From    Team NEO collaborates across counties in Northeast Ohio to attract businesses worldwide to the 16-county Cleveland Plus region.  The privately funded, non-profit joint venture of the region’s largest metro chambers presented its top award last year to Lake Erie Energy Development (LEEDCo) for pursuing cross-border collaboration in their development of offshore wind turbines in Lake Erie.

Located seven miles offshore of downtown Cleveland, the pilot project of five to seven wind turbines is expected to generate 20-30 megawatts by 2013.  LEEDCo, a nonprofit organization rather than a private operator, intends to harness the potential of wind power for the benefit of the entire region, not just for one company’s power grid.

LEEDCo’s collaborative spirit and its tilt toward regionalism are evident in this statement from LEEDCo president, Lorry Wagner:  “Our goal is to have the entire region profit from wind projects, not just one county or city.  This effort requires collaboration by many entities, and we want each of them to benefit from this project.”

Accordingly, The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority is following LEEDCo’s regional spirit.  It has signed revenue sharing agreements dividing income from the pilot project among Cleveland and among Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake and Ashtabula counties.

Will Friedman, the port’s president and CEO, describes the agreement as something that “doesn’t happen very often.  It’s an enlightened way of doing business and really puts some substance behind the concept of regionalism.”

Friedman sees regional job-creation as a benefit of the project.  “We believe that we can develop an alternative energy economic cluster that can be a competitive advantage for the region,” he says.  “If we can attract companies to conduct their R&D and build the turbine equipment here, that could have a really big job-creation benefit.  We want to be a catalyst for that.”

The prediction of a study commissioned by NorTech last year is that full-scale implementation of the wind farm will produce 5,000 mega watts by 2030, can produce 8,000 jobs, $7,800,000,000 in wages and salaries, $22,600,000,000 in sales, and $586,500,000 in public revenues.

Wagner sees the massive scale of wind turbines practically necessitating local production.  “If you’re building an industry, there’s the engineering jobs, the boat-building jobs, the surveyor jobs, the transport jobs,” he says.  “It’s so expensive to move them; you want to make the part near where they’re going to be built.  So there’s a real incentive to making this a successful mode.”

Friedman’s take on the prospects of the project?  “I think it will happen.  It might not be on LEEDCo’s optimistic schedule, but I think it will happen, and wind energy will be our future.”

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