Canadian Hydro Developers last week agreed to buy the rights to a proposed 4,440-MW offshore wind project—what could possibly be the largest offshore wind facility in the world—in Lake Erie from Utah-based Wasatch Wind, but the company later acknowledged that the Ontario government had not yet granted it the rights to build the farm.

The proposed wind facility would be built 5 to 30 kilometers off the Ontario coastline. Wasatch Wind said in a statement last week that it had identified Ontario as an area of interest for wind development because of its political climate, specifically, the province’s feed-in tariff program.

The wind company said it had created a plan of development that outlines a timeframe over several phases of construction, with the first phase of the project estimated to be online in 2014. The company then sought partners with proven financial and offshore development capabilities to make the project a reality. Canadian Hydro, which currently generates 40% of Ontario’s renewable energy, expressed interest in constructing, owning, and operating the wind farm. Final terms were reportedly agreed upon on Sept. 27.

But Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources Donna Cansfield told Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail that while Canadian Hydro had applied to obtain the rights to build the wind facility, the application was still in the early stages of review. The newspaper also reported that Canadian Hydro believed that because no other application existed for turbines at the proposed location, it would be “first in line.” Canadian Hydro spokesperson Daryl Warren admitted that there was no certainty that the company would be permitted to build the facility, however.

The Ontario government launched the most comprehensive set of feed-in tariffs in North America on Sept. 24 as part of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, guaranteeing sellers of electricity produced from solar, wind, water, and biomass sources fixed, above-market prices for 20 years. The premium prices are expected to help developers recover start-up costs, and the rate certainty reduces financial risks for developers.
Feed-in tariffs are growing in popularity, in large part due to their success in Europe—particularly in Germany, Denmark, and Spain. Immediately after its launch, the feed-in tariff program was said to have attracted two major renewable projects: The Canadian Hydro-Wasatch Wind proposed wind facility on Lake Erie and a proposed large wind project that could be built by South Korean company Samsung C&T Corp. The Ontario government is reportedly still in talks with Samsung about that project.

Sources: Wasatch Wind, Canadian Hydro, Ontario Power Authority, Ontario Government