Ohio plugs wind power on Lake Erie

Associatedpress and Associatedpress

CLEVELAND — Ohio officials outlined plans Monday to put Lake Erie, the shallowest of the Great Lakes, at the forefront of offshore wind power development.

Gov. Ted Strickland and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown joined industry and education leaders to detail tax-cut and regulatory measures to jump-start wind power development on Lake Erie. The lake’s comparatively shallow depth is seen as an advantage when erecting towers to produce wind power.

Strickland said his proposal to eliminate the tangible personal property tax on wind and solar generation equipment would make Ohio competitive in developing wind power.

The measure, now before state lawmakers, would cover wind and solar facilities where ground is broken this year and energy is being produced by 2012.

Last week, regulators approved the state’s first large-scale wind farms, all in western Ohio: two farms in Hardin County and an operation in Champaign County.

Construction is scheduled to begin this summer.

Under Ohio’s alternative energy plan, 25 percent of electricity sold in the state must be generated from alternative energy sources by 2025.

Brown said legislation he is backing in Congress would expand federal tax incentives for offshore wind development. The measure will provide a guide for federal agencies coordinating the development of the industry, he said.

Ohio already leads the nation in the number of clean-energy jobs funded by the federal economic stimulus package, Brown said at a news conference at the Great Lakes Science Center, which has a 150-foot tall wind turbine tower.

He urged people to look beyond the upfront cost of developing wind power and other clean-energy sources, saying it could create jobs in the U.S. energy industry and Americans already are spending money to buy overseas oil.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 57 percent of the petroleum used in the U.S. in 2008 was imported, with 45 percent of imports coming from the western hemisphere, 22 percent from Africa, 21 percent from the Persian Gulf and the remainder from other sources.

“As we develop this industry, instead of importing wind turbines from China and other places, we’re going to be doing the development in this country,” Brown said.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, working with the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., released a request Monday seeking proposals from developers for an initial wind-power project off Cleveland. The goal is to reduce startup costs for developers and make wind power attractive.