On July 3, 2018, the Staff of the Ohio Power Siting Board (Board) issued its Report of Investigation and recommended that the Board approve the six-turbine, $126 million Icebreaker project being developed by Icebreaker Windpower, Inc. (Applicant and successor to Lake Erie Energy Development Corp.), subject to at least 34 separate conditions. Notably, several of these conditions will require:
- additional proceedings, including a new proceeding for the related 138 kV transmission interconnection, which the Staff found a major utility facility, pursuant to the definition of that term provided in R.C. 4906.01;
- a modified submerged lands lease (SLL) to reflect the "modest" project changes since the 2014 execution of the current SLL;
- a signed interconnection agreement with PJM; and
- further monitoring and related studies (some of which are still in development), including an assessment of the impact of construction and operation on avian and bat species (with the Staff noting, "[T]here are currently no proven post-construction collision monitoring technologies or methodologies available for the offshore wind setting," and its recommendation specifying that nighttime operation from March 1 through January 1 cannot occur unless Applicant has "demonstrated that the post-construction avian and bat collision monitoring plan is sufficient, as determined by the ODNR [Ohio Department of Natural Resources] in consultation with Staff").
While this significant achievement follows more than seven years of negotiations and other development activity, under the Board's usual application procedures, it will only consider the Staff's recommendation and issue or deny the related certificate after a public hearing currently scheduled for July 19, 2018; a subsequent adjudicatory hearing currently scheduled for August 6, 2018; and then, possibly, a required formal legal briefing by Applicant and other parties for the Board.
(For more information on wind energy development in the Great Lakes, see our 2012 update on the federal and five US state governments promising greater collaboration on wind projects.)