Enviros Come Out Against Offshore Wind Turbine In Lake Erie

REUTERS/Bob Strong

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Conservation groups are protesting efforts to build a small offshore wind farm off the coast of Lake Erie, arguing that the project poses a grave risk to the local bird population.

A local energy company wants to construct a six-turbine, 20.7 megawatt offshore wind development eight miles from Cleveland in Lake Erie. If completed, it would be the first freshwater offshore wind farm on the continent. Supporters point out the project would create more than 500 jobs and pump millions into the local economy over the turbines’ 25-year lifespan. Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, the company behind the project, also argues it would be a step forward for environmentally friendly energy production.

However, not every ecologically minded group is on board with Icebreaker, the name of the project.

The Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the American Bird Conservancy — two different bird conservation groups — are opposed to the proposal, claiming the turbines would harm the local bird population and that major errors were made during an environmental assessment. (RELATED: Disposal Of Wind Turbines Proving To Be A Major Environmental Concern)

“We reject the [environmental assessment’s] claim that this wind energy facility would have ‘little to no impact'” on birds, Kimberly Kaufman, Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s executive director, said in a statement.

“The six-turbine Icebreaker project poses a larger threat to wildlife than is now indicated in the documents,” Kaufman continued. “But the planned expansion of offshore wind energy to over 1,000 turbines will have even more major impacts to birds that breed and migrate across Lake Erie, and that must be addressed.”

The bird conservancy groups point out that “vast numbers” of migratory birds and bats have been recorded just a few miles from the Great Lakes shorelines, with many flying at the same level of the rotor-swept area of windmills. They submitted their concerns to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy.

A second public hearing about Icebreaker will take place Thursday at Cleveland City Council.

This is far from the first time bird advocates have lamented over wind turbines. Wind farms across the globe kill thousands of birds a year that inadvertently fly into their turbines. Offshore wind farms, while also posing a threat to birds, can also harm the local aquatic ecosystem.

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