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Drilling for wind on Lake Erie
Soil sampling is an important step in choosing a design for the foundations of five massive wind turbines planned for a Lake Erie wind farm

Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
The jack-up barge and tug traveled from Muskegon, Michigan. A drilling rig is sampling lake bed soils under 60 feet of water. The soil samples will determine the design of foundations for five massive turbines planned for a Lake Erie wind farm.
Courtesy of Howard Tucker
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Crews are wrapping up today a week of taking samples of soil layers deep under Lake Erie. It’s a crucial step in designing what could be the nation’s first fresh water wind farm.

WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair visited the drilling platform and has this audio postcard.

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The Cuyahoga is serene as we shove off from the flats, heading toward the lake. We pass crumbling wharfs, and rusted bulkheads, and signs of renewal, a new bridge, and the gleaming Ernst & Young office tower. 

The breeze picks up once we hit the open water of Lake Erie. 

And it’s this wind we’re chasing as we chug out toward a dot on the horizon.

Jack-up barge and 12-hours shifts
David Karpinski is vice president of LEEDCo, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation.  We’re now eight miles out and the dot has become a crowded drilling platform pushed by a tugboat.

“This is the first step getting this expertise in the Great Lakes for the wind turbine industry.” 

We’ve arrived at the spot where LEEDCo plans to plant one of five massive wind turbines in sixty feet of water. 

The 90’ jack-up barge carries a drilling rig and 12 member crew to five locations on the lake.  The crew works 12 hour shifts, the tug takes them back to Cleveland for the shift change. They're bringing up a core sample of the lake bottom.

Lake bed soil will determine foundations design
One of the crew interrupts Karpinski as we idle up to the platform. The drillers go into action for a photo op, part of the reason we’re here.

“It's a very small step, but it’s pretty exciting because it’s... the the first time we’re actually seeing vessels and equipment deployed to do work.”

The drillers send section after section of pipe down into the lake bed. Eventually they begin pulling up a core sample of the layered lake bottom which Karpinski says will help engineers design the base that will support the turbines out in the water.

“Knowing the specific soil conditions you’ll be able to better assess which foundations are most appropriate and once you make that assessment you can really fine tune the design even more.”

Other tests on the barge measure the density of soils on the lake bottom.

Baby steps to a wind energy industry 
Soon it’s time to head back to Cleveland, as our captain toots his horn, and the tugboat pushing the barge answers back.

For me and the other passengers it was a few hours out on the lake on a windy spring day, but a drilling barge and a tugboat eight miles out means much more to Karpinski.

“It's a very small step here but it’s pretty exciting because it’s the first physical work that we’re doing, the first time we’re actually seeing vessels and equipment deployed to do work for the project.”

It’s an hour back to shore. 

We pass two resolute fishermen in a small boat, the only other people on the water today. But two years from now, Dave Karpinski says the planned Lake Erie wind farm will create bustling ports, bring hundreds of workers to assemble wind turbines, attract ship crews to ferry them, and engineers to install them. 

Right now Karpinski and LEEDCo are facing a sink or swim deadline - they’ve got to have their wind farm plans and permits in place by next February to compete for one of three 50 million dollar Department of Energy offshore wind grants. Testing the soil beneath Lake Erie is the first step in testing the waters of Ohio’s offshore wind dreams.

(Click image for larger view.)

Listener Comments:

Come on folks. Are these silly comments for real? Hundreds of gallons of lubricating oil? Maybe on a lake freighter, but not in a turbine. Should we ban freighters? Trenching for eight miles? No cables are trenched here in Ontario. So why in Lake Erie? Besides, this is not Ontario's business. We in Canada should butt out and let the good folks of Ohio make their own decisions.

All these comments about fraud and impaired cognitive skills. None of this is proved. Blaming wind power for the 900 coal plants in the US is just silly. Those plants were here long before wind power.

Posted by: Debbie Zak (Barrie, Ontario) on May 21, 2013 9:05AM
Why aren't Ohio people screaming at the Governor and ODNR to stop LEEDCO's industrializing Lake Erie? This whole exercise is a fraud!

Posted by: alnmary (new york) on May 18, 2013 7:05AM
The drawbacks to wind energy are many. Eight miles out? That means the construction will include eight miles of hydraulic trenching to get the electrical cables to shore. Now imagine sending maintenance crews to the turbines in the middle of winter i.e. January and February. Imagine the turbine blades covered with ice. Is this really practical?

Posted by: Roy Lindberg on May 14, 2013 11:05AM
Do the people of Ohio know each of these turbines contains hundreds of gallons of really nasty lubricating oil? Do they know drilling into the lakebed will release PCBs and other pollutants that have sunk beneath the surface for decades? Get your protest signs out now. You are being duped by a very crooked industry.

Posted by: M Anderson (Ontairo) on May 13, 2013 8:05AM
Residents of Ohio- WAKE UP! Why are you not out in droves protesting this boondogle? Do you remember the proposed GLOW project? We managed to defeat that project by educating the public, including elected officials, to the reality of wind energy. It is NOT clean- Nowhere in the world has a wind farm replaced its backup energy source- NOWHERE. Worse, it results in the ramping up and down of the coal fired or other back up source to accomodate the intermittent, unpredictable blowing of the wind. The result is more CO2 emmission production. All at the expense of the environment, economy and public health. The negatives are countless! The most obvious, according to this article, is the $50 million of YOUR tax dollars going to a few already rich people. It's all about the money. Is the demise of the Great Lakes, and all who drink the water, worth this?

Posted by: Anonymous on May 13, 2013 8:05AM
The people in Ohio must be brain dead to not be in the streets protesting. Boaters? Fishermen? Lake shore property owners? Are you there? Are you paying attention? Wake up friends. This will be one of the worst things that ever happened to you.

Posted by: Olindo Rocha (Buffalo) on May 10, 2013 10:05AM
Stupidity at it's worst

Posted by: tom (Ontario) on May 10, 2013 10:05AM
Ontario fought hard for the offshore moratorium, for obvious reasons. You cannot despoil 20% of the world's remaining fresh water supplies. Wind power doesn't work. World wide, 140,000 turbines producing less than 1/2 of one percent of the world's power. Oh yes, someone gets rich! the Developers with the creamy subsidies, and loan guarantees, that PTC, nice if you can get it. This (soil testing) is your first hurdle. You will never put turbines in Erie....the people will not let you. You have a lot of nerve digging in the toxic sediments that have mercifully settled for 50 years. Jobs? Really??? Spain has lost 2.2 jobs per so called "green job" and Italy has lost 5.4, the UK 4. Please stop this hideous project now.

Posted by: Sherri Lange (Toronto Ontario) on May 10, 2013 6:05AM
The Wind Energy Fraud is going strong........Greed Energy at it's worst!
Shame on all who advocate this disaster!
The lawsuits are coming!!!

Posted by: thebiggreenlie on May 10, 2013 6:05AM
May God help us defeat the WIND MONSTER ...

Posted by: Sad Ontario Canadian (London, ONtario) on May 10, 2013 4:05AM
The destruction of our most wonderful assets is a disgrace. We definitely do not need these useless industrial machines. Everyone knows the truth is all about the money!!!

Posted by: Shellie Correia (Canada) on May 10, 2013 4:05AM
Dear Mr.Karpinski,
We hope your liability policy is topped up.
FYI your turbines will emit low frequency and infrasound that will make boaters nauseous and dizzy impairing their ability to drive boats safely. Not so you say?
Check out how your Navy tests potential fighter pilots for their susceptibility to motion sickness by subjecting them to the same frequencies emmitted by your turbines.
The 1 in 4 who barf don't fly.
How about 25% of boaters having their cognitive skills impaired by dizzyness, vertigo and nausea?
And don't let any harmful LFN come across the border eh!

Posted by: Greg Schmalz (Port Elgin Ontario) on May 10, 2013 4:05AM
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