Lake Erie targeted for wind, solar development


(The Center Square) – Residents along Lake Erie may one day soon see wind turbines rising above the water surface.

This, after the state House OK’d a plan to permit land leases in the central and western regions of the lake. While supporters say the development plans avoid ecological and economic disruptions, critics beg to differ.

“If this bill is proposed for environmental stewardship, it’s anything but,” said Rep. Jake Banta, R-Waterford, during floor debate Tuesday.

House Bill 254 – proposed by Rep. Rob Merski, D-Erie – would charge a 2% royalty fee to wind and solar developers that would split amongst local and state agencies to reinvest back into conservation projects in the area.

While expected revenue remains unclear, a fiscal note indicates the state will spend roughly $1.25 million annually for eight new workers required to implement the program.

“By investing in clean energy, we are not only reducing our carbon footprint but also catalyzing innovation, creating jobs and ensuring energy security for generations to come,” Merski said.

He added that environmental and labor groups, along with the Fish and Boat Commissions and state Departments of Environment Protection and Community and Economic Development, worked together on the proposal.

“When everyone is brought to the table, we can bridge the gap between good-paying jobs and renewable energy,” Merski said.

Banta said negotiations, however, left out the property owners, anglers and charter captains he represents who “want to preserve their peaceful way of life.” All of them worried the wind turbines would not only destroy the view along the shoreline, but risk contamination from oil leaks and stir up toxic sediment along the lake bed.

“The risk of the windmills on the lake are not worth the reward,” Banta said.

The bill passed the House along party lines and heads to the Senate for full consideration.

The Center Square reached out to Erie County Sen. Dan Laughlin for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.