New winner-take-all process for sites favours first in line

Cameron Lewis figured he was in for bad news when he learned the people at the head of the line had been there for five days.

Lewis had come to Peterborough to apply for wind power sites on Ontario Crown land. He had arrived 11 hours before the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources would begin accepting applications on Feb. 20.


He found himself fifth in line, and under previous ministry rules he would have had an excellent chance to get the sites where his two-year-old Environmental Electric Co. Inc. planned to erect wind turbines to generate electricity.

But the ministry changed the rules in January. It created a winner-take-all process that could allow the first in line — Toronto-based SkyPower Corp. — to virtually control all the remaining locations in Ontario where wind power might be effective and profitable.

The stakes are high. Control of these sites potentially means millions in profits as Ontario switches its power sources from traditional to renewable.

Just before the ministry office opened, SkyPower’s plan became clear to those shivering in the line when a car pulled up and handed over five file boxes to the company’s line-sitters. Lewis estimated they contained at least 200 application forms, enough for sites totalling nearly one million hectares.

Lewis fears a monopoly will stifle innovation and lead to higher prices. The effort to get sites, though, also signals wind energy has moved from the fringe of electricity generation on to the main stage.

Crown land

  • About 87 per cent of Ontario — or roughly 94 million hectares, mainly in the north — is Crown land, but only a small fraction of that is suitable for wind power.