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LEEDCo on the Brink (freshwater wind’s eco-nightmare)

By Sherri Lange -- September 14, 2020

“Public and regulatory pressure continues against LEEDCo. Freeing the fresh-water lakebed from a billionaire foreign developer using US taxpayer dollars is Step One. Step Two is bringing New York Governor Cuomo’s green fantasy back to earth.”

This Thursday, September 17, 2020, the Ohio Power Siting Board will revisit the LEEDC0 decision of this May that placed significant environmental conditions on the project.

For years, MasterResource has followed the LEEDCo (Lake Erie Energy Development Corp) offshore wind application, what is now owned by Icebreaker Windpower, Fred Olsen Renewables. The massive-sized 6-turbine 20.7 MW project offshore Cleveland has produced a decade of controversy and false starts, and no electricity, with generous DOE funding underwriting the futility.

LEEDCo is on life support. The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) approved the project in May subject to 33 conditions, the most significant being the turbine blades must be “feathered” or shut down at “night” (usually dusk to dawn) during the eight months of migration of many species.  The developer has called OPSB’s key condition the “Poison Pill.” This Thursday, September 17th, the OPSB may make a final determination.

Environmental Pushback

The Great Lakes are a blend of richness of natural habitat, food, and restoration for millions of creatures making their pilgrimage across the waters twice yearly. Brad Steinberg of Ontario Canada, counts it as billions on the migration superhighway. (For an overview of the high octane migration action, seasonally portrayed, see “Ohio Birding by Season: Fall” in Bird Watcher’s Digest.)

Arguments against LEEDCo/Icebreaker have been vigorously applied in the last decade, much highlighting the migrations in light of the harm from turbine eco-traps. Water quality and impacts to fish and aquatic species are also at issue.

On-the-spot environmentalists filed legal challenges, such as by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and co-plaintiff, Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). All should listen to these two high-level U.S. organizations which are at the forefront of biological/ecological health and species recovery for the Lakes.

And remember: LEEDCo is a demonstration project for what politicians really want–more than a thousand wind turbines in the Great Lakes.

Ohio to New York

The termination of LEEDCo would be a blow against offshore wind, which costs about triple that of the power generated from new capacity from onshore gas-fired combined-cycle plants.

Ohio aside, New York Governor Cuomo’s offshore plan involves 1,700 megawatts, eighty times that of LEEDCo, a true Fantasy Island of cement and steel infrastructure in quest of carbon-free energy. (Never mind how onshore gas plants must firm-up offshore’s intermittent power–if New York can import the natural gas for such back-up.)

It is worth remembering the media fanfare two years ago with Cuomo’s mega-wind plan.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, joined by former Vice President Al Gore, today executed the nation’s largest offshore wind agreement and the single largest renewable energy procurement by any state in U.S. history – nearly 1,700 megawatts -with the selection of two offshore wind projects, that will create enough energy to power over 1 million homes, create more than 1,600 jobs, and result in $3.2 billion in economic activity. 

Governor Cuomo also signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or CLCPA, which adopts the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country. Today’s announcement underscores New York’s undisputed position as a global leader in climate and clean energy, and advances Governor Cuomo’s nation-leading mandate of 9,000 megawatts by 2035.

Additionally, today’s offshore wind announcement is expected to catalyze the first generation of major United States supply chain investments by the fast-growing offshore wind sector, positioning New York to be the hub of the nation’s burgeoning offshore wind industry.

Governor Cuomo, in short, has promised to “lead the way” by industrializing Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

LEEDCo Challenged & Exposed

The legal challenges by John Stock on behalf of the Bratenahl residents, and ABC and BSBO, will take a serious bite out of Great Lakes industrialization. As I noted previously:

The exaggerations and misrepresentations of this application to construct are many.  These include: no biologically significant harm to wildlife; birds do not fly over the lake; and super-luminous lures of jobs and power supply. Of course, the proposal is layered in the meme that the climate (really weather) can be mitigated by this and other such projects given less reliance on coal or fossil fuels.

Read key elements of lawyer Bill Eubanks’ Memo here. One can see that LEEDCo is in deep eco-trouble.



“This case is about the Department of Energy’s (‘DOE’) funding and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (‘Corps’) permitting of the Icebreaker Wind Project (‘Icebreaker’ or ‘the Project’), a first-of-its-kind proposed offshore wind energy facility in Lake Erie. With a cost to taxpayers in excess of $40 million, the Project is meant to spur future development of offshore industrial wind energy in the Great Lakes region and beyond.

If constructed, Icebreaker will be the first offshore freshwater wind energy project ever built in the western hemisphere. Proposed for construction in the heart of a Global Important Bird Area, Icebreaker poses a grave threat to millions of birds and bats that migrate through the area twice each year and/or utilize the biologically fertile waters of Lake Erie as feeding and breeding grounds.

Given both the precedent-setting nature of the Project, and its potential to scar an ecologically critical area, the decision to fund and authorize the Project warranted rigorous environmental scrutiny. Yet, rather than conduct the robust examination that federal law required for this ground-breaking project—one that will fundamentally transform this freshwater ecosystem and pave the way for thousands of wind turbines in the Great Lakes—DOE has instead willfully ignored objections from expert agencies and shirked its most fundamental duties under the National Environmental Policy Act (Our emphasis) (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321–4347.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) is the federal agency with specialized expertise regarding wildlife and the biological threats associated with wind energy. It repeatedly called for DOE to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) to evaluate Icebreaker. DOE opted instead to review the Project using a far less rigorous Environmental Assessment (“EA”)…the EA itself is fatally flawed because DOE failed to consider the full scope of the Project’s impacts and any alternatives that could substantially minimize avian mortality and mitigate its adverse impacts. (Our emphasis)

Hence, DOE’s cursory review violates NEPA and its implementing regulations, falling far short of DOE’s duty to take a “hard look” at the full impacts of its decision and alternatives to it.

DOE’s token consideration of Icebreaker’s impacts on wildlife also contaminated the Corps’ environmental analysis. Indeed, in permitting the Project under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), 33 U.S.C. § 1344, the Corps chose to rely on data that FWS criticized as incomplete and flawed, a decision that precluded the Corps from complying with its own regulations.

Similarly, rather than seriously consider whether the Project is “the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative,” a finding the agency is legally required to make on the basis of clear and convincing evidence under Section 404, the Corps failed to examine an alternative presented by FWS which would minimize the Project’s lasting impacts on birds and bats. Hence, the Corps’ authorization of the Project violated the CWA.

Accordingly, the Court should hold that Defendants’ inadequate environmental evaluation of Icebreaker violates NEPA, the CWA, and the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 706(2).

[For a full read of the Memo, please visit Great Lakes Wind Truth.]


Public and regulatory pressure continues against LEEDCo. Freeing the lakebed from a billionaire foreign developer feasting off US taxpayers is Step One. Step Two is bringing New York Governor Cuomo’s green fantasy back to earth.


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  2. Jon Boone  

    The push for offshore wind machines continues with relative abandon. And why not? Given the redoubtable Rick Perry’s push for wind for over two years as the US Secretary of Energy, followed by the rather clueless policies promoted by the current secretary of the agency, Dan Brouillette, wind technology remains a key resource in the “all of the above” arsenal of energy supply promulgated by these two yardbirds. And now that the scurrilous avatar for wind cronyism, Senator Chuck Grassley, has figured how to plant massive wind subsidies into long term Congressional appropriation bills, in the process eliminating any debate about the demerits of the junk, the world will see continuous wind depredation. The only hope for surcease comes if Trump is re-elected, carrying both the House and Senate, such that (1) he no longer needs anything from the likes of Grassley and (2) he can install William Happer as the point man for overhauling the nation’s current hapless energy policy.

    That wind opposition remains stuck in its “not in my backyard” orientation because so few have even bothered to grasp the reasons for its utter power dysfunction (it can’t produce modern power), is central toward understanding why wind continues to have traction in the public square. Along with the wink and a nod from the usual suspects leading the conventional generation crowd, who have always understood that, the more wind generation, the more need for—uh—fossil fuels. Wink, wink—nod….

    What confounds me, after yea these last two dozen years, is why any knowledgeable, rational individual still considers wind to be anything other than a tax avoidance scheme. At least Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have acknowledged this reality, and use it sanctimoniously for this purpose. But economists shamelessly continue to compare wind performance with conventional generation, as if they can, as if delusion is a meaningful commodity in the real world.

    Our culture is now witnessing the consequences of delusion run amok across the land. The hinges of functional tradition and rational discourse are unloosed. And derangement has become the order of the day.


  3. Sherri Lange  

    Thanks Jon Boone. As ever, brilliant and on the mark. It covers a large bucket of willing ignorance, as you note, because we have known for 25 to 30 years (if we count Europe, which of course we do), that wind is a make-believe construct, right out of Orwell.

    Manufactured, transported, maintained, decommissioned, if we are lucky, out of oil and gas.

    So then, these are GREEN; cobalt, copper, steel using massive tons of water, aluminum, carbon fibres, glass fibres, E-glass, or electric-glass made of alumino-borosilicate, highly toxic rare earth elements, usually from China;
    S-glass, or high strength-glass made of magnesium aluminosilicate, Unsaturated Polyesters: General Polyethylene terephthalate, amorphous
    Vinylesthers: General Vinyl ester (VE)
    Epoxies: General Epoxide; Epoxy (EP+GF25+MD45), (EP+GF30+MD20);

    As the industry notes: innovative composite materials;

    Polymethacrylimide, foam (PMI);

    AS 1302 Grade 230S rolled (concrete reinforcing bar) bar;

    Fibre reinforced laminates…..

    THE LIST seems interminable, and then add in of course the dizzying drama of manufacture, with its own list of chems and processes, each not exactly “green” in part of whole.

    You say so correctly:

    “But economists shamelessly continue to compare wind performance with conventional generation, as if they can, as if delusion is a meaningful commodity in the real world.”

    It is truly a fantasy island…and the “crosses” of its excursion into our world, will be borne a long time.

    Thanks again, Jon, for your amazing comment.


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  5. Michael Spencley  

    The legal filing by ABC and BSBO provides a major roadblock to the LEEDCO project. The fact that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service repeatedly called for DOE to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) to evaluate Icebreaker. In that DOE ignored the FWS and chose to instead use a far less rigorous Environmental Assessment gives rise to the question of who is rubber-stamping these dangerously flawed projects. Perhaps under examination, we will learn more. Clearly the DOE swamp is not drained yet!

    The LEEDCO project is the “trojan horse” leading the attack on our precious Great Lakes. Let’s pray that we will wake up from this nightmare and find that common sense, logic, and good governance will prevail.

    Thank you Sherri Lange for staying on top of this and to Master Resource for giving it a voice.


  6. Sherri Lange  

    Thank you, Michael. You are right. The missed opportunities to carefully examine the entire environmental impact, certain impact, are abundant. They were outlined within 14 points by former Chair of the OPSB, in 2014, Todd Snitchler. For this richly abundant migration route, one of the most travelled in the world, to be so neglected by the DOE shows the political forces that pushed it along this far. We can only hope that a quick resolution arises, keeping the Lake and all the Lakes turbine free. This decision will most certainly impact other environmental impacts, also certain, in Nantucket for example. That must be our next target. Thank you again, Michael Spencely.


  7. Suzanne Albright  

    Having read this excellent, accurate article by Sherri Lange, and the brilliant comments submitted by Jon Boone, I realized that I have nothing new of any substance to add. So, I went back to a letter I wrote over 4 years ago to see what has changed about this stupid project. The answer is NOTHING. The avian slaughter is still predicted. The lack of energy production and need for conventional back up is unchanged. The monetary cost is still astronomical compared to conventional sources that actually work! So, here is the repeat. Feels like Groundhog Day:

    May 31, 2016 at 2:49 pm:
    I live on the shore of Lake Ontario, the shoreline facing northeast. Twenty nautical miles east of here is Ginna Nuclear Power Plant, also bordering the shore. Every night as I close the blinds, I look out at the parking lot lights, yes, 20 nautical miles away. Food for thought.

    On to avian issues. On 3/14/2011, Jeff Schmidt, Director, PA Chapter, Sierra Club, testified the following before the PA State Legislature: “Lake Erie is unique among the Great Lakes because its shallow depth provides forage grounds for ducks, loons, horned grebes, and other waterfowl across its entire surface. Shorebirds, songbirds and raptors all cross Lake Erie at varying altitude and locations.Migratory birds are already highly stressed…”, but then goes on to say how placement of offshore turbines is critical (Placement or siting? REALLY??). He further states, “Many raptors inhabit the Lake Erie environs and the US Fish & Wildlife Service has observed the migration of five raptor species across Lake Erie: peregrine falcons, short eared owls, osprey, bald eagles and harriers.”

    Let’s be honest here. Wind turbines in Lake Erie will become avian slaughtering machines. LEEDCo can talk about siting and mitigation all day, but it is no more than meaningless garble. If the reader cares little or nothing about the painful, horrific, bloody killing of these avian creatures, that speaks volumes about their character. Keep in mind that birds, primarily raptors, are indicator species. That is one of the main reasons we count them during spring migration. Decreasing numbers of them are an early indicator of harm in the ecosystem, harm that will impact humans. So, if there is no regard for the protection of these defenseless (against human activity) marvels, at least consider their value to the ecosystem and human health. We need them, but they don’t need us!

    Further, looking at the picture of that couple enjoying the beach (or not, as they stare at industrial turbines), visualize them sitting there with bloody bird carcasses washing up on shore. Lovely. Or, on windy days with 6 foot waves, the bird parts being flung through the air.

    It is appalling to me (and countless others, but primarily average citizens who are not in control of federal tax dollars and who lack the power and resources to make these decisions) that projects like LEEDCo could possibly move forward. Until we all become educated regarding this filthy hoax called industrial wind energy, the desecration of our countrysides, mountains, and now even our fresh waters, will be allowed to continue. And we will pay for it, financially and in every other way.


  8. Sherri Lange  

    Ms Suzanne Albright, you continue to educate and share your expertise. Thank you. We will indeed, continue to pay and clean up the mess. It is a “filthy hoax,” as you note.

    It’s so hard to imagine the “indicator species” which some may call EVERY species, as the known slaughter continues world wide. I absolutely love this personal statement of yours as to why turbines must never be in the Lakes and I applaud your ten plus years adventure to stop this.

    If I may quote from Save the Eagles International:

    “Eagles are not the only victims. Smallwood also estimated that Altamont killed an average of 300 red-tailed hawks, 333 American kestrels and 380 burrowing owls annually – plus even more non-raptors, including 2,526 rock doves and 2,557 western meadowlarks.

    In 2012, breaking the European omerta on wind farm mortality, the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/Birdlife) reviewed actual carcass counts from 136 monitoring studies. They concluded that Spain’s 18,000 wind turbines are killing 6-18 million birds and bats yearly.

    Extrapolating that and similar (little publicized) German and Swedish studies, 39,000 U.S. wind turbines would not be killing “only” 440,000 birds (USFWS, 2009) or “just” 573,000 birds and 888,000 bats (Smallwood, 2013), but 13-39 million birds and bats every year!

    However, this carnage is being covered up by self-serving and/or politically motivated government agencies, wind industry lobbyists, environmental groups and ornithologists, under a pile of misleading studies paid for with more taxpayer money.”

    We really need to regroup and number off the more approximate numbers of mortalities: likely between 13 and 31 MILLION per year in the US alone: birds and bats. Some to extinction.

    Thank you again for your cogent and sensitive and remarkably clear comment about the useless carnage. You are a true warrior for nature and for the Lakes.


  9. Sherri Lange  


    Please note this draft account sent to Cleveland dot com. Looks like Chair Sam Randazzo and OPSB staff are holding to their desire/demand for more accurate accounting of damage to the wildlife of the beautiful Lake.

    Here is what ONE warrior, fighting turbines at the Cape said:

    “The guy’s ( Randazzo) Brilliant – what a sense of humor to boot!!

    “As for the “poison pill” argument, Randazzo wrote that the staff recommendation would have blocked the construction of the wind farm until the wildlife risks “are adequately identified and mitigated.” The board’s ruling, he asserted, is a way for Icebreaker Wind to begin construction sooner.”

    “To the extent that our initial order might be fairly or unfairly characterized as delivering a ‘poison pill,’ the applicant and the other settlement signatory parties wrote the prescription,” Randazzo wrote, referring to the Icebreaker Wind developer and the staffers.”

    Give him a great big kiss for me, wudja?”

    Yes, Chair Randazzo is to be deeply applauded for his guidance of the OPSB in this anticipated hold on the conditions for the permit. WELL DONE, Chair Randazzo. We will stand by you.


  10. Suzanne Albright  

    And, having actually been published in North American Clean Energy in Jan/Feb 2018 regarding IWT fires, I would like to add one more comment. These fires might not be in the forefront of daily concerns for turbines in our precious Great Lakes, but when one does occur, and it is clearly a risk due to lightning strikes during storms, particularly the Nor’easters that are common over Lakes Erie and Ontario, the risk of a fire and explosion is indisputable. During these high winds, turbine brakes are known to fail, the blades spinning out of control until the motor heats up and catches fire, leading to an explosion. These blades, made of toxic carbon fiber, blow into pieces, and are known to fly through the air, often on fire, for over half a mile or more. Keep in mind, each one is the length of a football field, weighing TONS.
    Imagine this in the middle of Lake Erie. Even on land there is NO POSSIBLE WAY to reach a turbine fire, 500 feet or more in the sky. There is NO WAY to extinguish such a fire, and with the risk of explosion, why would any right minded person try? Now, picture this scene in the middle of the lake during a storm. Further, a rogue lightning strike during boating season is also a risk, albeit less of one, but not impossible. Point made?
    Either way, is this a risk worth taking in ANY of our Great Lakes? Turning our lakes into filthy, toxic industrial wastelands? It has happened onshore in Hawaii, California, and in other countries, including Australia, with rusted out turbine skeletons littering the countrysides. Yes, the developers vow to remove them, but IT DOES NOT HAPPEN. Fred Olsen will be long gone, kicking the hideous IWT can down the road to scam some other naive community.
    Why the OPSB ever issued a permit, even with feathering conditions, is beyond my ability to understand or accept. PLEASE, CHAIRMAN RANDAZZO, AT THE VERY LEAST, DO NOT REMOVE THE NIGHTTIME FEATHERING CONDITION.


  11. Sherri Lange  

    Thanks, Suzanne. I also pray that the staff meeting on Thursday, 17th of Sept 2020, will affirm that the Board, voting board, will hold firm to the feathering condition. All the conditions. To me, this is a first in a way, demanding this much of a developer in a fresh water lake. It seems obvious to us, because we know the harm. We know as you say, of the possible, or even sure, lightening strikes, or oil leaks, or other “component liberation” and such and how these will impact our drinking water, our wildlife, our natural companions of the Lake. Thank you again for the comment and for pointing out the fire aspect, which you write on, and are expert in. Please see http://www.turbinesonfire.org for more of Ms. Albright’s contributions to this subject.


  12. Sherri Lange  

    Coincidentally, today Wind Power Monthly posted a picture of a damaged blade in Ohio. This happens more often than we believe. The developer, EDP, does not acknowledge the cause.


    “The companies said that a date for the blade replacement had not yet been set, but the turbine would return to service.

    “We cannot speculate on the cause of the incident and are conducting a root cause analysis to evaluate what may have caused the incident.

    “EDP Renewables is also working closely with the Ohio Power Siting Board and local law enforcement on its public safety response efforts, and as appropriate, will share more information as the investigation occurs.”

    The incident gained publicity after a local wind opponent tweeted a picture of the damaged turbine.

    Repair costs

    Separately, Vestas was hit by a €5 million loss in the second quarter of this year, with its earnings down from blade repair costs.

    There were €175 million of extraordinary warranty provisions for the “specific repair and upgrade of already-installed blades” the company said when presenting its results in August.

    CEO Henrik Andersen told reporters at a press conference that the issue was related to “high-intensity lightning”.


  13. Sherri Lange  

    Sadly, Dem Politics play out at the OPSB today. But it is so not over.

    “In other business, the OPSB today, (under ODNR Mary Mertz’s guidance OUR NOTE), adopted a motion to remove the feathering modification contained in its May 21, 2020 opinion, order and certificate authorizing Icebreaker Wind to construct a one of a kind demonstration wind project on Lake Erie. This motion would not remove other bird and bat risk mitigation requirements Icebreaker must comply with before, during and after construction, including the requirement that the Board approve, through a public and transparent process, the final bird and bat risk mitigation protocol prior to construction. ”

    So more hurdles, and Sam Randazzo was wonderful, as usual, but capitulated, likely inevitably, to his Board which likely has been bullying him, and we can hope and pray that the wording of the new draft coming now, will be equally prohibitive and protective of the wildlife passing the area twice a year: in the billions. Say prayers and blessings for the Staff of the OPSB as they draft the new DRAFT without feathering. What they don’t understand, perhaps, the voting members of the Board, is that the feathering event is now currency, almost a given, for permitting in many circumstances. Also what they may not realize that MANY species in many numbers, can be saved in this manner, and the cost to developers is relatively small, we could say, miniscule. Some say 1%. So what is the big deal here? OPSB is trying to create a true barometer for possible studies, assessments, of offshore turbines in freshwater, a first. BUT this developer calls it a “poison pill,” likely in order to taint the intentions of the OPSB to PROTECT WILDLIFE. Chair Randazzo corrected this interpretation several times over the last few days. POISON PILL is the DEVELOPER LED definition, likely to impress on some, the need for legals. This is strange, because the poison pill, is truly the damage to the environment: George Orwell is alive and well.

    What a strange Orwellian world. This is not over by any stretch.


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