It’s a cautionary turbine tale.
Last week, Burlington-based Windstream Energy challenged the province to approve a “test pilot” project to install 130 wind turbines – built in Hamilton – in eastern Lake Ontario, despite a provincial moratorium on offshore projects.
Mark Mullins wishes them luck. The Dundas resident has been down this political path before – and it led to a $2.2-billion lawsuit against the provincial government.
Mullins and Martin Parker are Hamilton-based partners in Trillium Power Wind Corp., which saw its plans for a big offshore wind project near Kingston blown away by the province’s pre-election moratorium last February.
The longtime renewable power investor is no longer convinced offshore wind projects will ever gain approval. “This wasn’t a moratorium, this was a cancellation of all offshore wind projects in Ontario,” said Mullins. “This isn’t about the need for more studies.”
The government says more environmental studies are under way in Sweden and on the U.S. side of Lake Erie. Ted McMeekin, a Liberal Hamilton cabinet minister, recently told The Spectator the government is committed to growing the green energy sector, but has to “create jobs responsibly.”
But Mullins, a former PC provincial candidate, pointed out this is not the first offshore moratorium announced by the government in the name of environmental study. The Liberals also put the brakes on offshore projects in 2007, but allowed applications to go forward again following that year’s election.
Two policy about-faces in a row have put a “huge chill” into green energy investment, he argued. “We’ve spent millions following the rules of the game set by the government,” Mullin said. “Now we have to try to mitigate our losses.”
Trillium filed a statement of claim last September seeking damages for confiscation of intellectual property and assets and reimbursement of “costs thrown away.” The allegations in the claim have not been tested in court.
Brendan Crawley, spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General, said the province has not filed a statement of defence. Trillium’s lawyer, Morris Cooper, said he expects Ontario will either file a statement of defence in early February or move to have the case dismissed.
Windstream Energy president Ian Baines admitted he found the government’s latest moratorium “worrisome.” But he argued Windstream has one “incredibly huge” leg up on Trillium and every other would-be offshore wind farm in Ontario: a signed feed-in-tariff contract.
“The government has an obligation – and we have an obligation – to fulfil the terms of that contract,” Baines said. “I’m confident they will.”
Daniel Cayley, a Ministry of Energy spokesperson, confirmed all offshore applications have been cancelled except Windstream’s proposal because of the FIT contract. But he added Windstream’s project still requires a Renewable Energy Approval – and Ontario won’t grant any such environmental approvals until “further scientific research is conducted.”
Baines said he respects the government’s desire for due environmental diligence, which is why he’s offered his project as a study site.
“You won’t hear us badmouthing the government over this,” said the company president, who announced new contracts for his project in Kingston recently. “We want to work together with them on this.”
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