Ontario on Friday said it would not approve or accept any new offshore wind projects until more scientific research has been done on the installation of turbines in freshwater lakes.

“No Renewable Energy Approvals for offshore have been issued and no offshore projects will proceed at this time,” the Canadian province’s Ministry of Environment said. “Applications for offshore wind projects in the Feed-In-Tariff program will no longer be accepted and current applications will be suspended.”

The ministry said offshore wind in freshwater lakes was “early in development” and that there were no projects operating in North America. The 10-turbine Lake Vanern pilot project in Sweden is the only operational freshwater offshore project in the world, and a five-turbine pilot project has been proposed in Ohio. The ministry said, “Ontario will monitor these projects and the resulting scientific knowledge.”

The province had put a similar ban on offshore wind projects in 2006, citing unknown environmental impacts of such projects, but it lifted it in 2008.

On Friday, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) said the ministry’s “unfortunate decision … surrenders the province’s leadership role in exploring the potential for offshore wind energy in the Great Lakes and creates significant uncertainty for investors.”

CanWEA said North America was lagging in offshore development, citing recent numbers from the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) that claim more than 2,000 MW of offshore wind energy capacity was installed in 10 countries worldwide. GWEC also said wind power installations increased 35.8 GW in 2010, bringing total wind energy capacity to 194.4 GW—a 22.5% increase on the 158.7 GW installed at the end of 2009. The new capacity in 2010 represented an investment of nearly $65 billion, GWEC said.

Sources: POWERnews, Ontario Ministry of Environment, CanWEA, GWEC