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Great Lakes States Agree to Streamline Freshwater Wind Projects

Great Lakes States to Streamline Freshwater Wind Project
NASA's Terra satellite with MODIS captured this photo-like image of the Great Lakes, Spetember 2007. Source: NASA

The White House and five of the eight states that border the Great Lakes today agreed to streamline the approval process for offshore wind farms in the region.

Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania, will coordinate reviews of proposed projects, Nancy Sutley, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said today on a conference call.

“This will eliminate some red tape,” Sutley said. “It will encourage development of clean, American-made energy.”

Not a single offshore wind turbine has been installed in the U.S., as regulatory hurdles and legal challenges made financing projects difficult.

The U.S. Energy Department estimates the strong, steady breezes that cross the Great Lakes may provide as much as 742 gigawatts of power-producing capacity, or about a fifth of total potential U.S. wind energy, said Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the agency.

“There are a number of state and federal agencies that need to review projects and we want to harmonize that process,” Poneman said. “Our purpose is to bring down the cost so it can compete with traditional sources of energy.”

There are no Great Lakes offshore wind projects seeking review, Sutley said. States have sought federal help to coordinate future permitting processes, she said. There have been no discussions with Canada, which shares borders with four of the Great Lakes, she said.

Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. and Freshwater Wind LLC proposed installing five, 4-megawatt turbines from General Electric Co. in the lake off Ohio about 7 miles (11 kilometers) from shore.

Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana didn’t sign the agreement.

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