Potential for Offshore Wind in the US Great LakesByDaniel Hall

The Great Lakes in the United States have the potential to be a major source of offshore wind energy. With a surface water area larger than the entire UK, the lakes collectively boast the potential to provide 700 gigawatts of offshore electricity, enough to power millions of homes. However, until now, projects and proposals have been unsuccessful.

The Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (Leedco) is planning to change that with its Icebreaker project. Icebreaker is a demonstration wind farm that aims to generate 20 megawatts of electricity several miles off the shore of Cleveland. The project would start with six turbines, with construction expected to begin in 2025 and electricity coming online two years later. If successful, follow-on projects could provide up to 5,000 megawatts of electricity in the future.

The region of the US Great Lakes is heavily dependent on fracked natural gas and oil, and Icebreaker could pave the way for a new energy landscape for these communities. Local governments have already committed to buying one-third of the power that the project is expected to generate.

There is enormous potential for offshore wind development in the Great Lakes region. States like Michigan and Wisconsin, with their extensive coastlines, currently rely on oil, natural gas, and coal for their energy needs. However, there is a growing demand for change and a transition to renewable energy sources.

Despite the potential benefits, there are concerns about the environmental impact of offshore wind farms, particularly in terms of wildlife and drinking water. However, studies have shown that the Icebreaker project would have minimal disturbance to the lakebed and would not affect vulnerable fish species.

The construction of Icebreaker is predicted to create up to 500 jobs and could benefit the local chartered fishing industry. The project backers emphasize that this is just a demonstration project and any larger-scale projects would still have to go through extensive regulatory and environmental processes.

Overall, the Icebreaker project represents an important step towards harnessing the potential of offshore wind in the US Great Lakes and transitioning to clean and renewable energy sources.

Daniel Hall