by Lindsay Kelly Manitoulin Expositor
MANITOULIN-Opponents of the Northland Power wind farm proposed for McLean’s Mountain could lose their last chance at blocking the project when the ministry of the environment introduces new guidelines for designating receptors.
Receptors are the structures by which developers measure the setbacks from turbines; these generally mean houses and, in some cases, hunt camps. In an effort to thwart, or at least delay, the Northland project, landowners in the area have been securing building permits through the town at a cost of $600 each. The theory is that more receptors would require more setbacks, causing Northland to rethink its layout or junk the plan altogether.
Now, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) is tweaking the definition of a receptor, which may not include some hunt camps, and could make it easier for companies like Northland to move their plans forward.
“I contacted the MOE and they informed me that there is a draft definitions page added to the 2008 noise guidelines for wind farms document,” explained Ray Beaudry, an opponent of the plan and a founding member of Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives (MCSEA).
While the MOE did not explicitly suggest that these changes were being made as a response to benefit the Northland project, Mr. Beaudry noted that the landowners on Manitoulin are the only people he knows of in the province to take out building permits for this purpose. He estimates the placement of between eight and 10 turbines could be affected by these building permits.
In addition, supplemental information as part of the renewable energy approval (REA) draft document, which is posted on Northland’s website, indicates that “the company will be obligated to maintain a minimum 550-metre setback from all sensitive noise receptors and meet required noise levels at these locations. The need to consider hunt camps as noise-sensitive receptors is being discussed with the MOE.”
Contact with the MOE’s approvals branch for clarification could not be made by press time.
As part of this process, the MOE must post the new receptor definitions page on the environmental bill of rights (EBR) registry. At that point, the public will have 30 days to comment before the MOE drafts a final document. As of Monday, the draft had yet to be posted.
This most recent turn of events is frustrating to the landowners who believe more tests should be done about the health effects of wind turbines before projects like Northland’s go ahead.
“It seems like everything favours the wind industry and if [the wind industry] requests that a hunt camp isn’t a receptor, that seems to be the way the ministry makes their decisions,” Mr. Beaudry lamented.
However, the landowner suggested that residents could still make their hunt camps fit the definition of a receptor, pointing out that they won’t know what that is until the ministry posts the draft online.
But when it is made public, the definitions document could have huge implications for landowners.
“If people can’t afford to make that change then they could be out the $600 they spent,” Mr. Beaudry said. “Or-I’m not sure what stage they’re at-but if the building that they started doesn’t fit the designation, then their building would be within the 550-metre limit of the turbine.”
Mr. Beaudry said that many people still are unaware that their existing hunt camps might not qualify under these new guidelines, but he vows that MCSEA will “do our best to inform the people.”
Northland Power released its REA earlier this month and is planning to hold a final public information session in the spring. Their wind farm calls for 43 turbines generating 77 megawatts of power under a 20-year power-purchase agreement through the Ontario Power Authority’s Feed In Tariff (FIT) program.
The estimated startup of operations is as early as January 2011.