Captain's Chair: Not My Kind of Farm

Executive Editor Brady L. Kay shares insights into the proposed wind farm on Lake Erie, just 8 miles from Cleveland

January 2018 News Brady L. Kay Web Exclusive

I’m as plugged in as an Amish toaster when it comes to farming. Planting corn, raising pigs, milking cows? I wouldn’t even know where to begin. It’s not that I’m some type of city slicker or anything like that. I just don’t think I would make a great farmer. However, I have been around enough farms to know that I have nothing but the highest respect for farmers and ranchers who are the lifeblood of our country and are some of the hardest-working people you’ll ever meet.

But there is a different kind of farm that is growing in popularity and I’ve got an issue with some of the locations. A small wind farm “demonstration project” is currently in the planning stages with plans to be located on Lake Erie roughly 8 to 10 miles northwest of Cleveland, Ohio.

It has a lot of boaters a little worried that it may be a sign of what the future holds for thousands of acres of Lake Erie waters. The news has taken the wind out of the sails of a lot of locals, reminiscent of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. 

The Icebreaker Wind Project is a $126 million, six-turbine, 20.7 megawatt demonstration project that is North America’s first freshwater offshore wind project, which includes a plan to build more than 1,000 wind turbines on the lake. Ahem, excuse me? Do we really need 1,000 wind turbines taking up our boating waters?

Is this the future of clean energy and an economy starter or simply a giant bird-killer to clutter our waters? It seems like there are people on both sides of this issue and that includes boaters as well. Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), which currently has more than 18,000 members in Ohio alone, has seen a split on the Icebreaker Wind Project.

“We have BoatUS members who see the growth of wind farms as a positive fishing benefit, while others have valid safety concerns,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Manager David Kennedy. “Regardless, boaters have a right to use these waters, so we’ll need a pragmatic solution to managing these shared resources. No matter which side you are on, Ohio wants to hear your comments, and we urge you to do so.”

BoatUS is the nation’s largest organization of recreational boaters with more than a half-million members and is considered to be the boat owners’ voice on Capitol Hill. So it’s no surprise they’re on the front lines on this debate.

To provide comments to PUCO, recreational boaters can go to the Ohio Public Utilities Commission website at opsb.ohio.gov/Contact-Us and fill in the form. On the form “company name” field, enter: “Icebreaker Wind Project Case no. 16-1871-EL-BGN Icebreaker Windpower” and then let your feelings be known.

Certification by the Ohio Power Siting Board is required before the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. can proceed with construction wind farm, but you don’t want to wait too long to share your thoughts or the decision might be made regardless of your opinion. The Ohio Power Siting Board regulates the siting of wind farms with a generating capacity of five or more megawatts (MW) and solar farms with a generating capacity of 50 or more MW. 

I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of having six of these giant turbines in the middle of boating waters, but the idea of having more than 1,000 on Erie is just downright frightening to me. Agree, disagree? Now is the time to weigh in on this issue and the most important thing all boaters can do is to make sure their voice is heard.

 

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