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Environment, Ontario Politics

Great Lakes offshore wind moratorium to remain ‘for some time’

Flickr photo by phault.

Flickr photo by phault.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli confirmed early last week that anyone anxious for offshore wind development in Ontario’s portion of the Great Lakes to resume will have a long wait ahead of them.

Indefinitely, it would seem.

“All I can say at this point is that offshore is still in a moratorium and it’s likely to stay that way for some time,” he said.

Asked to explain why Ontario’s offshore wind development remains in indefinite limbo, Chiarelli said it has everything to do with how well established offshore wind development is in Ontario. Or, rather, how unestablished it is compared to other forms of renewable power.

“The basic reason is that all the other elements of green energy have been implemented in various jurisdictions,” he said.

“Wind was well established in Ontario, solar was well established, biomass was well established in various ways in different jurisdictions. But offshore wind was not in the same category of experiential advancement.”

Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty bent to public concerns about the impact of such projects from residents of Scarborough, Ontario in February 2011 by placing a moratorium on all offshore wind development in the Great Lakes, pending a further study that some in the wind community are still waiting for.

“The fact of the matter is that there is a dearth, there is a shortage of science when it comes to locating wind turbines in fresh water,” McGuinty said of his decision at the time.

“If they decide to put up a thousand in a square mile, I’m not sure that would be in keeping with standards that properly protect the aquatic life in the Great Lakes.”

McGuinty added: “We’ll take the time to do this thoughtfully and responsibly.”

But it appears now as if it’s not being done at all. Two months into the new Liberal government headed by Premier Kathleen Wynne and Chiarelli remains non-committal as to whether researchers in the Ministry of Energy are busy working on the studies that McGuinty said were necessary before reopening the debate on offshore wind in Ontario.

“We recognize that there were issues that were being raised that required more research and more development,” he said, noting again that offshore wind remains under a government moratorium unlikely to be lifted in the near future. Yet he would not say whether the ministry is currently conducting those studies or has any intention of starting them, though it would appear not.

Meanwhile, the government continues to deal with the repercussions of halting offshore development in its tracks. Trillium Wind Power Corporation was in the financing stage of developing four offshore wind turbine farms in Lake Ontario (between Toronto and Kingston) when Queen’s Park flinched, leading the company to sue the government for $2.25 billion in losses.

“Our case is not frivolous,” said Trillium CEO John Kourtoff.

“We have data and information and we have work that was done and we’re prepared to take it before a trial.” An Ontario judge dismissed the case in early November 2012, but Kourtoff has indicated his company is appealing the decision.

And the long-awaited research on the feasibility of offshore wind development in the Great Lakes, despite the experience of numerous European countries, remains on hold. 

About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.


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