Ohio Supreme Court affirms siting board ruling that allows Lake Erie wind turbine project to proceed

Cleveland – August 10, 2022 – A proposed six-turbine wind energy project in Lake Erie received a favorable decision from the Ohio Supreme Court which today ruled the project may proceed. The Court held the Ohio Power Siting Board properly issued a permit that allows construction of the project, dubbed Icebreaker Wind, to move ahead. Icebreaker is projected to have a $253 million local economic impact and create more than 500 jobs.
Writing for the Court’s 6-1 majority decision, Justice Jennifer Brunner explained that the siting board collected the necessary research to allow Icebreaker to begin construction, while also requiring more data before the company can operate the turbines.

“Rather than requiring Icebreaker to resolve those matters before issuing the certificate, the board determined that the conditions on its grant of the application were sufficient to protect birds and bats and to ensure that the facility represented the minimum adverse environmental impact,” Justice Brunner wrote.

Today’s ruling provides the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo) additional certainty so that it can market Icebreaker’s power to potential customers. One-third of the power is already under contract with the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County and with its permit secure, LEEDCo can now focus on marketing the remaining two-thirds of the electricity it will produce.

Will Friedman, President and CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, said the ruling – while expected – was nonetheless welcome news.

“The Court’s decision preserves the economic potential this project can unlock for the region.” Friedman said. By one estimate, there will be $70 billion in the offshore wind business pipeline in the U.S. by 2030.

“Other states are nipping at our heels to attract offshore wind and its economic benefits. We don’t want to squander this opportunity and let 15 years of work slip away to other states eager to capture market share.”

Icebreaker Wind has faced unprecedented review from regulators for over a decade, and has now received the necessary approvals from more than a dozen local, state and federal agencies—as well as sign-off from the state’s highest court. The project has also overcome a number of obstacles – many of them placed in the project’s path by fossil fuel interests.

The Supreme Court challenge was presented by two residents which, as exposed in court records, were bankrolled by Murray Energy, which prior to bankruptcy billed itself as the biggest coal company in the country. Today’s opinion stated that the residents “have not shown that the (Power Siting) board’s decision to issue the certificate subject to conditions was unlawful or unreasonable.”

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb said he believes renewables like Icebreaker Wind bring “a great opportunity to grow the wind industry locally as well as provide access to renewable energy for businesses and residents of Cleveland and the region. This project has always been a win-win for our economy and for our environment. Let’s position ourselves to be a leader, not a follower, to other states.”

LEEDCo Board Chairman Ronn Richard, CEO of the Cleveland Foundation, said Ohio has no choice but to embrace the energy transition to meet the state’s power needs. He noted Intel’s decision to build the world’s largest computer chip factory near Columbus includes a commitment to power 100% of its operations with renewable energy. Other companies in Northeast Ohio and throughout the state have also set ambitious renewable targets.

“We’re pleased with today’s ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court,” Richard said. “The Cleveland Foundation has supported Project Icebreaker from its inception because this is about more than clean energy – this is about a healthy economy and a healthy community. Project Icebreaker shows that Northeast Ohio – and the entire state of Ohio for that matter – is open for businesses.

“This decision will create jobs, attract talent from outside our region and retain the best and brightest minds from right here in Ohio,” he added. “It also shows that we’re committed to improving health outcomes for Ohioans by cleaning up the air we breathe and the water we drink. It’s our hope that LEEDCo can now resume selling the remainder of the power and turn this dream into a reality.

About Icebreaker Wind

Icebreaker Wind is anticipated to create over 500 jobs and pump $253 million into the region’s economy. Ohio already has the largest wind energy manufacturing base of any state in the US, according to the American Wind Energy Association. More than 275 manufacturing companies have expressed interest in being part of the project.

The project has received approvals from agencies including the Ohio EPA, the US Department of Energy, the Federal Aviation Administration, the US Coast Guard, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and the Ohio Power Siting Board. It is endorsed by the Ohio Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund, bipartisan officials from around the state, and others.

Nine miles from shore, the turbines would have minimal visual impact and not be visible on most days. On a clear day, a person standing on the downtown Cleveland lakeshore holding their arm out would see turbines no taller than half a thumbnail. The small project would only occupy .000002% of Lake Erie’s surface area.

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