OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian province of Ontario said on Friday it will not approve any offshore wind projects and will not accept new applications until there is further scientific research on the industry.
The province, which offers North America's most comprehensive and lucrative rates for power from the sun, wind, water and biomass, will terminate one contract with Windstream Energy for a 300 megawatt offshore wind project near Kingston, in Lake Ontario.
Four other applications will be terminated, a government spokeswoman said, and application securities returned to the developers.
The moratorium will have no effect on applications for wind projects on land. More than 700 wind turbines on land currently produce about 1,500 MW of electricity.
"Offshore wind on freshwater lakes is a recent concept that requires a cautious approach until the science of environmental impact is clear. In contrast, the science concerning land-based wind is extensive," John Wilkinson, Ontario's minister of the environment, said in a statement.
Ontario put a similar moratorium on offshore wind projects in 2006, saying the potential environmental impact of such projects needed more study. It lifted the ban in early 2008, saying it had to take steps to ensure decisions were based on the best available information.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association said it is disappointed with the decision and wants details on how long the government plans to study the issue.
"This is an unfortunate decision that surrenders the province's leadership role in exploring the potential for offshore wind energy in the Great Lakes and creates significant uncertainty for investors," association president Robert Hornung said.
There was more than 2,000 MW of installed offshore wind energy capacity in 10 countries at the end of 2009, the association said, all ocean installations.
There are no offshore wind farms operating in North America, but several projects are in development, it said.
A recently installed 10 turbine pilot project in Lake Vanern, Sweden, is one of the few operational freshwater offshore projects in the world, said the province.
General Electric Co will supply turbines for what is expected to the first U.S. freshwater wind farm, off Cleveland, Ohio, in Lake Erie. It is expected to begin operation in late 2012 and produce enough power to meet the needs of 16,000 typical U.S. homes.
Ontario has the potential to develop 2,000 MW of offshore wind power over the next 15 years, according to a report issued in late 2010 by the Conference Board of Canada, a non-profit research group.
That would add between C$4.8 billion and C$5.5 billion to the province's economy between 2013 and 2026, it said.
Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Frank McGurty and Rob Wilson