"We must improve and increase the lines of communication to bring wind development in the Great Lakes closer to fruition," Nancy Sutley, chair of the environmental council, said in a press release.
N.Y. Next, Mich. and Ontario Stall
After Ohio, New York could be the next state to bring offshore wind to the region.
The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is leading the public-private Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project to pursue the possible development of a 120- to 500-megawatt farm in Lake Erie and/or Lake Ontario within the next five years.
The NYPA issued a request for proposals in December 2009, following several months of community outreach. By June 2010, five developers responded with plans, and a winner was to be selected this January, though none has been named so far.
Tying up the proposal review could be opposition from seven shoreline counties and multiple communities that have issued resolutions against the Great Lakes initiative, citing fears of exorbitantly high costs to ratepayers and an unsightly shoreline.
In Michigan, a bill in the House Energy and Technology committee aims to modify a state law that allows the Department of Environmental Quality to lease state-held portions of lake bottoms for the purpose of wind energy development.
Thirty-five percent of Michigan's bottomlands, or 13,339 square miles, are suitable for offshore wind energy, according to a 2010 report by the Great Lakes Wind Council (GLOW) created by former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
The council identified five priority areas for projects, called wind resource areas, in Lake Michigan, central Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
The ban proposal follows an attempt by the House energy committee last year to adopt a bill regulating offshore wind farms, which ultimately did not come to a vote. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in the past has supported GLOW's efforts but said he would likely not make offshore wind development a high priority.
A moratorium in Ontario has indefinitely stalled offshore wind projects already under contract or in proposals. The provincial government in February said it would lift the ban once further research emerged on the industry's environmental impacts.
One contract and four applications were already in the works when the measure took effect.
Support from Other States Needed
Richard Stuebi, president of LEEDCo's advocacy arm, Coalition for Great Lakes Offshore Wind, said support from other states and provinces is vital to spurring offshore deployment in North America.
"For the next several years, it is going to be a very difficult thing for the market alone to encourage the emergence of offshore wind," Stuebi said.
He said the coalition was considering a variety of public policies that could accelerate offshore wind development.
Investment tax credits specific to offshore wind, such as carve-out requirements in state or federal renewable portfolio standards or tradable renewable energy credits (RECs), could complement grants from the U.S. Department of Energy for research and development.
Stuebi said the coalition's conversations with Ohio legislators had "ratcheted up considerably in the past couple of months" to garner support for such measures from elected Gov. John Kasich and newly appointed lawmakers.
"What we're trying to do is build an industry of the future. The first projects are going to be above market, but that’s the best you need to make if you want to help build this industry," he said.
"We can wait five, ten or 15 years, and offshore wind will eventually come to the shores of the Great Lakes ... but we won't get the jobs associated with it, just the turbines out in the water."