By Troy Patterson Kincardine News
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has confirmed that three companies have issued 12 off-shore wind power project applications within Lake Huron.
Of the applications, eight are “in the area near Kincardine and Goderich and near Port Elgin at MacGregor Point,” said Jolanta Kowalski, senior media relations officer for the MNR in a telephone interview Wednesday. “We don’t yet know the number of turbines, as they’re not applications of record, they’re just applications.”
Kowalski said the application status of the projects also means the names of the companies applying aren’t released to the public or media, as they could withdraw the proposal at any time.
The Ministry of Environment (MOE) is recommending a proposed setback of 5 km from the shoreline for any off-shore wind project, she said via e-mail later in the day.
From the data she was provided, the current “windpower applications off Kincardine range from between 50 metres offshore to 30 kilometres offshore,” Kowalski said.
In terms of the depth off-shore wind turbines require for construction, the “Industry has advised us that with the current technology it is not advisable to build a project beyond a depth of 30 metres,” she said, adding questions surrounding ice protection are still undetermined. “As far as icing is concerned it would be up to a proponent to find ways to safely construct in ice conditions. These methods have yet to be tested in Ontario.”
The average depth of Lake Huron is 59 metres (195 feet), with the shores off of Kincardine and Saugeen Shores ranging between 20-80 metres deep as listed on both American and Canadian bathymetry charts. The exception is the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, which maintains depths between 20 and 60 metres almost the entire way between Ontario and Michigan, from Point Clark heading north west.
Regarding First Nation land rights and consultation, Kowalski said the MNR is “committed to meeting its legal duty to consult, and where appropriate accommodate, Aboriginal peoples where we have knowledge of the existence or potential existence of an Aboriginal or treaty right and contemplate conduct that might affect those rights.”
Aside from the Lake Huron applications, Kowalski confirmed that Trillium Power Wind has a project in the works for Lake Ontario. The Ontario Power Authority also confirmed another project Tuesday, which is a contract offer to Windstream for a Wolfe Island project, located near Marysville, east of Prince Edward, on the eastern most part of Lake Ontario.
Municipality of Kincardine mayor Larry Kraemer returned from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference Wednesday afternoon, after informing colleagues that off-shore wind turbines were being considered in the Great Lakes.
Kraemer said Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Brad Duguid faced many questions about the distances of off-shore turbines and why they differed so greatly from on-shore turbines.
“Other municipal leaders asked questions from the floor at the minister’s forum,” said Kraemer. “There were various levels of alarm from different people.”
Kraemer said upon bringing the issue up with Huron-Bruce MPP Carol Mitchell, she told him “there are no projects at this time.” After The News informed him of the MNR information, he said projects may not be considered unless they are approved applications.
Mitchell’s staff said she was unavailable for comment until Friday morning.
The Environmental Bill of Rights website has been accepting public comment and input for proposed rules for off-shore wind turbines since June 25, said MOE spokesperson Kate Jordan. The Policy Proposal Notice, entitled “Renewable Energy Approval Requirements for Off-shore Wind Facilities -An Overview of the Proposed Approach” began its public review process June 25, with comments from the public to be submitted by Aug. 24.
Although the formal comment period was set to close Aug. 24, the MOE is planning to host open houses or other information sessions in the fall, in order to solicit further comment from the public, municipalities and private companies.
“We’ll be going out in the fall and doing public and industry consultation,” said Jordan. “The general framework is what we’re proposing, so people will have the option to consult and participate in that process as well.”
The purpose of the comment period is to review the province’s process for making Crown land available to off-shore wind projects. It will also lay out the framework for applications by developers, to address impacts on endangered or threatened species and habitats, significant wildlife habitats, users of Crown land, flooding and erosion. This information is to be compiled with data gathered during the 60-day comment period, in order to assemble a draft policy for review by the ministry.
To view and comment on the policy document go to The Environmental Registry website at www.ebr.gov.on.ca and enter 011-0089 in the registry number field.
Troy Patterson is the editor of The Kincardine News