Windstream’s Wolfe Island Shoals project is a planned 300 MW offshore wind farm that will be located in Lake Ontario near Kingston, Ontario. The project was authorized in 2010, and when completed it will be the first and only project of its kind through the government of Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) renewable energy program.
Wind turbines installed in offshore environments are essentially the same as those installed onshore. The turbines convert wind flows to electrical energy that is transferred via the electrical grid to be used by businesses and residences. Wind turbines – both onshore and offshore – are widely recognized to have a very small environmental impact, compared to other conventional forms of power production. In support of this, Windstream’s most recent Project Update outlines 47 studies, undertaken by internationally renowned experts, which show no adverse environmental impact.
The Wolfe Island Shoals offshore wind turbines will be secured to the bottom of Lake Ontario to prevent movement and overturning. To do this, the turbines will be built on semi-floating gravity bed foundations (also known as ‘GBFs’). These GBFs have been specially designed by leading engineers whose technology is used in offshore wind turbine installations around the world.
Currently, Windstream’s 2010 FIT contract with the Government of Ontario remains valid and in force; however, the project has seen significant delays following a sudden, politically-motivated moratorium on offshore wind power in 2011. Windstream is still waiting to proceed with its project and, in conjunction with its contract obligations, has updated its required Project Description for the third time to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. The seemingly arbitrary and political delay forced Windstream to take its case to a NAFTA tribunal in 2014.
On September 30, 2016, an arbitral tribunal under Chapter 11 of NAFTA declared Windstream’s contract to be valid and "in force", ruling it has not been unilaterally terminated by the Government of Ontario. Windstream was granted a $28 million award as a result of that delay.
Windstream is waiting to continue the project and, to date, has yet to be granted any response by the government to both its required Project Descriptions as well as meeting request to four successive Energy Ministers.