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January 15, 2008

Great Lakes Wind Power


The Ontario Liberal government is preparing to lift a controversial moratorium on the development of offshore wind projects in the Great Lakes that has been in place for nearly 14 months. An official leaked the info and industry sources also confirmed the moratorium's end is imminent.

Offshore wind energy, while typically associated with ocean projects, offers significant opportunities in the Great Lakes. According to one study by Helimax Energy Inc., the strong and consistent winds typically over the lakes could generate up to 47,000 megawatts of clean electricity – nearly double Ontario's existing power capacity.

The ministry put a halt to all offshore development in November 2006 to give the government more time to study the potential environmental impact of such projects on bats, butterflies, aquatic species and bird migration routes.

But the moratorium caught some wind developers off guard, particularly those trying to raise money for their proposed projects.

The wisdom of halting development was also called into question when it was discovered that some U.S. states, such as Ohio, were actively moving forward with offshore projects in Lake Erie despite the Ontario policy.

The moratorium followed a protest against an offshore wind project near Leamington, Ont., in September 2006. Nearly 300 residents showed up to a council meeting to protest a 119-turbine project planned by developer Southpoint Wind Power. Council unanimously rejected Southpoint's proposal and urged the ministry to come up with guidelines that would help small communities evaluate offshore projects.

"There were a number of serious concerns," said deputy mayor Robert Schmidt, explaining that many residents saw negative impacts on lake navigation, bird and butterfly migration, recreational boating and fishing.

"The biggest issue to most residents was how it affected their view of the lake, which is really only the last natural view we have in our area."

Schmidt said a number of offshore proposals still wait in the wings.

"The majority of people aren't against the idea, as long as it's located in an area where it doesn't cause problems."

Energy consultant Paul Bradley, manager of PJB Energy Solutions and former vice-president of generation at the Ontario Power Authority, said offshore projects hold great potential but are also a huge technical challenge.

"They're all-or-nothing projects," he said. "You've got to collect all that power from each turbine, aggregate it, and then bring it in efficiently through an underwater cable."

The best wind resources tend to be far from where power is consumed.

One of the biggest challenges is to bring wind-generated energy to communities in southern Ontario without breaking the bank on building high voltage transmission lines, which cost about $3 million a kilometre to construct.

Toronto Hydro Corp. has considered an offshore wind project in Lake Ontario near the Scarborough Bluffs. That wind farm would have a capacity of up to 200 megawatts.

"In the general context of developing wind power in the province, (lifting the moratorium) would be a great step forward," said Joyce McLean, chair of the Canadian Wind Energy Association and Toronto Hydro's manager of green energy services.

A more ambitious project by Trillium Power Energy Corp. would involve 140 turbines erected along a shallow stretch of Lake Ontario, about 15 kilometres offshore from Prince Edward County. The wind farm would have a capacity of 710 megawatts, the largest in Ontario.

Wind energy is a major part of the McGuinty government's plan to double by 2025 the amount of electricity that comes from renewable resources.

The Ministry of Energy announced last August it had directed the Ontario Power Authority to procure another 2,000 megawatts of renewable power, a large portion of which is expected to be generated from wind.

January 10, 2008

Banks should encourage Green Practices

Banks around the world are uniquely positioned to push private-sector companies to adopt environmentally conscious practices, say the authors of a report released on Thursday.

It is important that banks start to consider the long-term financial ramifications of lending money to companies that produce high levels of greenhouse gases, says Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups.

"As one of the world's largest economic sectors, and as one that reaches virtually every consumer and business, the financial services industry must be involved in mitigating climate change and its impacts," said Ceres president Mindy Lubber.

The report ranks 40 of the world's biggest banks on how they are addressing climate change.

The Bank of America is the only bank committed to reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with its loan book. None of the banks have adopted policies to discourage investment heavy polluting projects like coal-fired plants.

Three Canadian banks are included in the survey, with Royal Bank of Canada ranked highest at 16. The Bank of Nova Scotia and Toronto-Dominion Bank slotted in at 26 and 29, respectively.

The Ceres report evaluates how banks are dealing with climate change through board oversight and management practices. It looks at 15 European, five Asian, one Brazilian and three Canadian financial institutions.

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