United States

United States

Icebreaker developer appeals ruling after project approval - updated

The developer of the US’ first freshwater wind farm in the Great Lakes has appealed against over-restrictive operating restrictions on the approval it received last month.

A simulation of how Icebreaker's six turbines will look from the shore of Lake Erie (pic credit: LeedCo)
A simulation of how Icebreaker's six turbines will look from the shore of Lake Erie (pic credit: LeedCo)

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This story was first published on 22 May 2020 after the Ohio Power Siting Board approved Icebreaker's construction. It was updated on 23 June after LeedCo appealed the decision.

After a long permitting journey to satisfy 14 federal, state and local agencies, the 20.7MW Icebreaker Icebreaker (20.7MW) Offshoreoff Cleveland, Ohio, USA, North America Click to see full details in Lake Erie was unanimously approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) in May.

However, it attached 33 conditions to the construction and operation of the project. The most onerous of these conditions was the order that turbines must not rotate overnight between 1 March and 1 November, until the developers could provide data showing that there were no adverse impacts on birds and bats.

LeedCo president David Karpinski said this operating condition “may well be fatal to the entire project”, and added: “Throughout the OPSB proceedings in this case, we made it abundantly clear that a requirement to shut down the turbines from dusk to dawn for the majority of the year renders the project economically not viable.”

He also said that the condition came as a surprise, that LeedCo only learned of it in the press release issued by the OPSB, and that the stipulation reneged on an earlier agreement with the permitting authority whereby Icebreaker would only have to turn off turbines if collision-detection technology did not work correctly.

Appeal

LeedCo is now appealing the OPSB’s judgement, claiming it “ignored the evidence and acted contrary to state law” by disregarding the findings of its own technical staff and “added a project killing condition to its approval”.

Terrence O’Donnell, an attorney for Icebreaker Wind, added: “Nothing in Ohio law grants the board that kind of unchecked power. This shutdown mandate is without legal precedent, and we are hopeful the board will reconsider.”

Icebreaker is due to comprise six MHI Vestas V126-3.45MW turbines installed on suction-bucket foundations. It could come online in 2022, although 2024 was the original timetable.

Opposition

The project has also faced opposition from bird advocacy groups, including the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the American Bird Conservancy.

Murray Energy, the country’s largest private coal company, based near Cleveland, had also funded separate lawsuits opposing the project.

In a financial statement, the coal company listed 11 payments to law firm Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff, which opposed the project, totalling $993,628.88.

Murray Energy declared bankruptcy in October 2019.

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