Image credit Sea Grant Michigan

Image credit Sea Grant Michigan

When you think of offshore turbines, your first thought probably involves the ocean. But who says you can’t put those same turbines out on a lake? The Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, also known as LEEDCo, hopes to use the vast space in the middle of the lake to create an “offshore” wind farm in fresh water. It will work, but the question is whether citizens want it.

The Icebreaker Project

LEEDCo is currently holding a “Power Pledge” to gauge support for their proposed energy solution. The Icebreaker project will put 6 turbines on the lake by 2017. If the project goes well, hundreds of turbines could follow shortly after.

The project has already received both federal funding from the Department of Energy, and from several private partners. At this point, it’s not a matter of funding, it’s just a matter of interest in the community, which seems to be growing. The pledge itself costs nothing, but would let anyone who signs it be first in line to receive energy from the new turbines. So far, over 3,000 Ohio state citizens have signed up.

Using Lake Erie

With over 9,000 square miles of surface area, Lake Erie is certainly large enough to make room for a few turbines. There’s enough wind to make the project worthwhile, but not nearly the same amount of instability as the sea, getting rid of some of the issues with floating turbines.

However, the lake is also an important location for both commercial and recreational purposes. From a business point of view, the waters are used for a strong fishing industry and transportation. From a tourism standpoint, the lake is well known as a place for boating, swimming, and diving for shipwrecks. One or two turbines won’t affect any of this; but a large farm might take up a large amount of valuable space.

In this case, as with any wind farm, the question is how much land should be sacrificed to provide renewable energy. That wind is a valuable commodity, but so are the waters in the lake itself. If this project is going to succeed, the creators will need to find a balance between gathering energy and respecting the environment at the same time.

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