Feds and states want to quicken Great Lakes offshore wind approvals

The federal government and governors of five states are hoping to streamline the reviews of applications for offshore wind projects in the Great Lakes.

While there has been much talk of the potential, little real movement toward permitting a project has occurred. Previous estimates say that 700GW of offshore wind potential exist in the Great Lakes, or about one-fifth of the total U.S. offshore resource.

 “This agreement among Federal agencies and Great Lakes states is a smart, practical way to encourage the development of homegrown energy that will create jobs, power homes, and help increase our nation’s energy security,” Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said on a conference call Friday, March 30.

Sutley said the discussion for the MOU started in the states as they were approached by developers.

 “There currently aren’t any projects seeking approval, but the purpose of this MOU is to make sure the state and federal agencies are working together so we can evaluate projects as quickly as possible,” Sutley said.

The Obama Administration and the governors of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will expedite the development of offshore wind resources in the Great Lakes. 

 “This will help us develop our resources in the next frontier of renewables, which is offshore,” said Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman. 

Over the past few years renewable energy has doubled, the officials said, which is part of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy.

One project that has been discussed is in Lake Erie, outside Cleveland.

The Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. has a plan to install a 20MW offshore pilot wind project in Lake Erie, starting in 2014, which it hopes will stimulate the installation of 1000 MW of wind capacity in the Ohio waters of Lake Erie by 2020.

But Ohio is not a signatory of the MOU, where its Republican governor, John Kasich, has sought to reverse some of the pro-renewable energy policies of his predecessor.

The MOU is intended to improve collaboration between Federal and State agencies to speed review of proposed offshore wind projects. Fifteen federal and state agencies will develop an action plan that sets priorities and recommends steps for achieving efficient and responsible evaluation of proposed offshore wind power projects in the Great Lakes region, Poneman said.

Sutley said the discussion for the MOU started in the states as they were approached by developers.