Seven years after ten million people were affected by the August 14, 2003 blackout, our electricity policy remains somewhat schizophrenic. I’m a strong supporter of the Green Energy Act; we do need to shift what we can to conservation and to small scale, distributed, renewable electric generation. It’s not the cheapest option, if all that counts is cash out of pocket, but cash is not all that counts. The Feed in Tariff has created lots of buzz about renewable energy in Ontario, despite the recent slashing of the price that will be paid for ground level solar. But getting permission to build renewable energy generation remains hard.
Distributed generation can have significant benefits in terms of reliability, flexibility, and avoided transmission and distribution costs, if power is generated close to where it is needed. Its major disadvantage may be opposition from NIMBYs: lots of little plants are, by definition, near lots of people and places. Everyone wants electricity, whenever they want it, but no one seems to want it generated (or transmitted) near them. As president of Windshare, I’m particularly concerned about the proposed 5 km setback for all offshore wind developments. The proposal may please some Scarborough Bluffs residents, who didn’t want to see turbines 2 km offshore. But it’s a death knell for wind development anywhere near Toronto, where the electricity demand is greatest.
The 5 km proposal ignores one key fact: Lake Ontario is too deep to build economic turbines 5 km out. The lake is relatively shallow 2 km offshore, where Toronto Hydro proposes to build its wind farm, but drops off quickly after that.