Ohio top court greenlights novel Lake Erie wind farm

A view of the frozen Lake Erie from the Miller Road Park pier during single digit temperatures in Avon Lake, Ohio, U.S., January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk
  • Environmental impacts of nation's first freshwater wind farm were properly considered, court found
  • Dissent said project escaped more rigorous scrutiny because it is the first of its kind

(Reuters) - The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a building permit for the nation's first freshwater wind farm had adequately weighed the project's impact on migrating birds and bats, despite objections from nearby residents.

In a 6-1 opinion Wednesday, the majority of justices on the state’s highest court said the Ohio Power Siting Board’s approval for a six-turbine facility off the shore of Lake Erie in Cleveland included an expansive review of potential environmental impacts.

The residents appealed the board's approval in February 2021, claiming it was based on inadequate data. The Ohio Supreme Court found developer Icebreaker Windpower had submitted plenty of supporting data during the review.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

That data included annual migration patterns and comparable data from onshore wind farms in the Great Lakes region, the justices said. In addition, the court noted the board’s final approval included protections for the animals including pre-construction radar monitoring and limits that prohibit the turbines from turning from dusk until dawn during eight months of the year.

An Ohio Power Siting Board spokesperson declined to comment on the ruling. Spokespersons for the developer and the residents did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Dissenting, Justice Sharon Kennedy said the board had jumped the gun by granting the approvals. She found it had subjected the farm to less scrutiny because it is a first-of-its-kind project to demonstrate the viability of wind farms on the lake. The board needed to make determinations on probable impacts before approval but had instead greenlit the project before that information was known, she said, and found that plans to monitor for impacts after and during construction aren’t enough.

The case is In re Application of Icebreaker Windpower Inc. for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need, Ohio Supreme Court, No. 2022-OHIO-2742.

For the Ohio Power Siting Board: Thomas Lindgren, John Jones and Kyle Kern of the Ohio Attorney General's Office

For the residents: Mark Tucker of Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.