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Lake Erie Wind Turbines? Complaints Pour In (Part I: Overview)

By Sherri Lange -- October 18, 2016

“Groups fighting any industrialization of the Lakes … are requesting that federal funding for this expensive boondoggle, estimated to eventually run up to $125 million, or about $25 million for each turbine, be immediately truncated, and that a complete audit of existing monies granted be undertaken with fulsome reporting to taxpayers.”

“There is absolutely NOTHING ecologically friendly about an industrial wind turbine. It is designed for one thing: profits.”

The Icebreaker Windpower project, proposed by the Norway-based Fred. Olsen Renewables, would be the first proposed freshwater wind turbine project in the United States. The proposal, however, is running into serious opposition from ratepayer, taxpayer, and environmental groups.

As an offshore project (six turbines about seven miles off the shore of Cleveland Ohio), it should be compared to the $0.24/kWh cost debacle of Rhode Island’s Deepwater Wind project that is about to begin production.

No mater how much the American Wind Energy Association hypes, offshore wind adds a layer of cost to the already uneconomic onshore projects.


Al Isselhard of Great Lakes Wind Truth, who has worked for years to protect the Lakes from industrialization, recently offered the North American Platform Against Wind Power his current assessment of the Icebreaker proposal. “We have to assume that LEEDCo, now the Icebreaker Windpower project with Fred Olsen Renewables of Norway, was completely unprepared to undertake the project of six turbines.” He continued:

Ironically, even if they had done the proper homework, it still would not be and IS not, a viable project. Where is the update on this homework? Where are the deficiencies and omissions remediated? This project is the same project, and public attention needs to highlight the unbearable cost of a so called demonstration project. If I build an 8 x 10 shed, I need a permit. Where is the permit for the digging that is now taking place in Lake Erie?

Mysteriously, without permits in place, the US’s first freshwater wind turbine proposal has received another dollop of federal money: $40 million.

Groups fighting any industrialization of the Lakes such as Great Lakes Wind Truth and North American Platform Against Wind Power (NA-PAW ), are submitting letters to the DOE Colorado Office as quickly as possible. Some are requesting that federal funding for this expensive boondoggle, estimated to eventually run up to $125 million, or about $25 million for each turbine, be immediately truncated, and that a complete audit of existing monies granted be undertaken with fulsome reporting to taxpayers.

The proposed industrialization is being hyped as the beginning of a proliferation in the Lake of up to 1,700 turbines. US Representative Marci Kaptur refers in various media pieces to a “wind corridor” running “from Buffalo to Erie to Toledo and extending points west and east.” (One almost wishes this grotesque whole were on paper in order to cause an environmentalist revolt from lake to shining lake.)

Siting Deficiencies

Formerly known as LEEDCo project, Icebreaker comes under the jurisdiction of the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). Two years ago, the OPSB identified some 14 omissions, errors, and deficiencies in the Lake Erie application. We opponents of the project cannot locate any remission or correction of those deficiencies.

Some of the deficiencies for the LEEDCo project noted by the OPSB are:

  • Ecological impacts studies for during construction and during operation
  • Ice throw. Describe the potential impact from ice throw at the nearest properly boundary, including commercial and recreational uses of Lake Erie (i.e., fishing, shipping, military exercises, boating, swimming/diving, etc.), and the Applicant’s plans to minimize potential impacts, if warranted
  • Noise. Indicate the location of any noise-sensitive areas within one-mile of the proposed facility. Conduct studies and provide results that indicate negligible noise impacts to aquatic species
  • An up to 10-year survey of projected population within 5 miles of the project site (which includes transmission lines and substations) “The applicant shall provide existing and ten-year projected population estimates for communities within five miles of the proposed project area site(s).”
  • Studies of the technical data needed for lakebed topography and geography
  • Traffic impact studies during construction and maintenance

Offshore wind has environmental issues that reflect its energy sprawl. There is also the issue of end-of-life decommissioning, as Kent Hawkins has discussed. Part II tomorrow will discuss a number of hazards from offshore turbines as proposed in this project. 


Note: Comments are being solicited by the US Department of Energy regarding the newly minted Fred. Olsen Renewables Icebreaker/Windpower Project (formerly LEEDCo project, Icebreaker). Comments are due on or before October 21 and should be labelled File EA 2045, Attention Roak Parker ProjectIcebreaker@ee.doe.gov. Part II of this post by Ms. Lange is here.


  1. Sherri Lange  

    Indeed. To even examine the cost of this proposed project sends one’s head spinning. It might prove more cost effective to pay them to NOT complete the project, ironically. Imagine on top of the building costs, the cost again to taxpayers of increased electricity rates, as promised by Representative Kaptur. She (and others) is asking for willing participants in the Power Pledge, about $12 more per month, for unsuspecting participation in a boondoggle. This is unacceptable. If we need a “demonstration” project, it should be to continue to rebuild and preserve the wetlands and ecologically sensitive migration areas of Erie.


  2. Tom Clark  

    As a power generation engineer with over 40yrs experience in almost every kind of generation, I can assure readers that wind turbines are a symbol of the stupidity of inept and perhaps corrupt politicians at every level.

    Wind turbines are 1800’s technology that was rejected then and still are by politicians who do their homework. To believe that wind turbines can do anything usefull re Climate change is naive stupidity – they are about money for the “bottom feeders ” promoting this pathetic excuse for reliable power generators.


  3. Sherri Lange  

    And in the Lakes it will be literal bottom feeding. Can’t imagine anything more obscene. Haven’t our legislators noticed the big water players are beating a path to the Great Lakes? Thanks, Tom. Completely agree.


  4. Jim Wiegand  

    Wind energy is one of the great sins of our time. This mad world is trading industrial towers that produce just a small portion of our energy needs, for life and souls. In return we will see fattened back accounts of unpunished criminals, extinction of many species, no change in climate and far few birds across the world. All from an industry feeding off of fraud, rigged research, corruption and your squandered tax dollars.


  5. Jim Wiegand  

    Besides the fraudulent wind energy research being produced, one of the biggest problems with wind energy is our media. In the last 20 years it has eroded to nothing more than a propaganda machine for the corrupt. As a result people today do not know what to think or for that matter, how make proper decisions. This is all by design.

    I happen know from reading over decades of consistently fraudulent wind industry research and the industry’s slaughtering off of our precious wildlife, that this industry could give a damn about any of their impacts. The MO of this industry is to lie, lie again and to keep on lying until their profits stop.
    Just a few honest mainstream stories about this criminal industry exposing how little of society’s energy these turbine will ever produce and the public would understand that is scandalous disaster known as wind energy, has been primarily one more corporate ticket to the golden goose known as the US taxpayer.


  6. Sherri Lange  

    “The general population doesn’t even know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.”


  7. Tom Stacy  

    Great comments you solicited here, and very clear post. Thanks. Are you aware of the problem of lake ice flows and forces? I guess I always found the name “Icebreaker” having a double meaning – the second a clever admission of this problem. What is the EROI of the project including the energy required to keep the machine pilings free of damaging ice floe forces?


  8. Sherri Lange  

    Thanks, Tom. Yes, Icebreaker has a double meaning for sure. There is the entendre that people will get used to the six, now nine miles out, and that thousands more will be more acceptable. But of course as you mention, the more literal ICEBREAKER imputes that they have contemplated the historic problem of lake ice which is a force unto itself. They seem remote to and blissfully ignorant of the forces of ice. Al Isselhard has commented in depth on these issues in his letter to the DOE: we have his permission to quote from that letter.

    “Ice will contribute to lake contamination as the shear of ice along with the combined action of waves and wind will eventually topple the turbines and foundations causing the hundreds of gallons of fluids inside the nacelles to drain into the lake. The proposed mono bucket turbine foundations are not fastened fast to bedrock but simply sitting on the mud at the bottom of the lake waiting for an accident to occur. How long can such an assembly of foundation, tower, nacelle, rotating blades stay within installed to within 0.1 degree of true vertical on a muddy lake bottom? The drawing of the mono bucket foundation designed by Universal Foundation (a Fred Olsen company) is below. Do you have faith this design will work successfully without eventually toppling over mainly as a result of wind, wave and ice action? How would any effort be made to deal with a topple disaster during winter or when heavy ice is present? No offshore turbine foundation design has ever been subjected to freshwater ice conditions anywhere! Let’s not make the Great Lakes and Lake Erie the guinea pig in this experiment.”

    The EROI? Who would be able to compute that? This is a complete boondoggle for the taxpayers. At the end of the day, this project will be advanced by they say, about $150 million, that is about $25 million per turbine. As for costs for return on investment? I would estimate negative millions, just like every other wind turbine project. In Ontario Canada, they are dumping excess power to the US, at a huge net loss per year. MASSIVE NEGATIVE EROI can safely be estimated here. Thanks again for your comments!


    • Tom Stacy  

      As far as EROI, this is important, and physicists compute such things. Maybe Cork would help. Wind energy EROI has been computed several ways across the recent years, but the components unique to Icebreaker would be:

      The energy expelled to channel through lake ice to reach the turbines by barge should the need arise, and

      the energy required to run bubblers/heaters around the foundations to prevent freezing against the pilings.

      Of course there may also be more steel and / or concrete in these designs than in other turbines.

      If a levelized cost of energy and capacity calculation specific to the Lake Erie project cost and generation estimates would be helpful as a comparison tool to other electricity sources (onshore wind, PV solar, CCGT, nuclear, hydro) , I could engage in that aspect of your efforts. It is ironic that the Great Lakes are already a source of very affordable power as concentrated through the St Lawrence system. Contrasting the concentrated nature of hydro and specific gravity of water to the diffuse nature of wind currents across open water and the low specific gravity of air would make another interesting physics exercise.

      Recycling the vernacular “mistake on the lake” also comes to mind.

      These are my thoughts in the matter at this time.


  9. Sherri Lange  

    Many thanks again, Tom. We would be thrilled if you “engage” with your expertise in this EROI matter and you raise excellent points unique to this project. Thanks.

    Thanks also for the poster, Mistake on the Lake,” which says it succinctly on the migration issue.


  10. Lake Erie Wind Turbines? (Part 2: Environmental Issues) - Master Resource  

    […] Note: Comments are being solicited by the US Department of Energy regarding the newly minted Fred. Olsen Renewables Icebreaker/Windpower Project (formerly LEEDCo project, Icebreaker). Comments are due on or before October 21 and should be labelled File EA 2045, Attention Roak Parker [email protected]/* */ Part I of this post was published yesterday. […]


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