Cleveland Business Connects

For immediate release (October 6, 2017) Media Contact: Judy Abelman Email: Phone: 440.725.8861...

By Harriet Tramer  |  Photo by Thomas Skernivitz

The Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force has what might appear to be a very limited mission: promoting local alternative energy industries. But because Baldwin Wallace University administrators consider these efforts essential to making our region more sustainable — or energy independent — they have been forging strong ties with the task force.

Franklin Lebo, a professor at BW, welcomes the educational opportunities the association will provide students and faculty.

“This task force involves a mix of public and private institutions plus non-profit organizations,” Lebo says. “Having that mix grants this group significant leverage that can enable it to force change in the energy sector. The students need to learn how these work.”

Since 2009 the task force has worked to make the “Icebreaker” project, which would establish wind turbines on the Great Lakes, a reality by 2015. The effort has much to recommend it, Lebo says. An analysis by the Cleveland-based Kleinhenz & Associates estimates that it could create as many as 8,000 permanent positions.

The current plan would utilize turbines manufactured by Siemens Corp. Depending upon the exact size and number of the structures that are erected, the turbines would produce between 15 megawatts and 27 megawatts of electricity. The energy that they would supply would not only be clean but, unlike coal or gas, it would also be renewable, Lebo says. 

Ohio seems to be well situated for such an effort – the first fresh water wind farm in the United States. It has heavy manufacturing plants that can provide the materials needed to construct the turbines. And it also has sufficient wind energy to make them functional, Lebo says.

Lebo warns, however, that despite these selling points, a lack of funding will, at least temporarily, hamper the project’s progress. The U.S. Dept. of Energy gave the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., which is a creation of the task force, a $4 million grant to defray the cost of designing the wind turbines. And various private partners have donated an additional $500,000. Lebo estimates, however, that $127 million would be required to complete the effort.

The students … found that respondents were very positive about the idea of wind energy even if it might cost a bit more.

Remaining optimistic, the task force, which includes representatives from the city of Cleveland, Lincoln Electric, and Case Western University, has been trying to interest angel investors in the effort, Lebo says. It has benefited from the outreach efforts of BW students who learned to be policy entrepreneurs as they worked for LEEDCo.

“The students went door to door doing a survey and found that respondents were very positive about the idea of wind energy even if it might cost a bit more,” Lebo says. “These results will make a difference as they substantiate strong public support for the initiative.”

The Cleveland Foundation, city of Cleveland, NorTech, and the counties of Lorain, Cuyahoga, Lake, and Ashtabula established the task force. It remains under the tutelage of the Cleveland Department of Development, gaining strength in numbers from this arrangement but being positioned to carry out its own independent efforts.   

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