U.S. Offshore Wind Projects: Eco-Consequences on the Firing Line (Part I: Icebreaker, Cape Wind, Block Island)

A proposed six-turbine project eight miles offshore, Icebeaker (Ohio) has been in the cooker for a decade or more…. The consensus is that even with the “poison pill” feathering requirement removed, Icebreaker faces enormous obstacles and crippling delays.

Going back to 2001, the Cape Wind (Massachusetts) project planned to erect 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound. The opposition was relentless, and eventually, “no turbines were ever anchored to the ocean floor, no blades ever spun, no power was ever generated.”

It won permits and was constructed, but the $300 million Block Island, RI project has been a monument to planning failures. Transmission cables, improperly trenched and insufficiently buried, are floating dangerously, requiring a shut down of the turbines to facilitate costly repairs.

Wind turbines are the ultimate in environmental consequence, wasting and contaminating land, water, and vistas, as well as harming wildlife and people. And all for nothing, wind energy is at once too expensive and unneeded.

Eco-harms? Ask the real environmentalists who live in the country only to find their pristine lives compromised by some of the biggest machines in the world.

Having plundered large areas of pristine forests, mountain tops, and farm land, the foreign multinationals have now arrived at coastal areas, arranging permits for shore substation and cable transmission insertions.

This string of effort stretches from Maine to Virginia. Even the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) admitted it had not anticipated the rush, and some of the consequences. “We are in an incredible growth period,” adds the American Wind Energy Association, which see as much as a $70 billion offshore wind ‘pipeline’ by 2030.

Icebreaker (Lake Erie, offshore Cleveland)

A proposed six-turbine project eight miles offshore, Icebeaker has been in the cooker for a decade or more. [1] Last year, the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) chair Todd Snitchler informed then-developer LEEDCo that the project was deeply flawed. Enter foreign billionaire, Fred Olsen Renewables Inc, Norway. With a new case number, new design, new application, the project was finally approved by the OPSB to the dismay and objection of many groups.

Two lawsuits are pending, and many questions remain as to whether the project can survive the numerous delays and hurdles, such as the mandate to produce mitigation processes for endangered and other wildlife, directly in the path of the six massive turbines. (The Staff at OPSB conditioned the permit with 33 caveats, some are onerous and, in our view, Project Killers. Even with the “feathering” restriction finally removed, remaining conditions are viewed as bulky, lengthy, and if one examines it carefully, some impossible.)

Developer has now reneged on the MONO BUCKET design, and even the design now is up in the air. Question: is this not now a completely new application?

Pushback against the project remains formidable. Several effective groups, both sides of the border, have resisted and delayed or otherwise intercepted all turbine efforts offshore: GLOW, Great Lakes Offshore Wind NYS, defeated. Toronto Hydro Energy Services’ plan for 400 massive machines in Lake Ontario, Canada, and other developer plans for hundreds, thousands more, quashed with an offshore moratorium (2011). 

LEEDCo/Icebreaker, permitted after an eleven year battle, has massive hurdles and two lawsuits to surmount. Likely delay and obstacles put before them by the OPSB staff is likely to defeat this would-be Great Lakes despoiler, Fred Olsen Renewables Inc. Norway.

(Meanwhile, another Great Lakes wind project by Diamond Wind, for 50 turbines, is likely to be terminated with the sheer force of activists and Great Lakes protectors such as Residents Sharen Trembath and Paul Michaelec, as well as New York State Senator George Borrello and Representative Chris Jacobs, to name a few.)

The number of active groups that continue to work to arrest the LEEDCo Icebreaker proposal are wide and deep. Great Lakes Wind Truth active for 11 years; Lake Erie Foundation, Save Lake Erie, Save Our Beautiful Lake Cleveland, Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, Michigan Boating Industries Association, are very active groups. Additional groups have registered their objections.

  • Citizens Against Wind Turbines in Lake Erie (OH and NYS),
  • Partnership for the Preservation of the Down East Lakes Watershed,
  • Protect Our Lakes (Rich Davenport),
  • Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Co-ordinator Len DeFranciso,
  • Ripely Hawk Watch,
  • Whitely County Concerned Citizens,
  • Laurel Mountain Preservation Association,
  • Port Crescent Hawk Watch,
  • Wells County Concerned Citizens,
  • Ontario Regional Wind Turbine Working Group,
  • Preserve the Wellfleet, Green Acres Sportsman’s Club,
  • Save Our Allegheny Ridges,
  • Whitely Council of Concerned Citizens,
  • Mayor of Cavan Monaghan (Ontario),
  • Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, Manvers Wind Concerns,
  • Auglaise Neighbors United,
  • Ohioans for Affordable Electricity,
  • Friends of Arran Lake,
  • Concerned Citizens of DeKalb County,
  • Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions,
  • Inter-Lake Yachting Association (6,000 members),
  • Save the Eagles International,
  • No Lake Erie Wind Farm,
  • Save Our Skyline Ohio,
  • Toronto Wind Action,
  • World Council for Nature,
  • Friends Against Wind (France).

More international individuals and groups have logged objections (partial list here).

Over a decade, the developer has received $13.7 million (much of it DOE-funded) with the prospect of $126 million to come. A staggering amount for government-enabled project that is undesired by the locals. We have heard the propaganda: jobs, manufacturing chains, cleaner air, no environmental harm … saving the earth one turbine at a time … reducing CO₂ and getting off the fossil fuel addiction. None of these claims are true or useful.

Among the proposal conditions that remain: (Paraphrase of partial list of to do’s) Icebreaker must

  • File a separate report on transmission lines;
  • Conduct a preconstruction conference with all the contractors; must assure compliance with all federal and state regulations;
  • Must provide detailed engineering drawings [At this point the developer wishes to change the design of the turbine from mono bucket to an unknown design, which suggests to us the requirement of a completely new application]; must finalize coordination with the appropriate federal agency (U.S. Department of Energy) in consultation with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office with regards to completing Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966;
  • the Applicant shall comply with all terms in the Avian and Bat memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) and the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources MOU between the Applicant and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (“ODNR”), as well as the monitoring plans attached to the MOUs, and any other protocols or documents resulting from these MOUs.
  • Prior to the commencement of construction, the monitoring plans will be finalized and accepted through written communication from the ODNR. The monitoring plans are living documents and any modifications to the MOUs or resulting documents will be finalized and accepted through written communication from the ODNR and shall be filed in the case docket upon completion; 120 days prior to commencement of construction, the Applicant shall submit a fisheries and aquatic resources construction monitoring plan to the ODNR and Staff for review to confirm compliance with this condition.
  • Prior to the commencement of construction, the monitoring plan must be finalized and accepted through written communications from the ODNR. The Applicant’s plan shall be consistent with the ODNR approved Fisheries and Aquatic Resources MOU and monitoring plans attached to the MOU, and any other protocols or documents resulting from the MOU.
  • The monitoring start date and reporting deadlines will be provided in the ODNR acceptance letter and the Staff concurrence letter; At least 120 days prior to commencement of construction, the Applicant shall submit an avian and bat impact mitigation plan to the ODNR and Staff for review to confirm compliance with this condition that implementation of the plans would be effective in avoiding significant impacts to avian and bat species.
  • The avian and bat impact mitigation plan shall incorporate the most current survey results, the post-construction avian and bat monitoring plan, and all measures that have been adopted to avoid and minimize potential adverse impacts to birds and bats.
  • The plan shall also include a collision monitoring plan, which will include a description of the collision detection technology selected by the Applicant in consultation with the ODNR and Staff, the results of lab and field testing of the collision detection technology, and adaptive management strategies.
  • The collision detection technology shall be installed and fully functioning at the time the turbines commence operation and shall continue to function in accordance with the collision monitoring plan. Operation of the collision detection technology is subject to audits by ODNR or its third-party consultant.
  • Prior to the commencement of construction, the impact mitigation plan must be finalized and accepted through written communications from the ODNR. The Applicant shall also provide the impact mitigation plan to, and seek consultation with, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”).
  • The Applicant shall update the impact mitigation plan as new information is attained through surveys. Any proposed modifications to the impact mitigation plan shall be submitted to the ODNR and Staff for review to confirm compliance with this condition and shall be finalized and accepted through written communications from the ODNR.
  • The impact mitigation plan (including the collision monitoring plan) shall survive the MOU and shall remain in place for the life of the project. (Partial list)

It is hard to imagine what kind of collision detection technology could be utilized. It is hard to imagine a viable monitoring plan for a proposal that without doubt will harm and kill species, some endangered.

The consensus is that even with the “poison pill” feathering requirement removed, Icebreaker faces enormous obstacles and crippling delays.

It is most likely that the two lawsuits, prevailing logic, and ongoing public objections, will terminate this proposal.

Cape Wind (withdrawn)

Going back to 2001, the Cape Wind project planned to erect 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound. This was within view of Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard. Legal and financial setbacks ultimately tanked this project in 2017, not the least of which successful objection came from wealthy coastal community members.

Jim Gordon, a green energy entrepreneur, put $100 million of his own money into the adventure, which was eventually was swept away. The opposition was relentless, and eventually, “no turbines were ever anchored to the ocean floor, no blades ever spun, no power was ever generated.”

Ian Bowles, then state secretary of energy and environmental affairs under former Gov Deval Patrick, who supported Cape Wind, along with other environmental groups, said:  “The project unfortunately demonstrated that well-funded opposition groups can effectively use the American court system to stop even a project with no material adverse environmental impacts….”

Even the proponent with deep pockets was surprised at the cost of promoting this project, the amount of money needed to sustain the idea, and the power of the opposition. (Mr. Gordon missed a construction deadline, and two local utilities cancelled contracts. He was ultimately denied permission to build the transmission line. This was death by a thousand cuts.)

(Note: the argument that offshore or onshore, have “no material adverse environmental impacts,” is typical jingo and should be completely discounted as disingenuous and pure propaganda value only.)

Block Island (Rhode Island): First Operational US Offshore Project

It won permits and was constructed, but the $300 million Block Island, RI project has been a monument to planning failures. Transmission cables, improperly trenched and insufficiently buried, are floating dangerously, requiring a shut down of the turbines to facilitate costly repairs.

It is difficult to say when these cables will be technically correct and functional. (Cables were placed with jet plow rather than the-suggested directional drilling.)

The cabling caper is expected to cost as much as a $100 million–another aspect of a hardly “green” endeavor. “Grover Fugate, director of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council, said up to half a mile (800 metres) of cabling will have to have new sections spliced in and be reburied in the approach to Crescent Beach, with two cables affected – one running from Block Island and owned by Orsted and a second export line owned by power off taker National Grid.”

Watch for more cable issues, community pushback, and technical disasters. There seems to be no concerted plan for mapping cables offshore, leaving spaghetti-like of incoherent and unmanageable underwater and land cabling connection issues (AC and some hoped for DC), each with its own electrical and pollution challenges.

Clearly, proper engineering protocols were not followed. Is this cutting corners, incompetence, or both? Will this pattern of hasty dangerous shortcuts continue along the Eastern Seaboard? Tomorrow, See Part Two, A dismal prognosis for offshore wind in the U.S.: Vineyard Wind, Nantucket, “Follow the Fish”

——————–

[1] The Master Resource posts have tracked the long history of LEEDCo:

The post U.S. Offshore Wind Projects: Eco-Consequences on the Firing Line (Part I: Icebreaker, Cape Wind, Block Island) appeared first on Master Resource.

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January 6, 2021 at 01:06AM

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