A legal challenge by two lakeview condo dwellers seeking to block Lake Erie’s first offshore wind farm faces a high legal bar before the Ohio Supreme Court — with equally high stakes for clean energy in the region.
The Icebreaker Windpower project’s six turbines would sit roughly 8 to 10 miles northwest of Cleveland and produce roughly 20.7 megawatts of electricity per year. The Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, or LEEDCo, has worked on the project for more than a decade.
The Ohio Power Siting Board approved the project in October, putting it on track to become not just the first offshore wind project in Ohio but also the first freshwater offshore wind project in North America.
The developer has achieved several regulatory wins, including the removal of a “poison pill” from an earlier version of the siting board’s approval, which would have mandated nightly shutdowns of the turbines for eight months of the year. There was no evidence that the shutdowns would have been necessary to protect wildlife.
LEEDCo and others asked the board to reconsider that proviso. A bipartisan group of 32 lawmakers also wrote to then-board chair Sam Randazzo, detailing why the nightly shutdown condition was unlawful. The board issued its revised order on Oct. 8, 2020. Randazzo, a longtime foe of renewable energy, had initially favored the shutdown requirement. He resigned the next month in the wake of the House Bill 6 conspiracy scandal.
In the end, the Ohio Power Siting Board “thoroughly considered the abundant evidence in the record,” including testimony from eight days of evidentiary hearings, as well as findings in a revised stipulation, lawyers for the board wrote in their brief. That stipulation “represents a fully-negotiated agreement containing numerous protective conditions, benefits the public interest, and comports with all applicable regulatory principles and practices,” they added.