Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Ohio wind power in Lake Erie, solar projects stall in Illinois, major Wisconsin coal plant to close

Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Ohio wind power in Lake Erie, solar projects stall in Illinois, major Wisconsin coal plant to close
May 28, 2020 Ian Wendrow
Photo by unknown via pxhere.com cc 1.0

Keep up with energy-related developments in the Great Lakes area with Great Lakes Now’s biweekly headline roundup.

In this edition: Wind farm project in Lake Erie approved by regulators with potentially major handicap, Minnesota legislature approves first-of-its-kind renewable energy project for Prairie Island Indian Community, COVID-19 choking solar power projects in Illinois, and Wisconsin’s Alliant Energy to close 400MW coal plant.

Click on the headline to read the full story:


A recent report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, a non-profit trade association for solar energy companies, predicts that the COVID-19 pandemic will cost Illinois 56 percent of its solar energy jobs by the end of June. Across the nation, an estimated 114,000 jobs are expected to be lost, returning to 2014 levels. In 2017, the Illinois legislature passed the Future Energy Jobs Act, which earmarked $230 million for solar projects across the state. However, the bill also set a hard timeline, after which any remaining funds would be returned to customers. Due to delays caused by COVID-19, large portions of this funding are still available for use while the deadline approaches. Another clean energy bill, the Clean Energy Jobs Act proposed by Gov. Pritzker, is also on hold as legislative processes are shut down or staggered to protect legislators from exposing themselves to the virus.


Minnesota state legislation passed last week awarded the Prairie Island Indian Community $46 million for a net-zero clean energy project, the first of its kind in the state and more so for a Native American reservation. The idea behind the project is to help the community reach a point where its total energy consumption is less than the amount of renewable energy generated by the reservation, located southeast of Minneapolis on the Mississippi River. The Prairie Island Indian Community is right next to the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant, which has negatively impacted reservation residents for years due to nuclear waste. That same legislative session also approved $15 million for a state-funded solar energy project.


The Ohio Power Sitting Board gave final approval for the Icebreaker wind energy project in Lake Erie, but with a stipulation that the turbine blades must shut down every night for 8 months of the year, a restriction that environmentalists and proponents of the project say will make the project economically unviable and produce a chilling effect for further renewable energy projects in Ohio. OPSB’s rule seemingly reneges on a previous arrangement between environmental groups and the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, the developer behind the project, to monitor the project in order to protect bats and birds. An environmental impact report prepared for the regulatory body found that the Icebreaker project is not within any major migratory path for birds.


Alliant Energy announced on Friday last week that its Edgewater coal plant – located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin – will be closed at the end of 2022. In a press release, the utility company said the closure of the 400 MW power plant is part of a broader company policy to move towards renewable energy. By 2023, Alliant Energy intends to generate up to 1,000 MW of solar power. Alliant also intends to recover $500 million worth of investment in the plant, which will be overseen by state regulators. Only one other coal plant is still operated by Alliant, the Pardeeville-based Columbia Energy Center, co-operated with the Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas & Electric. Alliant made no announcements regarding the Columbia Energy Center but intends to completely phase out the use of coal in its energy production by 2050.

Catch up on other Great Lakes energy headlines here:

Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: DTE Energy rate hike, Chicago firm fined for polluting canal

Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Shale gas and coal groundwater impact, coal ash pollution in Indiana, Ohio EPA OKs mine despite protests

Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Toxic coal ash, utility company water withdrawal, Line 5

Featured image: Solar panels (Photo by unknown via pxhere.com cc 1.0)


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