The New York Power Authority invited potential developers to submit proposals for offshore wind projects in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The authority plans to award one or more projects a year from now.
The offshore turbines would be the first for New York and among the first in North America, depending on when they get up and running.
The state-owned utility wants to see them producing between 120 and 500 megawatts of electricity by 2015, the year Gov. David Paterson has set for the state to be meeting 45 percent of its electricity needs through improved energy efficiency and clean renewable energy.
"This is not a dream. This is becoming a reality," NYPA President and Chief Executive Richard Kessel said at the Niagara Power Project, another NYPA electricity producer that diverts water from the Niagara River for hydropower.
NYPA is seeking one or more developers to construct, operate and maintain 40 to 200 turbines two to seven miles off shore in one or both of the lakes.
Authorities have estimated the total project would cost $700 million to $1 billion, which the owners could make back in power sales. NYPA would buy all of the power, Kessel said, which would be connected to the grid via an offshore substation.
The state, working with environmental groups, has identified potential locations that wouldn't interfere with shipping or wildlife migration, Kessel said. Lakes Erie and Ontario are the smallest of the five Great Lakes, which together form the largest surface freshwater system on earth.
"We have to be very sensitive to the environment of the Great Lakes, whether it's the fish or the birds or bats, or the water itself," Kessel said.
Similar projects are being considered in Canada, on the northern side of Lake Erie, as well as off the Toronto shoreline of Lake Ontario.