Just weeks after awarding controversial contracts for five wind farms, Ontario said Tuesday it’s opening bidding for double that amount of wind energy.
The government is also inviting bids from companies for solar, hydro and bio-energy projects.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said the move will save consumers money by putting more downward pressure on electricity prices.
In a statement, Chiarelli also said the province will put emphasis on community support for the projects.
Chiarelli and the government were criticized recently when contracts for wind farms were awarded for areas opposed to wind farm development, including Dutton-Dunwich in Southwestern Ontario where residents had voted 84 per cent against industrial wind farm development.
Several Ontario municipalities have recently passed resolutions demanding veto power over wind farm developments within their boundaries, but both Premier Kathleen Wynne and Deputy Premier Deb Mattews have said that won’t happen.
Ontario’s largest wind farms, and the largest number of the highrise-sized wind turbines, are located in Southwestern Ontario.
The last round of wind farm development was for 300 megawatts of wind power.
This time, Ontario has opened the bids for 600 megawatts of wind energy, along with 250 megawatts of solar, up to 50 megawatts of hydroelectricity and up to 30 megawatts of bioenergy.
The size of the procurement stunned wind farm opponents.
“This is just amazing,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of community groups fighting wind farm development.
“What can you say? They are selling off power at negative prices, we don’t need it. It is just throwing down the gauntlet to rural Ontario, it is so insulting.”
A report released last week by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator c(IESO) oncluded Ontario has enough electrical generation in place to cover the province’s needs for at least a decade.
“Clearly, they have bowed to pressure from the wind industry,” said Wilson.
The wind industry, for its part, celebrated Ontario’s announcement Tuesday.
“Ontario is Canada’s wind energy leader and understands the need to cost-effectively and reliably integrate more clean energy sources, like wind energy, into the electricity grid if it is going to meet its environmental and economic goals,” said CanWEA president Robert Hornung.
Mayor Randy Hope of Chatham-Kent, the one municipality that’sconsistently backed wind farm development and called for more, said the wind energy companies have been good corporate citizens.
The companies now contribute more than $2 million a year in taxes to the municipality, helping to pay for crucial infrastructure and services, Hope said in a statement.
The IESO is responsible for running the bidding process,
The competitive bidding process, used for the first time in the last round of contracts, replaced a system in which Ontario offered companies a set price for electricity.
The bids were substantially below the previous set prices.
While only a total of 16 contracts were awarded in the previous round for wind, solar, bio-energy, and hydroelectric projects, Ontario received more than 100 proposals.
Adam Butterfield, the IESO’s manager of renewable generation procurement, aid the IESO is still developing the process for this round of procurement and wants to hear from community members, municipalities, First Nations and renewable energy companies.
A government directive Tuesday stipulated the procurement process has to start by Aug. 1, 2016, with the contracts awarded no later than May 1, 2018.
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