A memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by 10 federal agencies and the governors of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania on Friday seeks to promote the efficient and orderly evaluation of offshore wind proposals for the Great Lakes.
The federal agencies include the Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin did not sign the MOU.
The agreement was modeled after a similar MOU signed between 10 East Coast states and the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2010, the Great Lakes Commission said. The Great Lakes MOU, however, carries “additional significance because states own the bottomlands of the Great Lakes and ultimately have the primary authority about what can and cannot occur in those state waters,” the interstate compact agency added.
The MOU was necessary because numerous federal laws and interests are at play in the Great Lakes, it said. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers has federal authority to approve or deny placement of structures in navigable waters. Nine other federal agencies that signed the MOU also have regulatory roles or federal interest in whether and how offshore wind gets permitted in the Great Lakes.
The MOU establishes a Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Consortium that will make the regulatory and permit review processes transparent and provide insight into potential improvements to ensure that proposal reviews are clear and expeditious. “With so many agencies involved, there is high potential for duplication and protracted review times that can be unnecessarily costly to both prospective developers and relevant state and federal government agencies,” the commission said.
Although the Great Lakes have a potential for 700 GW of offshore wind power, no developers have formally applied for permits to develop wind projects in the Great Lakes. Cleveland-based nonprofit organization Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. is expected to apply for permits for its 20- to 30-MW project soon, however.
Meanwhile, no offshore projects are operating in the U.S. Only one proposed project, the Cape Wind project in federal waters off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., has received all necessary permits. That project continues to face financing challenges, however, as well as legal and environmental challenges.
Sources: POWERnews, Great Lakes Commission