Spoiler alert: a letter of intent is not the same as a cover letter. They're similar (being letters and all, and focused on yourself), but are actually used in different situations. Your cover letter is what you write when you're applying to a specific job you found through traditional channels (online job search, referral, recruiter). It details why you're a great fit for this particular job. A letter of intent is what you write when you're cold-calling (leaving a resume without being solicited for one), or applying for a job in a more general situation, like a job fair or submitting your resume to a general pool. The letter of intent is similar in that you're selling yourself, but tends to be less granular about a particular position. Letters of intent are often more networking-related, or aspirational, than position-oriented. Because you may have fewer specifics in hand about what you're applying for and who will be reading your application package, it's likely you won't have the most personalized opener. That's okay! Be general, but professional, formal, and polite.
While most are not legally binding, there may still be consequences for not complying with the agreed upon portions of the letter. A Letter of Intent is often seen like purchase or crowd-sourced orders, so they are often used to help secure funding or prove the value of the business. If the other party drops out or doesn't honor "in good faith" the letter, actual financial damage may be incurred to the company. In court, most often the judge will make decisions based on what implied intent is expressed in the letter. Sometimes there can be recourse if the parties do not follow through towards an actual legal agreement.