The Ontario Government is proposing significant rules around where off-shore wind turbines can be located and what technical requirements will need to be fulfilled before any turbines can be built.

On June 25, 2010, the Ministry of the Environment (“MOE”) posted a policy proposal on the Environmental Registry (EBR. Registry No. 011-0089) that, in addition to proposing a one kilometre development exclusion zone around drinking water intakes, proposed a five (5) kilometre shoreline exclusion zone for the development of off-shore wind turbine facilities in the Great Lakes and other inland lakes, as well as from the shorelines of any major islands. This minimum shoreline exclusion distance is said to be comparable to shoreline exclusion proposals from many U.S. States that also border the Great Lakes, but is ultimately meant to ensure that noise at onshore receptors never exceeds 40 decibels (dBA) or are otherwise within “acceptable levels”. However, site-specific noise studies, along with cultural heritage and ecological studies, will also be required before any potential off-shore wind facility will receive the required Renewable Energy Approval (“REA”) under the Green Energy Act, 2009. The comment period for this policy proposal ended on August 24, 2010 and it is anticipated that future EBR Registry postings will confirm the requirements for off-shore wind development projects as proposed amendments to O. Reg. 359/09 (Renewable Energy Approval Regulation) and the REA process.

More recently, on August 18, 2010, the Ministry of Natural Resources (“MNR”) posted its own policy proposal on the Environmental Registry (EBR. Registry No. 011-0907) aimed at determining potential offshore areas and criteria that should be taken into consideration which may “constrain future development” of off-shore wind facilities on Crown Lands. Notably, the beds of most inland lakes in Ontario, including the Canadian portion of the Great Lakes, are provincial lands administered by the MNR through the Public Lands Act. Use or occupation of the Crown lakebed, including for the development of off-shore wind facilities, requires the approval of MNR through the issuance of appropriate land tenure documents. MNR is now seeking public input into where, when and how it should make these lakebeds available for off-shore wind development projects.

Areas proposed to be constrained from future off-shore wind turbine development include:

  • Navigational lanes
  • Areas of core commercial fishing activity
  • Sensitive environmental and ecological areas and features
  • Areas subject to important recreational activities
  • Areas containing Cultural heritage features
  • Areas of natural gas activity
  • Areas of inland lakes not subject to the proposed five kilometre exclusion zone
  • Other inland waterbodies (e.g. Lake Simcoe, Lake Nipissing, Lake Nipigon, Lake of the Woods, etc)
  • Other Great Lake specific considerations

As the identification of areas constrained from development, and the application of the MOE’s shoreline exclusion zone policy proposal, may be applied to existing Crown land offshore applications, the MNR is going to defer the processing of any existing applications and will not be accepting any new applications until decisions on these policy proposals have been made.

Public comments on the MNR policy proposal are still being sought, and will be received until October 4th, 2010, here.