Lake Erie Wind Project Shows Green Political Correctness Is A Disease

natural gas nowTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

A Lake Erie wind project demonstrates the sheer futility of so much of green political correctness as time and money are wasted on a really dumb project.

Our friends at Master Resource posted an interesting article the other day about a project with a weird name I’d never heard before; the LEEDCo/Icebreaker Offshore Wind Project. As I read the piece by Sherri Lange and then checked out the Lake Erie wind project website itself, I was astounded at the futility not only of the project but of green political correctness as a whole, which I’ve now concluded is a communicable disease.

lake erie wind project

“LEEDCo” stands for Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, which is a 501c(3) tax-exempt non-profit entity. It had a negative fund balance of $4,961,320 at the end of 2017, which was down from $2,284,629 the previous year. It’s entire revenue of $1,176,681 in 2017 consisted of government grants, according to its 990 return filed with the IRS. The force behind the project is Dr. Lorry Wagner, who, eight years ago, was hoping “to have the project operating by the end of 2013.” He has been leading the effort since 2010 and received $275,221 in total compensation from an underwater and taxpayer dependent LEEDCo in 2017. His V-P of Operations received $244,272.

How does that work, anyway? Well, as the old saying goes, “If you can get enough money to go through your hands, some of it will stick,” I guess. Over $12 million of mostly government money went through the hands of LEEDCo for the Lake Erie wind project between just 2013 and 2017, so some of it did stick to someone’s hands, it seems.

LEEDCo describes itself as follows (emphasis added):

In August 2009, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) was created by the Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force (GLEDTF), and developed and launched by NorTech Energy Enterprise, the Cleveland Foundation, the City of Cleveland, and Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties (Ohio).  LEEDCo was founded as a private, nonprofit regional corporation to initially erect wind turbines in Lake Erie, and eventually to help stimulate an entire offshore freshwater wind industry in the Great Lakes.

LEEDCo is a regional economic development public-private partnership that has brought together important project stakeholders from the City of Cleveland, the Port Authority, and coastal counties.

NorTech is now TeamNEO, a regional economic development organization. It was involved at the outset and, early on, apparently paid for an economic study that resulted in this ludicrous analysis:

The prediction of a study commissioned by NorTech last year is that full-scale implementation of the wind farm will produce 5,000 mega watts by 2030, can produce 8,000 jobs, $7,800,000,000 in wages and salaries, $22,600,000,000 in sales, and $586,500,000 in public revenues.

As this demonstrates, the entire thing was launched with massive self-deception on the order of the France’s Maginot Line. TeamNEO doesn’t seem to mention it anymore on their website, and, probably, for good reason. It not only missed its 2013 schedule for the first handful of windmills to be operating but is still pursuing permits six years and $10 million or so later.

Meanwhile, things have changed. A year and half ago, the public was told this:

Today, however, the tide could be turning again. Eight miles north of Cleveland in Lake Erie, the Icebreaker Wind project is poised to become the first offshore wind project in the Great Lakes. The project, lured by LEEDCo, is owned by Icebreaker Wind Power through the Norway-based investor Fred. Olsen Renewables. Pending federal and state approval, developers anticipate construction will begin in 2020 on the six-turbine, 20.7 MW project.

Yes, LEEDCo apparently decided it was going nowhere without a partner. Therefore, it brought in Fred Olsen Renewables from Norway, resulting in the name “Icebreaker Wind Power” now being attached to the Lake Erie wind project.  But, no profits are expected according to the V-P of Operations:

The Ohio Power Siting Board has given the preliminary go-ahead to six wind turbines planned for Lake Erie, about eight miles northwest of Cleveland. The project would be the first freshwater wind farm on the Great Lakes and the first in the nation. But even if plans become reality, the $126 million project is unlikely to ever turn a profit.

“The vision is a thriving industry that provides clean power,” said Dave Karpinski, vice-president of operations for Lake Erie Energy Development Company (LEEDCo.) The Icebreaker project is intended to test the waters, so to speak, in Great Lakes wind power. The high start-up costs mean the site cannot produce enough electricity to pay for itself. But the point, according to Karpinski, is to get turbines up and running. “To get there, you’ve got to demonstrate that it can be done and permitting is a big thing, that’s part of the demonstration.”

Huh? What a joke. And, the 20.7 MW is undoubtedly the nameplate peak capacity, not the actual generation, which means the 10-12 years and the $125-150 million to get it it done will deliver a lousy 5 MW or so of electricity and often at the wrong time, which means it generates costs and inefficiencies, with surplus electricity as a problem and no reduction in the amount of natural gas power needed. That makes it an especially cruel joke on ratepayers and taxpayers.

But it doesn’t end there, as Sherri Lange’s Master Resource post makes clear:

The rebranded project faces innumerable objections. The opposition is a who’s-who of local parties, many environmental.

They include Save the Eagles International; Great Lakes Wind Truth; Save Our Beautiful Lake; Representatives of Port Crescent Hawk Watch in Michigan; Michigan Boating Industries Association; Save Our Shores, Orleans County; Lake Erie Marine Trades Association (a Cleveland-based trade association of 100 plus boat dealers, marine operators, and service companies); Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition; and Michigan Boating Industries Association…

Protection of the wildlife, birds, bats, butterflies, dragon flies, fish and all aquatic interests, appears the lifeblood of the protesting groups…

An ongoing embarrassment for the developer is the abject failure of the freshwater lake installation in Sweden, Vanern. This first ever freshwater installation was hailed by Lorry Wagner as a model of how harmless and benign freshwater turbines are. This comparison can now be seen as possibly “debilitating.”

In 2010, LEEDCo invited the Swedes to present their plan for ten turbines in a shallow lake of ten feet to rocks, Lake Vanern, to an audience at private Cleveland based University Case Western. This project, used as a positive reference point, first world turbines in fresh water, has proven embarrassing.

The project is in a condition of “crisis,” financial stress, near bankruptcy and, after much wrangling, approaching a hopeful sale. The distress sale can only occur if various technical problems are resolved: gear boxes, cabling and loss of power. “The insurance company Trygg Hansa has to pay SEK 10 million (US dollars 1,053,750.00, One Million, fifty-three thousand, seven hundred fifty dollars) to the municipal company Vindkraft Vänern as compensation for damage to the wind farm’s wind turbines:“Developers knowingly withheld “data” on the failures:  “We chose not to go out with the data when we are doing a sale so as not to spread more negatively about the wind farm than necessary,” says Mats Enmark.”If Vanern is any bellwether for turbines in Lake Erie, Icebreaker, take heed…

What is emerging is a pattern of cronyism…

Public pressure to end this ten-year story of corporate profit taking is mounting. Groups around the Cleveland area such as Save Our Beautiful Lake, and groups on the east end of the Lake watching proposals for that area, groups from PA and even further, are vigilant. Most are calling for an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement/Study), which scrutiny will certainly focus on the environmental hazards; and some are vigorously calling for, after a ten plus year battle with LEEDCo, a Great Lakes Moratorium. It appears that the public is increasingly aware that it is not about six turbines; but a massive proliferation, with international participants, a “Saudi Arabia” of wind, and the emphatic response is “not here in this lake, nor any Great Lake.”

Icebreaker’s disingenuous assertions, promises of job chains (Ontario lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs in 8 years, mostly due to the higher cost of subsidized power, wind and solar), false promises of cleaner air, and zero application of even basic common sense environmental practices, presents us with a gathering storm. The assertions are unfathomable in the face of facts from not only North America, but Europe.

That about sums it up, doesn’t it? The Lake Erie wind project is grand theft corporatist rent seeking from ratepayers and taxpayers for a project that will never make any money, will produce something never needed, is opposed by enviros and the marine industry and whose sole accomplishment seems to have been producing a combined $500,000 in annual compensation for its two top officers. This isn’t just crazy; it’s a disease that, unfortunately, seems to be highly communicable in a country where feelings trump facts and staying trendy is the thing to do until it isn’t. 

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4 thoughts on “Lake Erie Wind Project Shows Green Political Correctness Is A Disease

  1. Just a short note. I recommend that we call these boondoggles by their correct name; Windturbines, not windmills. The Green Crowd needs to own the name. Windmills are a different breed of cat, and have a romantic notion attached to them culturally.

    Windturbines 650 feet high with an electromagnetic field around it that would make the the sun wince, need to b e recognized for the industrial monsters that they are.

  2. Have they given any thought to the fact that every lake freighter and ocean liner that needs to go west of Cleveland to Detroit, Chicago, etc., would have to transit dangerously close to these monsters? Lake Erie is shallow and narrow, not a lot of room for error. I hope for the people in and around Cleveland that this never comes to fruition…the Mistake on the Lake would take on a whole new meaning.

  3. As someone who grew up in the “Mistake by the Lake” and the river which caught fire, don’t forget that this site is very close the Burke Lakefront Airport. Its also the site of a road race.

  4. The idea this developer has, to create a SAUDI ARABIA of ind out of Lake Erie, is insane. Ontario has an offshore moratorium since 2011. Likely never to be lifted. Nice article, Mr. Shepstone. Get the word out there. World wide not a single gram of Co2 has abated, and not a single coal fired plant has shut down. It is the largest scam of the modern age.

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