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COWI in challenging wind project in the Great Lakes

COWI Group company Ocean and Coastal Consultants breaks the ice in the Great Lakes as part of one of the first offshore wind projects in North America.

Being the smallest and shallowest of the five Great Lakes, Lake Erie is often 90 per cent covered with ice in wintertime – and it frequently freezes over completely. That is one of many challenges facing the team behind the unique project, consisting of the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) and Ocean and Coastal Consultants (OCC). A demonstration The team has worked together on the demonstration project known as the "Icebreaker", which consists of five to nine wind turbines seven miles off the coast of Cleveland, Ohio in Lake Erie. The total capacity of the wind turbines will be 30 megawatt, generating enough electricity for approximately 5,000 to 7,500 households. But if the project is successful, it might lead the way for utility scale projects in the future. "We have already started looking at a 500 megawatt project at the same location," says Stanley White, President of OCC. The utility scale project could replace some of the coal-fired power plants in the area, which would have a huge positive impact on the environment, according to Stanley White. Ice floes and soft clays While Europe is a leader on the offshore wind market, North America has just got started. But it can rely on the expertise of OCC and COWI, who have over 30 years of experience. The challenges, however, are unique to the American side of the Atlantic Ocean. "Large ice floes require a design that resists the pressure, because it will impose substantial forces on turbine bases when hit. Apart from that, the soil condition is different. There are soft clays, so the foundation has to be designed for this," says Stanley White. In December last year, the project won $5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and private investors. This month, the team started the Front End Engineering Design (FEED) study, and the construction is planned to kick off in 2016 with completion set for one and a half year later. The total cost is estimated at $150 million. By Steffen de Vries, sevr@cowi.comPublished 12.02.2013

LAST UPDATED: 16.09.2016