The Green Energy Act, 2009 places a priority on expanding Ontario's use of clean and renewable sources of energy such as wind, water, solar, and bioenergy. Developing these resources is a cornerstone of the province's plan to reduce the impacts of climate change and to build a greener economy for Ontario.
A key element of the Green Energy Act is a new coordinated provincial approval process for renewable energy projects. This new process integrates into one process all provincial Ministry requirements for the review and decision making on proposed renewable energy generation facilities. The requirements are outlined under the Ministry of the Environment's (MOE) Renewable Energy Approvals Regulation (O.Reg. 359/09), and the Ministry of Natural Resource's (MNR) Approval and Permitting Requirements Document for Renewable Energy Projects.
The Renewable Energy Approvals Regulation describes the requirements for wind power projects related to significant natural features, including significant wildlife habitat. Bats are important to Ontario's biodiversity, and their habitats are identified as significant wildlife habitat (SWH) under MNR's Significant Wildlife Habitat Technical Guide.
In Ontario and throughout North America, bat populations appear to have declined in recent decades. This decline is thought to be related to habitat alteration and destruction throughout their range and White Nose Syndrome, a condition responsible for the recent mortality of large numbers of bats in the northeastern United States. In March 2010, White Nose Syndrome was identified in Ontario for the first time. Bats are long-lived animals with low reproductive rates, making populations particularly vulnerable to increased mortality. In recent years, bat mortality has been documented at wind power projects in Ontario and throughout North America.
The purpose of this Guideline is to provide guidance on identifying and assessing bat habitat, and addressing potential negative effects on bats and bat habitats during the planning, construction, and operation of onshore wind power projects in Ontario. This Guideline supports the Renewable Energy Approvals Regulation and applies on both Crown and private land.