Renewable Energy Approval Requirements for Off-shore Wind Facilities - An Overview of the Proposed Approach
On June 25 2010, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) posted a policy proposal on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry that outlined a proposed approach for developing regulatory requirements for offshore wind facilities. This policy proposal outlined considerations to provide clear, up-front provincial rules for offshore wind facilities, including a proposed five kilometre shoreline exclusion zone for offshore turbines from the water’s edge of the Great Lakes, other inland lakes (e.g. Lake St. Clair), and major islands.
In addition to MOE’s June 2010 posting, on August 18, 2010 the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) posted a policy proposal entitled “Offshore Windpower: Consideration of Additional Areas to be Removed from Future Development” (Environmental Registry posting # 011-0907). This policy proposal sought feedback on where, when and how Crown land should be made available for offshore wind facilities. The Decision Notice for the MNR’s policy proposal can be viewed using the link on the right of this notice.
In light of the comments received in response to MOE and MNR's postings and in particular the identified need for further study, Ontario is not proceeding with any development of offshore wind projects until the necessary scientific research is completed and an adequately informed policy framework can be developed. An offshore wind project is defined as any project classified under the Renewable Energy Approval regulation (O.Reg. 359/09) as a Class 5 wind facility.
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.
A bi-national collaborative approach to conducting research would leverage resources and expertise from within the entire Great Lakes region to focus on the scientific and technical challenges of developing offshore wind power in a freshwater environment. These challenges include a better understanding of how noise behaves over water and ice, foundation designs, water quality impacts, and impacts to shoreline ecosystems and wildlife.
The Government of Ontario will be implementing this direction through a coordinated multi-agency approach. During this time, applications for offshore wind projects in the Feed-In-Tariff program will no longer be accepted and current applications will be cancelled; the MNR will be cancelling all existing Crown land applications for offshore wind development that do not have a Feed-In-Tariff contract, including those with Applicant of Record status. MNR will not be accepting any new Crown land applications for offshore wind development. When there is greater scientific certainty, consideration of offshore wind development will resume.
Going forward, members of the public and all interested parties will have an opportunity to review and comment through the Environmental Registry on proposed technical, environmental and other requirements as they are developed . It is anticipated that once offshore wind-specific requirements are fully developed they would be included in regulation, policy and guidelines.
Public Consultation on the proposal for this decision was provided for 74 Days, from June 25, 2010 to September 07, 2010.
As a result of public consultation on the proposal, the Ministry received a total of 1403 comments: 206 comments were received in writing and 1197 were received online.
In response to its posting, the MOE received over 1,400 submissions which included comments from individual members of the public, community-based associations, environmental non-governmental organizations, municipalities, energy-developers and Aboriginal communities. A wide range of views was expressed. A majority of respondents expressed concern either that the proposed 5 km exclusion zone may not be far enough from the shoreline to be adequately protective, or that there were significant areas of scientific uncertainty resulting in the need for further study by provincial ministries and the Federal government. Considerations for further study include measures for protecting drinking water, transportation and navigation, and potential effects on fish and wildlife and shoreline ecosystems. The remaining respondents were either supportive of the proposed policy direction or expressed concern that the proposed 5 km exclusion zone may be too far from the shoreline and would result in Ontario foregoing significant opportunity to harvest clean energy.