By Sharon Hill, Windsor Star
WINDSOR, Ont. — Seven hundred offshore wind turbines are being proposed for Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair including 165 turbines north of Lakeshore and wind farms off Amherstburg, Colchester, Kingsville and Leamington.
SouthPoint Wind of Leamington had already proposed 15 turbines in three spots off the shores of Kingsville and Leamington. If SouthPoint gets approval for that project, it is proposing a 1,400 megawatt project with 13 wind farms: three in Lake St. Clair and the rest south of Essex County and Chatham-Kent in Lake Erie. Each wind farm could have 55 turbines and could be one to 2.5 kilometres from shore.
“Why should we be the guinea pigs?” Leamington Deputy Mayor Rob Schmidt said Wednesday.
If it could be the first offshore wind farm anywhere in fresh water, there should be more research done, Schmidt said.
There are offshore wind farms proposed on the Great Lakes including Lake Ontario but none approved or constructed in the province.
“On something that has this many potential negative impacts, we don’t want to be the first ones,” Schmidt said, citing concerns over drinking water intake pipes, tourism and wildlife from migrating birds to the commercial and sports fisheries.
SouthPoint Wind representatives wouldn’t talk to a reporter Wednesday but in a news release Wednesday said the project would be “the first of many new offshore generation plants in the Great Lakes region.”
The news release went on to say “the development of this project will bestow the community with first mover status in the offshore wind energy market, undoubtedly creating a succession of job growth and manufacturing expansion in surrounding areas.”
It didn’t say how much it would cost. SouthPoint Wind is one of a group of companies owned by the Liovas family of Leamington.
The company is advertising public meetings March 27 and its interest in both the 15-turbine project and the 700-turbine project. The news release said the company is following the legislation of the province’s new approval process which will involve “assessing the feasibility of a sustainable” 15-turbine project.
Kingsville Coun. Tamara Stomp said she was “reeling from shock” that the provincial government would allow the proposal to be suggested.
So far, the provincial government didn’t seem to know the details. SouthPoint Wind’s advertising said the notice of the public meeting has to go forward before submitting an application. There is a draft application on its website.
Kate Jordan, a spokeswoman with the Ministry of the Environment, said there are several offshore wind proposals in the planning stages in Ontario and the province is still working on regulations for offshore developments under the new Green Energy Act.
In the past, such projects went through environmental assessments but that process is being streamlined under the new act. So far only the land-based regulations for wind farms have been developed, Jordan said.
The process for the offshore wind farms would involve first going to the Ministry of Natural Resources to get permission to build on the Crown lakebed. Then a proponent would go through the renewable energy approval process under the Green Energy Act of the Ministry of the Environment. She said it’s up to proponents to study the project and identify any negative environmental impacts and ways to overcome them. Public consultations must be held.
Any approval would have to come from the Ministry of the Environment. For now, Jordan said it would be a site specific review if the company applied.
If allowed, a draft application on SouthPoint Wind’s website said the wind farm construction could begin in 2012 and last until December 2014.
Municipalities were concerned that under the new act, they don’t have control over whether a project is approved. Schmidt said SouthPoint Wind had not fully answered questions and concerns posed to the company under the old regulations.
The Ontario Commercial Fisheries Association hasn’t taken a stand on turbines in Lake Erie but had not been persuaded the wind farms wouldn’t be bad for the fishery in the last proposal, said association executive director Peter Meisenheimer.
“Everybody always knew it wasn’t about 15 turbines.”
Meisenheimer said people figured once the turbines were built, the company would want to add to the wind farms and the association has been paying close attention to the issue with members expressing “deep concern.”
In 2006, opposition to offshore turbines in Lake Erie saw the provincial government ban offshore developments. But the ban was lifted by 2008 and the Citizens Against Lake Erie Wind Turbines fought the proposal again. September meetings in Kingsville and Leamington on the 15 turbines attracted more than 100 people. Under the old approval process, those councils wanted the provincial government to do an independent environmental assessment.
Gord Meuser, a member of Citizens Against Lake Erie Wind Turbines, said the concerns for Pigeon Bay off Point Pelee are the same regardless of the number of turbines. The 15-turbine proposal sparked a petition with about 6,000 names, but now the group will have to start again from scratch. Meuser, like others interviewed Wednesday, had not had the chance to read the draft proposals on the company’s website.
Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain’s first response was “wow.” He had not heard of any turbines proposed for Lake St. Clair.
Bain questioned why offshore power would be considered since there are already projects approved for the land that aren’t being built in Lakeshore because they don’t have contracts to sell the electricity to the power grid.
In Lake St. Clair the turbines are proposed north of Belle River, Deerbrook and Lighthouse Cove. In addition to offshore wind farms south of Leamington and in two spots off Kingsville’s shores, SouthPoint Wind is proposing wind farms south of Colchester and Amherstburg in Lake Erie as well as off Wheatley, Port Alma, Port Crew, Sandison and Cedar Springs south of Chatham-Kent.
Information in a draft application on the company’s website said the wind farm would last an estimated 20 to 25 years. The white turbines would reach a maximum height of 125 metres from the water to the tip of the upper blade. The turbines would be in rows and would be 300 metres apart, the draft said.
Public meetings have been scheduled for March 27. There is one scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Puce Sports and Leisure Centre on Old Tecumseh Road in Lakeshore. For Lake Erie, there are meetings scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. at the Kingsville arena, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Leamington Princess Centre, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Harrow arena and at 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Recreation Centre in Amherstburg. There is a Chatham-Kent meeting at 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Wheels Inn in Chatham. For more information visit www.southpointwind.com.