Location/site considerations checklist for renewable energy projects
Things to consider when selecting a suitable site for your renewable energy projects.
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The Site Considerations Information required for the Independent Electricity Systems Operator’s (IESO) Large Renewable Procurement Request for Proposals (LRP/RFP) is important for proponents of proposed renewable energy projects to consider for the desirability of their project location.
As a Best Management Practice, proponents are encouraged to use this checklist to conduct a high level assessment of the features and conditions in proximity to their proposed project location to enhance consideration of their proposed project location and help with siting specific project components.
Some considerations in the Checklist identify potential factors regarding siting that may require assessment and mitigation at a later date. Proponents should consider these factors when determining a location for their project, as these factors, if not taken into account at an early stage in the process, may give rise to potential issues should proponents proceed to the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) or other environmental approval/permitting processes.
Community engagement is an important requirement of the LRP/RFP process prior to RFP submission to the Independent Electricity Systems Operator. This checklist can be a useful tool in discussing the proposed project with the Project Community or at community meetings.
Note: The location/siting considerations checklist is intended to provide information of relevant factors that proponents should consider when selecting a suitable site for their renewable energy projects. This checklist is based very generally on the legal requirements that would apply to proponents seeking regulatory approval for the construction, installation and operation of renewable energy projects. This checklist should not be construed, or relied on, as legal advice about those requirements, or be considered a comprehensive list of all the necessary requirements. Please refer to the applicable statutes and regulations for the exact legal requirements and obtain appropriate professional advice as required.
Noise and odour site considerations
The following lists receptors that proponents of wind, solar and bio-energy projects should consider when locating/siting projects.
The REA regulation (Ontario Regulation 359/09) requires proponents to meet strict noise and/or odour requirements in order for an REA application to be considered for approval. Proponents that are considering siting projects in areas with a high concentration of existing/proposed renewable energy projects should consider overall (cumulative) noise and/or odour levels on noise and odour receptors, as those terms are defined in the REA regulation, during project location/site selection. Proponents are encouraged to meet with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change early in the REA process for a pre-consultation meeting to understand applicable requirements and standards.
- Residential buildings
- Institutional facilities, including: educational facilities, day nurseries, health care facilities, community centres or places of worship
- Building permits issued for any of the above uses
- Certain vacant lots
- Certain campsites or campgrounds
- Properties used for recreational purposes
- Properties used for commercial activity
Large wind turbines must be sited at least 550 metres from all non-participating noise receptors, and, depending on project specifics (such as the number and location of turbines), may have to be sited at distances much greater than 550 m. Unless a noise study report is prepared, transformer substations (50 kilovolt or more) that are part of renewable energy projects must be sited at least 1,000 m from any non-participating noise receptors, or, if surrounded by an appropriate acoustic barrier, at least 500 m away. In some cases, certain components of bio-energy projects must be sited at least 250 m from the nearest non-participating odour receptor, or, if specific conditions are met, at least 125 m away.
Renewable Energy Projects
Locating a project near other renewable energy facilities may increase overall (cumulative) noise and/or odour levels.
Ecological site considerations
The following lists sensitive ecological features that all proponents should consider when locating/siting their project.
- Drinking water sources
- Vulnerable areas
- (per the local Source Water Protection Plan)
Proponents may need to consider and assess potential environmental impacts from the project on these features, and identify and implement mitigation measures to address any anticipated impacts.
- Significant wildlife habitats
- Wildlife corridors
- Known provincially significant wetlands
- Significant woodlands
- Provincially significant areas of natural and scientific interest
- Water bodies (lakes, streams, seepage areas)
- Provincial parks or conservation reserves
Consideration of natural features and water bodies is essential. For most wind, solar, and bio-energy projects unless additional reports are prepared certain project components must be sited anywhere between 30 metres to 300 m from these ecological features depending on the type of renewable energy generation facility and natural heritage feature or water body involved:
- 30-120 m from water bodies
- 50-120 m from significant natural heritage features (woodlands, wildlife habitat, wetlands, etc.)
- 300 m from lake trout lakes
- Oak Ridges Moraine
- Niagara Escarpment
- Lake Simcoe watershed
Is your proposed project located in or within the boundaries of a Provincial Planning Area? Projects proposed to be located on land protected by key provincial plans and policies may have additional approval, setback and reporting requirements under O. Reg. 359/09. For example, if a project is proposed to be located in the Oak Ridges Moraine, proponents are required to consider and assess additional natural features (such as sand barrens, savannah and tallgrass prairie) and water bodies (such as kettle lakes), and comply with additional setback or reporting requirements. In addition to the specific requirements related to provincial plans in the REA regulation, proponents are encouraged to broadly consider the policy intent of the relevant plan when designing their project in a protected area. Proponents are encouraged to refer to the applicable Provincial Policy Plans and to consult with local municipalities and Conservation Authorities who are familiar with the Provincial Policy Plans.
Infrastructure site considerations
The following lists key infrastructure components that all proponents should consider when locating/siting their project.
Where applicable under the REA regulation, setbacks and mitigation measures may apply depending on the component of infrastructure.
Roads, highways, railways
Wind projects The distance between the centre of the base of the wind turbine and any public road rights of way or railway rights of way must be, at a minimum, the length of any blades of the wind turbine, plus 10 metres. If on prime agricultural land, proponents of renewable energy projects should ensure access roads are designed and constructed to have minimal impact on agriculture (e.g. roads do not bisect fields or occupy more land than necessary).
Airports/aerodromes and related facilities (e.g. skydiving operations)
Wind projects proposed to be located adjacent to or in the vicinity of an airport/aerodrome should consider the suitability of selecting a project site in proximity to airports/aerodromes. Solar projects may create glare to pilots of aircrafts and/or interfere with electronic navigational aids. Proponents should refer to Transport Canada’s TP1247 Land Use in the Vicinity of Aerodromes and Transport Canada’s TP312- Aerodromes Standards and Recommended Practices guidance documents. Proponents should notify NAV Canada and Transportation Canada at the earliest possible opportunity regarding their proposed project location to determine how it may impact local airports/aerodromes.
- Weather radar towers
- Telecommunications towers
- Aviation radar towers
- Natural gas, electrical, and water sewage infrastructure
- Aggregate resources, landfill sites, and petroleum wells/facilities
Renewable energy projects (especially wind projects) have the potential to interfere with air navigation and radar systems, as well as the potential to impact other types of systems, infrastructure, facilities and resources. Proponents of projects proposed to be located in proximity to these systems, infrastructure, facilities, and resources may encounter difficulties in being able to adequately address/mitigate any impacts to them, which may in turn affect their ability to obtain an REA. Proponents of projects proposed to be located in areas which may impact petroleum resources may be required to prepare and submit a Petroleum Resources Interaction Report to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
The productivity of agricultural lands should be maintained or improved, ensuring there are no negative impacts on agricultural infrastructure such as drainage and irrigation systems.
Waterpower facilities considerations
Waterpower projects do not require an REA but instead are subject to the Environmental Assessment Act through either an individual Environmental Assessment (facilities over 200 megawatts) or through the Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower Projects which sets out a planning process to be followed for waterpower projects less than 200 megawatts. Projects on Provincial Crown land will also need to satisfy appropriate requirements of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Crown land site release process. Additional permits and/or approvals may also be required.
In addition to other environmental site considerations waterpower proponents would consider as part of their planning process and/or permit/approval requirements, the following is a list of some key features that all proponents should consider when locating/siting waterpower facilities (this list is not exhaustive and proponents should refer to the applicable statutes, regulations, and guidelines that apply to their project).
For waterpower facilities, proponents should consider:
- Whether the river where the project is proposed to be located is a significant recreational waterway
- The presence of wetlands in the vicinity of the proposed project location
- Fish consumption restrictions on the river where the project is proposed to be located
- Whether the river for the proposed project location is on a sensitive waterway or Policy 2 waterway as described by the ministry’s Policies Guidelines Provincial Water Quality Objectives, 1994
Please send any inquiries to:
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
Environmental Approvals Access and Service Integration Branch
Phone: 1-800-461-6290 or 416-314-8001