The Toronto Star reports that the Province of Ontario has placed a temporary freeze on applications for new Great Lakes wind farms.
Background: Ontario recently enacted a plan to provide a 19 cent per kilowatt hour feed-in tariff for offshore wind projects in the province. For an explanation of feed-in tariffs, see the link below:
The freeze is testament to the success of the program, but it is probably a good move, given the fact that the project is so new. Better to get this done correctly than make mistakes on a grand scale.
Ever since Ontario enacted this feed-in tariff, corporations have raced to Lake Erie to take advantage.
Samsung announced plans for 200 wind turbines near Nanticoke:
Canadian Hydro presented plans for 880 wind turbines near Long Point:
A company called Southpoint is planning three wind farms in Lake Erie:
I scan more than 350+ regional news feeds for environmental/outdoor news, and I have read about proposals for more than a thousand wind turbines in Lake Erie. And the Toronto Star article notes that there are at least 100 separate proposals for more than 500 projects.
This overwhelming wave of proposals has caused the province to stop taking new applications until March. Ontario needs more time to process these applications. There also seems to be a desire to think this entire process through before agreeing to a wholesale reconfiguration of the lake.
I have some conflicting feelings about this story.
On one hand, I find this process to be exciting. From my home county of Monroe, MI, I can see the coast of Ontario trailing off to the horizon. And Ontario waters are only a dozen miles or so away from almost the entire length of the Monroe County shore.
The Ontario waters of Lake Erie have, apparently, room for 7,000 to 8,000 wind turbines. I would expect that the construction of these turbines would create jobs for Monroe County. And, in fact, a wind tower production facility is planned for the City of Monroe. A wind tower research facility is planned for SW Detroit. And ports all along the Great Lakes are gearing up for wind farm production.
This doesn't even mention the many, less-developed proposals for wind farms along and in U.S. waters.
The negative aspects of the story include my concern that Michigan, Ohio and other states might be left behind as Ontario pushes ahead. This concern, however, is small. God knows that there are enough coal power plants on both sides of the lakes that could be replaced by wind turbines. There will be enough of this business for everyone.
I do also have environmental concerns. I love to hike along Lake Erie. And there is no way that 8,000 wind turbines can be constructed along the lake without impacting wildlife, the environment and aesthetics.
Will future generations curse the wind turbines that kill birds, circulate polluted bottom muck and ruin the aesthetics needed for a tourism-based economy?
Probably one of the best things that wind power in the Lake Erie West Region has going for it is desperation. Throughout our area's history, we have welcomed coal plants, nuke facilities, and auto and cement plants because we have often been economically desperate. Environmental and aesthetic concerns have always taken a back seat to jobs.
And I see the same thing happening with the wind boom. Many areas of the country will reject wind turbines because they look bad, create noise concerns, etc. However, our region will not say, "No." That is a competitive advantage.
Note: My final paragraph initially included a throwaway comment about possible wind turbine bird kills. I have read studies both pro and con related to wind tower impacts on birds, but feel persuaded that these facilities can be operated safely in that regard. I am less confident of the impact on polluted Great Lakes bottom muck and the general industrial support network needed to build 8,000 turbines on the lake. These turbines would, undoubtedly be better than any coal power plant in existence.