, it’s the residents of Greater Cleveland who must be comfortable with the region’s aspirations of building and maintaining a wind energy legacy.

“Our role is to continue to reach out to people so they’re aware and know as much as they want to know about the project,” Wagner says. “We want to get their concerns and interests upfront and deal with them as much as possible.”


Source: yahoo, February 10, 2011

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