With the exception of the Amherst Island project, there was little happy news for Kingston-area wind energy proposals in 2016.
Given conditional approval in 2015, Algonquin Power’s subsidiary Windlectric cleared one of the last major roadblocks to its Amherst Island wind project.
After one of the largest Environmental Review Tribunal hearings ever, one that included 25 days of hearings in Stella, Bath and Toronto and testimony from more than 40 witnesses, an appeal to the project’s approval was dismissed in August.
The Association to Protect Amherst Island’s (APAI) had appeal the project’s conditional approval on grounds that construction of the turbines would cause serious harm to human and wildlife health and the environment.
The ERT hearing determined neither of those arguments had been proved.
APAI appealed that decision and also formally asked Catherine McKenna, the federal environment and climate change minister, to launch a federal environmental assessment of the cumulative impact of wind energy projects on Lake Ontario on the Atlantic migratory flyway and to examine if the projects comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Preliminary work on the 26-turbine, 75-megawatt project was to begin near year end, and construction of the docks will begin once all permits and approvals are received.
Most construction is to occur in late summer, fall and winter of 2017, but no schedule or detail has been provided.
In early December, the first meeting of the community liaison committee did little to appease opponents of the project.
North of Kingston, three massive wind energy proposals were not included in the province’s first round of large-scale renewable contracts handed out in March.
NextEra Energy Canada’s Northpoint I and II projects and RES Canada’s Denbigh wind energy project wouldn’t get another shot, in 2016 at least, when the provincial government announced in September that the second round of contracts was being cancelled and Ontario’s long-term energy plan was being sent back to the drawing board.
North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins, who campaigned against the projects in the township, declared victory.
A comrade in the fight, John Laforet of Bon Echo Area Residents Against Turbines (BEARAT), was more cautious.
“I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief because there is no immediate threat, but I don’t think the nail is firmly in the coffin on large-scale renewable projects,” Laforet said in September. “I don’t think they have found religion on this one. It’s still political science at its finest.”
Ontario’s ongoing moratorium on offshore wind was costly to Canadian taxpayers this year.
In October, Windstream Energy was awarded $28 million by a three-member panel from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
The company had filed a $475 million US claim under the North American Free Trade Agreement alleging the province treated it unfairly and inequitably.
Burlington-based Windstream had proposed to build a 100-turbine project on Wolfe Island Shoals, about five kilometres west of Wolfe Island. In 2010, the company was awarded a feed-in tariff contract to provide electricity to Ontario.
Another company with plans for an offshore wind energy project was paying attention to the NAFTA ruling. Trillium Power has proposed to build a 142-turbine, 710-megawatt wind energy project near Main Duck Island.
That project, too, was derailed when the Ontario government announced a moratorium on offshore wind in 2011.
Trillium has filed a $500 million lawsuit alleging misfeasance in public office. Trillium Power’s court case, initiated before Windstream’s legal action began, is scheduled for June 2018.
The principal witnesses who testified at the Windstream tribunal will likely be called to testify in the Trillium case, and the testimony from the two hearings will be compared.
During the NAFTA tribunal hearings, former environment minister John Wilkinson testified that the 2011 moratorium was motivated by concerns that offshore windmills would churn up decades of toxic industrial sediments from the floor of the Great Lakes.
He said he wanted more scientific research done to address those worries, but the government has said it had done no new research on offshore windmills for four years.
Trillium Power contends it spent $5.3 million on 105 studies, reports and public meetings about the site near Main Duck Island.
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