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When people think about offshore wind power, the first location that comes to mind probably isn’t Cleveland, Ohio. Most of the offshore wind turbines installed around the world are operating in salt water, like Europe’s North Sea and Baltic Sea, and most of the offshore wind projects proposed in U.S. waters are in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. But the winds blowing above Lake Erie, only a few miles off the shore from Cleveland, represent a huge potential source of clean, renewable energy that could yield substantial benefits for the regional economy and environment. That potential brought stakeholders representing eight U.S. states and Canadian provinces to Cleveland to discuss the most pressing challenges facing offshore wind energy in the Great Lakes, as part of the third annual Great Lakes Wind Collaborative meeting in late September.

The gross wind power resources of the five Great Lakes could exceed 700 gigawatts – more than enough to power the entire region. According to Larry Flowers of the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the value of the region’s potential wind energy resources could be as high as $100 billion. Developing the Great Lakes’ offshore wind power responsibly could reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, while creating thousands of jobs manufacturing, installing, operating, and maintaining offshore wind turbines.

The Great Lakes Wind Collaborative meeting in Cleveland focused on individual states’ efforts to promote wind energy off their coasts. New York and Ohio, for example, are actively reviewing proposals for wind projects in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

Attendees agreed that a collaborative effort is needed to create a streamlined, uniform framework for permitting and regulating offshore wind projects in the Lakes. The Department of Energy, although it lacks regulatory authority, is poised to collaborate with other agencies to develop this framework for planning, implementing, and regulating offshore wind energy in the Great Lakes.

We look forward to developing the exciting, new potential for offshore wind to help the environment and economy of the Great Lakes region.