Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp. continues to discover the opportunity of constructing an offshore wind venture in Lake Erie to ship energy for New York state, as improvement zones off the Atlantic Coast stay in restricted provide.

Diamond Offshore Wind, a completely owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi, stirred up native opposition final yr after submitting an interconnection request with New York’s grid operator for potential capability in japanese Lake Erie. The developer nonetheless believes offshore wind generators are answer for the Nice Lakes area as states search extra renewable energy and clear power jobs, CEO Chris Wissemann informed GTM.

Diamond Offshore Wind was inspired by a white paper from the New York State Vitality Analysis and Growth Authority (NYSERDA) launched this summer time, wanting on the state’s choices for assembly its 70 p.c renewable power goal for 2030. Within the white paper (PDF), NYSERDA referred to as for a feasibility research to “discover and ensure” the potential advantages of offshore wind within the Nice Lakes.

At this stage, Diamond nonetheless doesn’t have a selected venture underneath improvement in Lake Erie. “We’re watching earnestly to see if New York, by this feasibility research, concludes that initiatives are worthwhile within the Nice Lakes,” Wissemann stated. “If that’s the case, and if that in the end turns right into a solicitation within the subsequent yr or two, we’d be keenly fascinated with taking part.”

Nice Lakes offshore: lengthy on potential, quick on motion

Offshore wind improvement has moved at a snail’s tempo within the Nice Lakes, regardless of longstanding curiosity and large potential. A lot of the main target so far has been on the Icebreaker venture offshore Cleveland, backed by the non-profit Lake Erie Vitality Growth Corp. (LEEDCo).

Icebreaker has been underneath improvement for 11 years, and though it not too long ago made progress in eradicating a “poison capsule” connected to its approval by the Ohio Energy Siting Board, the 20.7-megawatt demonstration venture nonetheless lacks a transparent path to business operation.  

Wissemann stated future Nice Lakes initiatives will look extra like these shaping up alongside the Atlantic Coast: bigger and extra aggressive on price. Winter ice endemic to the Nice Lakes shouldn’t be an engineering problem for generators affixed to the seabed, and there’s no must exhibit any specific expertise for freshwater initiatives to advance, he stated. “I feel you may go greater, quicker within the Nice Lakes.”

The Nice Lakes are rimmed by numerous main cities, together with Chicago (Lake Michigan) and, on the Canadian aspect, Toronto (Lake Ontario). New York’s second largest metropolis, Buffalo, sits alongside japanese Lake Erie.

Nice Lakes offshore wind speeds are slower elements of the Northeast however nonetheless spectacular. (Credit score: NREL)

Mitsubishi is a serious participant within the world offshore wind market, with investments in Europe, Japan, and as of this summer time, the U.S. by its partial acquisition of the College of Maine’s floating demonstration venture. Along with investing in initiatives and associated transmission infrastructure, Mitsubishi is co-owner of MHI Vestas, one of many world’s main suppliers of offshore wind generators.

Restricted Atlantic websites could increase Nice Lakes

Diamond’s curiosity within the Nice Lakes stems from each alternative and necessity. The final aggressive public sale for an offshore wind lease in federal waters was held almost two years in the past. Whereas the Bureau of Ocean Vitality Administration (BOEM) is contemplating future lease gross sales off New York, California and the Carolinas, it  has not stated precisely when the subsequent public sale will come.

That leaves a rising record of builders seeking to spend money on the market however with out a clear manner of securing a venture. The map of current leases is dominated by a handful of corporations, notably Ørsted, Iberdrola’s Avangrid and Royal Dutch Shell.

The dearth of latest zones in federal waters can also be squeezing states, significantly New York, which has a 9-gigawatt offshore wind goal for 2035. “In case you add up the megawatts of capability that states within the Northeast are looking for, these objectives exceed the accessible BOEM leases,” Wissemann stated.

BOEM doesn’t oversee the Nice Lakes, opening the likelihood state like New York may speed up improvement even with out BOEM’s participation. Simply the identical, the allowing route is difficult within the Nice Lakes, as evidenced by Icebreaker.

An offshore wind port within the Midwest?

The present scramble to safe offshore wind provide chain investments alongside the Atlantic Coast could quickly discover its method to the Nice Lakes, Wissemann stated. Along with New York, Illinois has proven a revived curiosity in offshore wind underneath Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker.

“I’d liken it to the Northeast earlier than Block Island was constructed,” Wissemann stated. “Individuals [in Great Lakes states] are simply beginning to consider it. In case you quick ahead three years, you may discover there will get to be the same race for offshore wind.”

Offshore wind faces challenges within the Nice Lakes in comparison with the Northeast, together with water depths that drop extra quickly, decrease wind speeds, and higher competitors from cheaper onshore renewables than in land-constrained New England.

However the area has distinctive benefits. Many coal-fired vegetation have retired or will quickly within the Midwest, opening alternatives to plug offshore wind farms into current grid infrastructure. There aren’t any hurricanes or enormous waves to fret about. And the area has loads of accessible port infrastructure — a lot of it constructed for the metal business — that could possibly be transformed for offshore wind.

“The Nice Lakes has [potential offshore wind] ports that individuals may solely envy on the East Coast,” Wissemann stated.

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