The abrupt cancellation of the Kingston-area offshore wind turbine project left a 300-megawatt hole in planned generation to the eastern Ontario power grid but officials with the provincial energy ministry aren’t saying whether solar projects will be allowed to make up the difference.
In fact, ministry spokesman Andrew Block stressed yesterday that the $1.35-billion offshore turbine project is “on hold” while the science of the project – how it might affect the ecology of freshwater Lake Ontario – is being studied.
“It’s not proceeding right now while that work is done,” Block told the Whig-Standard.
Windstream Wolfe Island Shoals Inc. got the green light last year to place 60 to 150 turbines in the waters of Lake Ontario off Kingston.
When the province cancelled it on Feb. 11, the move was denounced as purely “political” by the Kingston Economic Development Corporation.
This week, there is some optimism at the corporation offices that the project will be revived.
“There’s a real possibility the wind projects will come back on line,” said KEDCO business development director John Paul Shearer. “It’s only a suspension.”
Windstream wasn’t the only offshore wind project under development in Ontario but it was the only one to receive government approval to proceed.
“A contract was offered to one company,” said Shearer. “That’s what has caused the biggest fallout.”
A study commissioned by Windstream estimated the project would have generated 1,900 construction-related jobs and 175 ongoing positions.
Meantime, KEDCO has been helping develop inland power generation projects, particularly five 10-megawatt solar installations proposed by Axio Power of California.
All have been approved for supply to the provincial grid. Four of the solar sites will be situated in Loyalist Township and one is in Kingston on 66 hectares of land along Unity Road.
The added economic spinoff from the solar projects is that the panels will be built in Kingston by Centennial Global Technology, a Montreal-based company that is moving part of its operations here to meet made-in-Ontario requirements set by the provincial government.
Production at the 20,000-square-foot St. Remy Place plant is expected to start next month.
Centennial Global, said Shearer, is just waiting for one more piece of solar panel production equipment.
Because the solar farm installations have already been approved they won’t cut into the 300 megawatts left over from the offshore suspension.
“As far as we are concerned the capacity is still there,” said Shearer. “Whether it’s held for Windstream, I’m not aware of the details.
“I would highly doubt the government would give that away to solar projects.”
Hydro One, meantime, has been instructed to determine its overall grid capacity before more connection tests are conducted.
The president of the Canadian Solar Industries Association said solar and wind projects are not competing for grid space.
“We need both technologies to give better reliability. They’re very complementary,” said Elizabeth McDonald.
She said Ontario’s feed-in tariff program has helped make solar power capacity second only to that of California.
Solar fills an important role, said McDonald, because it can provide a constant supply of electricity during the day during peak demand times.
By the end of 2010, 200 megawatts of solar capacity had been installed across Canada – 165 megawatts of that in Ontario.
Solar is expected to expand to 300 megawatts by the end of this year.
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