By Tyler Kula, London Free Press
SARNIA — The mayors of the three Lambton County municipalities bordering Lake Huron are cool to the idea of erecting offshore wind turbines.
Mike Bradley of Sarnia, Lonny Napper of Plympton-Wyoming and Bill Weber of Lambton Shores responded with caution to a recent Conference Board of Canada report on offshore wind power generation.
Financed by manufacturer Vestas Offshore, the report says raising provincial capacity to 2,000 megawatts could create 4,000 jobs annually for 14 years and add $4.8 billion to Ontario’s GDP. But Weber said erecting wind turbines in Lake Huron five kilometres from the shore — The minimum distance proposed by Ontario’s environment ministry in June — would be costly and environmentally hazardous.
“The added cost of putting it there, it just doesn’t seem efficient,” he said, adding he is also concerned about turbines being an eyesore.
Three companies have submitted 12 Lake Huron offshore project applications to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, ranging in distance from 50 metres to 30 kilometres from shore.
Ontario has guaranteed 19 cents per kilowatt-hour for offshore electricity, compared to 13.5 cents for onshore wind generation.
Bradley said the farther turbines are locate from shore the less chance of profitability.
“All I want to see is proper safeguards and proper public engagement in whatever is decided,” he said.
No offshore wind farms are in operation or under construction in North America, the report says, but two major projects near Kingston that would add 714 megawatts of capacity are nearing implementation.
Bradley said building turbines on the lake bed could impact shipping, recreational boating and the drinking water supply. Before any proceed the government should undertake a full environmental assessment, he said.
“I believe strongly wind has a role in Ontario’s energy policy,” he said. “There’s no question. It’s just ensuring there’s a proper process.”
Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper said he’s concerned about the potential environmental impact of the massive turbines.
“I have a bit of a problem with that. I think that the lakes are pretty vulnerable,” he said.
Lambton County has 10 inland turbines in operation near Forest and plans are on the table for another 300 in Lambton Shores, Plympton-Wyoming, Enniskillen Township, Dawn-Euphemia and Brooke-Alvinston.
Napper said he wants the health impacts on residents living near turbines studied before more are built.