A planned offshore wind farm will be built using a turbine design that will combat the problems posed by ice build up in the shallow waters of Lake Erie. The project is called the Icebreaker Offshore Wind Project and will sit 7 miles off the shore near Cleveland.
The Icebreaker project is an 18MW pilot project that is hoped to be the first of a number of projects that will total over 1,000 megawatts of renewable electricity production in the Ohio waters.
The project is being developed by Lake Erie Development Corporation (LEEDCo) along with Great Lakes Ohio Wind (GLOW), Cavallo Great Lakes Ohio Wind, Great Lakes Wind Energy LLC and Freshwater Wind LLC.
The Icebreaker Turbines
The plan is to install 6 Siemens SWT-3.0-113 turbines. These turbines are part of an innovative design that will overcome the unique conditions of Lake Erie.
The seabed into which the monopile design will be sunk is composed of soft clay, sand and compacted clay for a depth of 60 feet. In order to get through the soft layer to the shale bedrock underneath the monopole design will be adapted.
In addition, the turbine towers will be given additional stability by adding a friction wheel that will sit on the lake floor. The friction wheel is made of large metal rings that spread the load from the turbine.
Because Lake Erie is prone to freezing the turbine towers are going to have to withstand the force of tons of ice running into them as it moves around on the surface.
The answer to combat this are specially designed ice cones that sit at the surface of the water and break up the ice as it strikes the turbines. During this pilot project there will be sensors placed around the turbine towers to collect data about the effectiveness of the design.
The planned timeline for the project is to begin construction and installation of the turbines during the spring of 2017. If the project runs to schedule it is hoped that it will be in operation by 2018.
One setback to the project meeting its goals came about in May 2014 when the project failed in securing one of three $47 million 4 year grants that the Department of Energy (DOE) were offering. This funding would have come through the Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration Projects (OWATDP) initiative.
Environmental Group Support
There are always concerns about the impact that the introduction of wind turbines will have on the wildlife that inhabit the area. The project has already received letters of support and endorsements from local conservation bodies.
Organisations such as the Sierra Club, Environment Ohio, Ohio Interfaith Power & Light and the Earth Day Coalition have all given their support.
Environmental impact studies conducted by LEEDCo have indicated that a wind farm that is located on-water is far less likely to impact birds. This is because they migrate over shallower portions of the lake.
To this point LEEDCo have consulted extensively with fish and wildlife experts at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in an effort to ensure all possible adverse effects are diminished or eliminated.
Approval is still to be granted to the project and because it is the first one on the Great Lakes it is sure to come under a great deal more scrutiny. As well as the construction of the 6 turbines the project will also consist of 34.5kV cables that include five kilometres of inter array lines and 12 kilometres of expect cable. These will be connected to a 34.5/69 kV substation at the Cleveland Public Power Lake Road substation.