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First North America Freshwater Wind Farm Wins Ohio Court Case

Aug. 10, 2022, 2:14 PM

North America’s first proposed freshwater wind farm development defeated a challenge in the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday as justices upheld the project’s key state certificate from energy regulators.

In a 6-1 ruling, justices held that the Public Utility Commission of Ohio properly analyzed environmental impacts when granting a certificate to the 20.7 megawatt Icebreaker Lake Erie test project about eight miles north of Cleveland.

Residents of a lake-shore village near Cleveland don’t want to see the turbines and are concerned the development will expand. They argued that the regulators misapplied science and didn’t include enough mitigation restrictions on the project to ensure migrating birds across Lake Erie wouldn’t be killed by windmill blades.

The majority held that the residents didn’t meet Ohio’s high threshold for invalidating a regulatory decision.

“In summary, the board determined that Icebreaker’s evidence and the conditions imposed under the revised stipulation showed sufficient compliance with the statutory requirements. On appeal, it is the residents’ burden to show that the board erred, but the residents have failed to do so,” Justice Jennifer Brunner said in her majority decision.

Justice Sharon L. Kennedy dissented, arguing that the state regulators should have held the project to higher standards instead of making exceptions for a “demonstration project” on the lake.

The six-turbine project has faced a series of obstacles since its owner, Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., formed in 2009. The U.S. Energy Department in 2016 awarded the company $40 million to construct the project about 10 miles off the shore near Cleveland.

The case is In re Application of Icebreaker Windpower, Inc., Ohio, No. 2021-0153, 8/10/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Madison, Wisconsin at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergindustry.com; Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com