First proposed in 2009, the Icebreaker wind farm, located about eight miles off the coast of Cleveland, would bring six wind turbines to Lake Erie, making it the first freshwater wind farm in North America. But the project is as hated as it is loved — and its odds of moving forward took a hit recently when the Ohio House of Representatives voted against passing a measure that would help fund it. We checked in with two people on opposite sides of the issue: Dave Karpinski, the president of the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., the nonprofit coalition behind Icebreaker, and John Lipaj, a board member for the Lake Erie Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2016 to protect the lake.
Why (or why not) Lake Erie?
John Lipaj: Lake Erie is Ohio’s most precious natural resource. It has taken decades to recover from the damage done to Lake Erie by putting corporate profits ahead of the environment. Icebreaker’s $173 million cost is excessive for generating only 20 megawatts of electricity. That is $137 million more than the cost to generate the same amount of electricity with onshore wind turbines.
Dave Karpinski: Ohio can seize a leadership position in the rapidly growing, multibillion-dollar U.S. offshore wind industry. Lake Erie is an ideal location with ample available interconnect capacity, abundant winds and a large demand for electricity. Reviewed by 14 state and federal agencies, Icebreaker offers a responsible path to a promising source of clean energy and an economic win.
How will it affect birds?
JL: Icebreaker has failed to conduct studies at the site that would answer that question. Consequently, the American Bird Conservancy and Black Swamp Bird Observatory filed a lawsuit in 2019 requesting the completion of an environmental impact statement.
DK: Federal agencies have said Icebreaker poses “limited direct risk’’ to migratory birds. Even so, we are committed to implementing best practices to further minimize risks — and the project is supported by the Sierra Club, Green Energy Ohio and others.
And the economy?
JL: As Ohio’s greatest natural attraction, Lake Erie supports 130,000 jobs and generates $16.8 billion in annual spending and $2.1 billion in total taxes. Defiling the lake’s natural beauty by turning it into an industrial wind facility, under the guise of creating one or two dozen permanent jobs, doesn’t make economic sense.
DK: This is a unique opportunity to bring new energy and new jobs to Northeast Ohio. The project will create more than 500 jobs and generate $253 million in economic impact. It will expand Ohio’s manufacturing sector. These benefits can be achieved without harming this great Ohio resource we all treasure.
What’s the next step?
JL: We invite people to get the facts at lakeeriefoundation.org. Then we encourage them to contact their state and federal legislators to voice their opposition to Icebreaker.
DK: We will continue to work to make the project commercially viable by all means available, including public policy solutions, private power purchase agreements and private investments.