© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
To contact us with news tips, story ideas or other related information, e-mail newsstaff@ideastream.org.

Harnessing Lake Erie's Wind Power

Over the past few months, whenever the weather is favorable, Aaron Godwin of Green Energy Ohio, a renewable energy advocacy group, rides a power boat several miles out into Lake Erie. There, out on the city of Cleveland's century old water intake structure, he's built a tall wind monitoring tower.

Aaron Godwin: The upper part of the tower is about 168 feet above the water, so we're measuring at about 30, 40 and 50 meters.

Godwin's collected almost a year's worth of wind data which shows the lake's wind is roughly twice as strong as wind on land. He says that bodes well for wind generation off the nation's coasts, although some technological obstacles have yet to be overcome. Meanwhile, land-based wind turbines are growing in demand, thanks in part to a reinstated national tax credit on renewable energy. Godwin and many others believe Ohio can capitalize on this by encouraging wind turbine manufacturers to locate here.

Aaron Godwin: Energy is a guaranteed growth market. Wind power is the fastest growing energy sector in the entire world. Why would you not want to get into that guaranteed growth market? It just does not make sense.

That idea also appeals to members of Cuyahoga County's Energy Development Task Force, created just last summer. Andrew Waterson is Sustainability Manager for the City of Cleveland. He says current manufacturing companies already in business here and the city's port positions Northeast Ohio perfectly for wind turbine assembly plants and their very large cargo.

Andrew Waterson: The first city to catch on to this and work on these products will have an advantage. Because once you are at a port and can locate and move everything around by water then it's fully mobile. And that's one of the reasons Cleveland and the county and Ohio are targeting this.

As for actually producing wind-generated electric power, advocates say Ohio has been slow to act. Most are pushing for economic incentives to coax the wind industry to the state. Another tactic employed by some 21 states already require a percentage of their electricity, say 10%, to come from renewable sources. Janine Mitgen-Ostrander, of the Ohio Consumer's Council says she'd like Ohio to adopt similar so-called "renewable portfolio standards."

Janine Mitgen-Ostrander: To create the market and bid out and say we want to purchase 20 megawatts, 30 megawatts whatever of wind power. Who can supply it to me? Renewable energy has an important role to play not only in providing us with a diversified source of energy but it is also a good tool for economic development and jobs in the state as well.

FirstEnergy, who declined to be recorded for this story, already sells renewable energy, mostly wind power to customers in neighboring states like Pennsylvania, because it's required to. The company says it's not interested in erecting wind turbines of its own in Ohio, but it is open to purchasing up to 360 megawatts wind power in the state, if it was available. However, for a full year, that many megawatts would only power half of the homes in Cuyahoga County.

Kenneth Silverstein, editor-in-chief of the power industry magazine EnergyBiz says FirstEnergy's position is pretty common; not because the utility is against renewable energy, but because it's how the "American enterprise system" works.

Kenneth Silverstein: I believe FirstEnergy when they say if there's an economic incentive and they can provide it to their customers as cheaply as coal they'll do it. So the renewable sector deserves their fair share of tax credits too, just as coal, gas and nuclear have gotten their fair share of tax credits.

Promoting the renewable energy sector in Ohio is something Governor-Elect Ted Strickland campaigned on; yet, in his policy papers, wind power production and manufacturing tend to take a back seat to ethanol and Clean Coal Technology. If wind power proponents can change that, and gain support in Columbus for it, in the next couple decades, Ohio's economy get a boost from a new manufacturing sector revolving around green renewable energy. Lisa Ann Pinkerton, 90.3.