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So, Ontario is ducking the offshore wind issue until after the election. I suppose it should not be a surprise, given the extraordinary public and media attention that the rapid growth in wind energy has elicited, and the growing fixation of the entire political system on the forthcoming election. When Ontario moved to fixed election dates, we knew that unpopular decisions would rarely be made in election years, and that is exactly what is happening.

Offshore wind gave the Premier a serious political challenge. Wind opponents don’t want turbines anywhere they can see them, which led to the proposal for a 5 km offshore buffer. But Ontario geography likely makes that compromise unworkable. Lake Ontario, for example,  is far too deep 5 km out to make wind development practical. In the end, the Premier probably decided that he is already going to get votes from anyone committed to renewable energy, because of the huge steps his government has taken in shutting down coal plants and adopting the Green Energy Act. His political danger now comes from the right, not the left.

Offshore wind will be back, but it may be awhile. For now, the electrical and renewable energy approval systems are working as hard as they can just to process the flood of applications for onshore wind, solar, and other renewable energy projects, and to make room for them on the grid. Eventually, Ontario will need the vast amounts of renewable energy that offshore wind can provide, at a reasonable cost, but it may take more climate change disasters before the public gets serious about the idea.

So for now, we will watch and wait,  and let other jurisdictions be the pioneers:

“Offshore wind power development in ocean environments is relatively well-understood technology and has been successfully deployed in several locations in Europe. By contrast, offshore wind power development in freshwater lakes is relatively new and presents technical challenges that do not exist in a saltwater environment, such as the need to manage potential impacts to drinking water and the effects of ice build-up on support structures. A recently constructed offshore wind pilot project is currently operating in Lake Vänern, a freshwater lake in Sweden. A second pilot project has been proposed in the State of Ohio in Lake Erie near Cleveland. Ontario will monitor these projects and the resulting knowledge gained from their construction and operation. Ontario will work with our US neighbours to undertake collaborative research and study that will ensure that any future projects are designed and implemented in a manner that is protective of human health, cultural heritage and the environment.”

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