Off-shore wind turbines will likely have the best winds, but they also involve complex tradeoffs different from those that apply on land. The Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) regulation (O. Reg. 359/09) under the Environmental Protection Act therefore contemplates a special approvals regime for off-shore wind.[i] The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has now released a discussion paper proposing the new regime.
The key feature is a minimum five kilometre shoreline exclusion zone.[ii] According to the MOE, the proposed shoreline exclusion zone will:
Protect drinking water quality;
Keep noise below 40 decibels, equivalent to night time traffic in a quiet area;
Protect public safety for participants in near-shore activities, such as tourism;
Preserve ecological health (e.g. Biodiversity) in affected lakes) and;
Avoid interference with commodity and product shipment on the Great Lakes.
One obvious tradeoff: much bigger construction and transmission costs. One obvious consequence: forcing Toronto Hydro to move its Lakewind project, which has been fiercely opposed by some residents of the Scarborough Bluffs.
Second, the policy will require turbine developers to submit a very detailed application, including assessments of potential impacts to natural resources; natural, cultural and Aboriginal heritage; coastal engineering studies; and the transparent off-shore wind facility reports.[iii]
In addition to off-shore wind policy, the Ministry of Natural Resources is reviewing the current process of making Ontario’s Crown land
– including lakebeds of Great Lakes – available for off-shore wind projects.[iv] While the first phase of review focused on the basic procedural elements, the second phase will include consideration of where, when and how the government makes Crown land available. Perhaps we will see a form of lakebed zoning, much as has been proposed for the Atlantic near-shore in the US.
This document will set a precedent for clean energy advancement – a key part of the Ontario’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 30 megatonnes and phase out coal-fired power plants.[v],[vi]
[i] Ontario’s Renewable Energy Initiative. Ministry of the Environment, At http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/en/business/green-energy/
[ii] Discussion Paper: Off-Shore Wind Facilities Renewable Energy Approval Requirements, At http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/env_reg/er/documents/2010/011-0089.pdf
[iii] Backgrounder: Ontario Proposes Rules For Off-Shore Wind Turbines. Ministry of the Environment, Newsroom, At http://news.ontario.ca/ene/en/2010/06/backgrounder-ontario-proposes-rules-for-off-shore-wind-turbines.html
[iv] Review of the waterpower and windpower site release policies and procedures. Environmental Registry, At http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTEwMjAw&statusId=MTY1NDQ0&language=en
[v] Ontario’s Renewable Energy Initiative. Ministry of the Environment, At http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/en/business/green-energy/
[vi] Backgrounder: Ontario Proposes Rules For Off-Shore Wind Turbines. Ministry of the Environment, Newsroom, At http://news.ontario.ca/ene/en/2010/06/backgrounder-ontario-proposes-rules-for-off-shore-wind-turbines.html