Gannon University hosted a panel to discuss the topic of Great Lakes Off-Shore Wind Power on Sept. 25.
The first panelist to speak was Eric Ritter, the communications and strategy manager for Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo), a nonprofit organization based in Cleveland.
This company is working with the Department of Energy to construct six wind turbines about seven miles off the shore of Cleveland, possibly beginning in May, and this project will bring about 500 jobs to the area.
Currently Ohio’s massive burning of coal for energy has allowed it to become the No. 1 state for early deaths from power plant emissions.
Ritter contended developing more off-shore wind power will improve air quality, offer job opportunities for the future and allow the states along the Great Lakes to tap into the unused, valuable resource of free, reliable wind across these lakes.
The second panelist was John Rossi, an associate professor of history at Penn State Behrend, co-chair of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club Global Warming committee, and chair of the Lake Erie Group of the Sierra Club Conservation Committee.
He presented the three basic issues with developing off-shore wind turbines in this area, which were the amount of energy these turbines produce, the effects on the Great Lakes and wildlife habitats and the impact on the economy.
Rossi discussed the enormous potential for Lake Erie to generate energy, but said he knows that this area is greatly dependent on revenue from the tourism industry as Presque Isle Beach is the most visited state park in Pennsylvania.
Finally, retired state legislator John Hornaman discussed the political aspects of wind power. When he was in office, he attempted to pass legislation that would make this area in northwestern Pennsylvania the hub for wind energy development.
Although the bill did not pass the state senate, Hornaman said he thinks that an increasing number of legislators are supporting the development of sustainable energy resources, as our state and nation do not want to be left behind in this innovative area.
Renewable energy resources such as off-shore wind power need to become integral pieces of our energy portfolio as a region, state, and nation, Hornaman said.
After these three panelists presented their arguments, the panel was open for questions. Most of the questions had to do with how these turbines would affect the environment, particularly with the migration patterns of birds and bats in the area.
The panelists seemed to concur that these turbines are strategically placed in sections of the Great Lakes where very little of these animals would be passing through and potentially be harmed by these structures.