East Toledo won't get America's first laboratory for testing offshore wind turbine blades.
It's a decision that likely has cost northwest Ohio a shot at numerous jobs in the renewable energy sector and likely will keep the Great Lakes region from assuming a leadership role in the development of offshore wind power.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman today is expected to announce sites in Texas and Massachusetts as the two finalists for the $11.5 million project.
East Toledo had been one of six in the running and was the only one from the Great Lakes region.
U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio), one of several public officials from Ohio who endorsed the proposal, said through a staff member last night that he was "extremely disappointed," but he hopes that Ohio "continues to move forward with exciting opportunities like this one to further its energy independence."
Mr. Voinovich's office broke the news at 5 p.m. yesterday to Frank Calzonetti, University of Toledo vice president for research and development.
Word quickly spread to dozens of others involved between Toledo and Cleveland.
While UT, the Regional Growth Partnership, and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority were the principals behind the application, others involved included Midwest Terminals of Toledo International, the Ohio Department of Development, Bowling Green State University, Case Western Reserve University, the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Cleveland State University, the University of Akron, Ohio State University, the University of Dayton, the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, the Cleveland Foundation, and economic development officials from several northwest Ohio counties.
"A lot of work went into it. It was very exciting. It was a good effort," Mr. Calzonetti said last night. "We don't know exactly the reasons why the DOE selected Texas and Massachusetts. We'll go forward from here."
Jason Cotrell, a senior engineer and chief project spokesman for the Energy Department's National
Renewable Energy Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., said Secretary Bodman's announcement is expected today, but he would not divulge what it is.
But Robert Kozar, a former NASA official who was hired in early 2006 as a special projects official in UT's research office, also said he had heard Texas and Massachusetts will be named as the two finalists.
Texas and Massachusetts are well ahead of the Great Lakes region in terms of possible construction of offshore turbines.
Texas on Monday announced it had the nation's first platform for collecting offshore wind ready to go out into the Gulf of Mexico from the Galveston shoreline.
Massachusetts is even further along with its Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, awaiting word on permits to build 130 turbines for what would become America's first offshore wind farm.
"I'm sure both of those things had some influence on the DOE's decision," Mr. Kozar said. "It's always sad not to come out the winner, but the competition in these things is always fierce. We feel we learned an awful lot in putting the application together and that's going to help us."
Whoever lands the national laboratory gets the real prize: Dozens of spinoff jobs by attracting the booming offshore wind industry's manufacturers and parts suppliers.
Mr. Cotrell summarized the situation this way during an interview in November: "It's the chance to get in on the ground floor of an industry that's going to be big. It's going to be a giant."
That opportunity wasn't overlooked by officials who prepared the application for the East Toledo site.
"If we had gotten this, it would have launched us further into the future," Mr. Calzonetti said, adding that it would have advanced UT's efforts in other renewables, including solar power and biomass transportation fuel.
Said John Gibney, RGP spokesman: "We gave it a good shot. We felt our proposal matched up with the others.
"We're just going to keep trying," Mr. Gibney said. "We want people to know that we have the talent and the resources to compete for these kind of projects."
Offshore wind turbines are typically twice as large as their land-based counterparts and produce four times as much power.
The Energy Department said it needs a federal laboratory to do weight-bearing stress tests and other experiments on potential offshore blades of more than 325 feet in length, although it has committed only $2 million to the project.
The other $9.5 million is to be recovered over 20 years from fees charged manufacturers to certify the fitness of their blades.
Today's land-based turbine blades are typically 164 feet or less.
Europe, the world's leader in offshore wind power, has seven such laboratories.
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