The conventional winds-dom
? Winds on the Great Lakes aren't strong or consistent enough to make offshore wind farms ecologically or economically viable.
Thar she blows
? It's true that offshore wind farms typically require the kinds of winds usually found on oceans, but the westerlies swooping across the Great Lakes also pack a wallop -- enough power, according to one consultant's study, to generate 47,000 megawatts of electricity. That's enough to keep the lights on in millions of homes, possibly tens of millions.
Why offshore wind farms are a natural
? Some of the infrastructure already exists. Coal-fired and gas-fired plants already dotting the Great Lakes shoreline -- Nanticoke, for example, transmitting 4,000 megawatts of electricity -- can be used to pump power from offshore farms into the grid.
? It makes economic sense. You want power closest to the largest population centres, and most Ontarians live within two hours of the Great Lakes. Tell us again why we're building transmission lines to import power from Manitoba?
? Offshore wind farms are up and running in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, but the wind resistance here is coming from two different directions -- from ecologists and from bureaucrats in the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).
? Some ecologists argue that wind turbines may threaten bird and butterfly migration patterns. Greens are also worried about what effects the underwater transmission lines needed to carry power from offshore turbines may have on aquatic life.
? The big heads in the MNR, meanwhile, are dealing with powerful oil and gas interests who want first dibs on the Great Lakes. We've been down this road before.
Why ecologists shouldn't be tentative about turbines
? Any offshore wind farm proposal would have to go through both provincial and federal environmental assessments.
Grits blowing hot and cold
? A province talking renewables but in love with costly nukes seems now to be waffling on its commitment to clean electricity.
? Last fall, after issuing a call for wind power proposals -- 10 responses were received, including one from a company pitching a 140-turbine offshore wind farm to power 200,000 homes near Belleville -- the MNR placed a moratorium on wind power development on the lakes, citing unspecified "concerns."
The fly in the wind
? The Americans. An MNR spokesperson we talked to this week tells us the province needs time with its American counterparts to map winds on the Great Lakes.
This one's for the birds
? We're a little more than skeptical of the MNR's other stated reason for the moratorium -- its concern for birds and bats. Poisonous emissions from coal plants kill lots of birds, not to mention people, too.
Which way the wind's blowing
? The province is stalling to see what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will do. The EPA is in the midst of formulating its policy on wind energy on the the Great Lakes just as the controversy around Cape Wind, America's largest offshore wind farm proposal, planned for Nantucket Sound, is meeting heavy political resistance from the Kennedy family and others.
Blowing an opportunity
? Ontario Power Authority's Integrated Power System Plan, a 20-year framework for electricity generation and conservation, has no target for offshore wind.