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Great Lakes Offshore Wind Power Picks Up Speed

By Esther D'Amico

The article originally appeared in enr.construction.

April 17, 2012

President Obama and the governors of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania have agreed to speed up the review and development of proposed offshore wind-power projects in the Great Lakes region. The agreement may help boost existinginvestment in this technology by promoting a consistent and predictable regulatory environment "that inspires innovation," said the White House Council on Environmental Quality in announcing the pact.

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The president, governors and several federal agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, signed a memorandum of understanding on March 30 to develop an action plan that sets priorities and recommends steps to evaluate proposed projects in the region. While the U.S. has no offshore wind-power farms in operation, other countries such as Denmark, Germany and the U.K. already are drawing power from such operations. Experts say domestic growth has been slowed for several reasons, including the long regulatory approval process and high costs.

Meanwhile, Great Lakes offshore wind initiatives include a 2010 partnership of General Electric, a major manufacturer of wind-power turbines, and the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo), Cleveland, to develop the country's first freshwater offshore farm, a 20-MW project near Cleveland in Lake Erie. The project was initially slated for completion by later this year.

GE says it is working with developer LEEDCo on the project. LEEDCo did not return calls by press time.

Great Lakes wind power might generate up to 700 GW of energy—one-fifth of the nation's total offshore wind potential and enough to power 210 million homes, says the Sierra Club.

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