Just like that, a 200-megawatt offshore wind project proposed by utility Toronto Hydro is — to put it bluntly — dead in the water. Ontario’s Ministry of Environment issued a proposed regulation today that would prohibit the development of offshore wind projects that are 5 kilometres or closer to shore. Toronto Hydro’s project would place up to 60 wind turbines between two and four kilometres from shore, so if the proposed rules get passed then the utility’s offshore plan will be terminated. Toronto Hydro’s isn’t the only project that will be killed. There were several “near shore” projects proposed in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie that will be caught in this new setback rule, and even some projects that straddle the five kilometre barrier. Windstream Energy, for example, which is the first developer in North American to get a power purchase agreement for a 300-MW offshore wind farm (i.e. it got a feed-in-tariff contract with the Ontario Power Authority), may have to readjust the layout of its proposed project and drop a few turbines to fit within the rules. Trillium Power, which has a huge 700-MW project proposed for Lake Ontario, wouldn’t be affected because its turbines will be located 17 to 28 kilometres offshore.
I agree that a setback is necessary. I haven’t decided yet whether I think five kilometres it too far or not. I think three kilometers would have been a better compromise. The proposed rules could still change after public consultation, but for now, there are many angry offshore wind developers out there who face the prospects of seeing their projects killed. Toronto Hydro, for example, just spent $1 million or so to put an anonometer in the lake to measure wind speeds for two years. That now looks like wasted dollars.