The Ontario Ministry of the Environment (the “MOE”) released draft rules clarifying the regulation of off-shore wind turbines on June 25, 2010 under the Renewable Energy Approvals regulation under the Environmental Protection Act.
The proposal includes a five kilometre “shoreline exclusion zone” for all off-shore wind facilities. Areas within five kilometres from the shoreline of the Great Lakes, other inland lakes and major islands would not be considered for off-shore wind turbines. The exclusion zone is intended to create separation between wind facilities and drinking water intakes and near shore activities and to ensure acceptable noise levels. Additional exclusion zones are proposed to ensure that shipping on the Great Lakes is not affected.
Under the proposed rules, off-shore facilities will also be subjected to a “stringent and comprehensive application process,” including meeting requirements that minimize negative impacts to threatened species and their habitat, assessing and addressing any potential negative environmental effects, noise assessments and public consultation requirements, among other things.
These draft rules have been released in the middle of the Ministry of Natural Resources review of Ontario’s Crown land release process applicable to renewable energy projects. Begun in September 2009, the first phase focused on procedural elements, like ensuring clarity between site release and other provincial approval processes, while the second phase focuses on longer-term policy direction for renewable energy developments on Crown land. Results from the first phase are now available for comment on the Environmental Registry and results from the second phase are expected in 2010.