GE, Lake Erie Energy Firm Partner To Create Wind Farm

CLEVELAND (AP) -- General Electric Co. and a regional development group say they plan to create the world's first freshwater wind farm in Lake Erie near Cleveland.

GE and the nonprofit Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., or LEEDCo, on Monday announced a partnership to develop five wind turbines in the lake to generate 20 megawatts of power by 2012. The project aims generate 1,000 megawatts by 2020.

GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, will build the turbines and provide maintenance, the partners said in a statement released from the annual conference of the American Wind Energy Association in Dallas. In 2009, GE had 44 percent of the U.S. wind turbine manufacturing market.

The first cluster of towers will be built about 6 miles (10 kilometers) north of Cleveland Browns stadium and stand about 200 feet (60 meters) tall. The wind will turn blades up to 150 feet (45 meters) long, producing enough electricity to power up to 7,000 homes, said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, who chaired a local task force that established LEEDCo.

"Obviously, the wind is free, there's no emissions, so it also helps clean up the environment," Mason said.

The initial phase will cost $80 million to $100 million, with at least 60 percent of that paid for through the sale of the electricity generated, Mason said. The costs also will be subsidized through government loans and other public sources, he said.

Monday's announcement came a few weeks after Ohio officials outlined plans to put Lake Erie at the forefront of offshore wind power development through a combination of tax-cut and regulatory measures. Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, a factor seen as an advantage for constructing towers to produce wind power.

New York state in December said it was looking for developers for similar wind turbine projects, in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Canada also has considered wind farm development in its Great Lakes waters.

Although wind power accounts for less than 1 percent of the nation's energy consumption, according to the Energy Department, it has gained appeal with some utilities and local governments as stiffer government regulations for carbon emissions loom.

While many environmentalists have hailed wind power as a clean energy source, residents in some areas have objected to the huge turbines as unsightly and noisy when operating in strong winds.

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