By Don Crosby Owen Sound Sun Times
The latest wind turbine project in Grey County is planned for Meaford.
International Power Canada is looking at 29 sites in an area between Balaclava and Annan four kilometres north of Highway 26 and 16 kilometres north east of Owen Sound.
The Silcote Corners wind project would produce a maximum of 46.8 megawatts of electricity. It calls for generators each with a capacity of 1.8 megawatts, access roads, a sub station and an electrical collecting system to bring the electricity to the grid.
Planning has been underway since 2007 with environmental studies to determine the effects on the local flora and fauna. “Obviously we need to know where we can be and where we need to avoid,” said Tim Sullivan, manager of field operations. “We can’t go over 46.8 megawatts which is actually 26 towers.” I’ve allowed for a few spares so if we can’t use one location we can use another.” Sullivan said option agreements have been signed with a number of property owners in the area. The project still doesn’t have approval by the Ministry of the Environment or a contract with the Ontario Power Authority. “We haven’t been awarded a contract with the province so until that time we’re going to continue to proceed with our development. You prepare your project and hope you will be awarded a contract but there is no guarantee of that,” said Sullivan, who doesn’t expect construction to begin before 2012 at the earliest. IPC, which is a British based corporation, has other wind energy projects in southern Ontario including, Grey Highlands and the Ripley area.
Andre Den Tandt, a landowner in the area, characterizes the proposal as an aesthetic disaster. “I think it’s one of the most beautiful areas of southern Ontario. I know anyone who rejects (wind turbines) is accused of NIMBYism. I accept that charge partly,” said Den Tandt, who lives on the Concession 2 of the former Sydenham township less than a kilometre from the proposed project boundary.
He said the Belgian experience with wind energy has been less than satisfactory and now negotiations are underway to remove turbines from the southern part of that country.
“It’s because of the aethestics. It’s because it has ruined the beauty of the Ardennes. It’s just a question of when to take them down and at what cost and who pays for it,” Den Tandt said.
Kelly Conway is curious as to why in some European countries wind turbines are being removed.
“What do they know that we need to know before we put them up,” she said ?
Conway wants to see more study done and more time taken before any decisions are made that would have long term consequences.
Her ambition is to have her own home-based backyard windmill that would generate enough electricity for her family’s use. She wants to get off the grid altogether.
“Your own little windmill in your back yard; I think that’s a fabulous idea; it’s renewable green energy,’ she said.
Den Tandt is concerned about the lack of support for people who oppose wind energy. He says even Meaford council doesn’t object to having wind turbines nor has it objected to the sections of the Green Energy Act which have removed local planning control over renewal energy projects.
Meaford Mayor Francis Richardson supports wind energy.
Mayoral candidate Jim McPherson said his position has changed in recent months now that he’s become aware that the Green Energy Act takes away planning approval from local municipal councils.
“I disagree with the Green Energy Act which removes local decision making in this matter. Right now we do not have that ability. So we have to get that changed,” he said during an interview on Saturday.
McPherson wouldn’t say where he stands on the issue personally but feels the community should decide whether to have wind turbines or not.
“I believe it is a local decision and that we should have a say in where and whether we have this kind of energy development. I have always maintained the people affected should decide and I would agree to represent their position wholeheartedly,” McPherson said.
Sullivan said a conscious effort was made to keep the proposed project away from the shore of Georgian Bay and off the Niagara Escarpment. The closest turbines to the bay will be 1.5 kilometres inland from the shore and located in a heavily wooded area.
“Those towers are not going to be visible from a number of vantage points. We’re designing the project in clusters; there’s not going to be a wall of towers across the area. There are going to be open vistas. Nobody in the area of the project is going to be totally surrounded by towers but will have open spaces to look at,” said Sullivan who admits that the tower locations are not carved in stone and may be moved and in the end not everybody will be accepting of them.
“At the end of the day certainly not everybody is going to be happy but we’re working with the environment to do the best job we can and make it as appealing as possible,” he said.
John Armstrong is not opposed to the proposal. He believes new regulations relating to set backs have been put in place to safeguard the health of people who live close by.
“I guess it is the basis for a new industry in Ontario that’s what the ultimate goal that government has. We have a lot of industries that are subsidized so it’s hard to know which is right and which is wrong,” said Armstrong who lives on Side Road 24, just off of Concession 2 near the Niagara Escarpment.
Armstrong noted that income from the leases could provide a much needed boost to local beef farmers hard hit in recent years by low commodity prices.
Dr. Neil Lamont, one of the owners of Coffin Ridge Vineyard and Winery, located on Concession 2, in the midst of the proposed project said he hasn’t heard much about the proposal or where the turbines are to be located. He would be concerned if there were turbines located between the winery and Georgian Bay which would affect the spectacular view to the north.
“I don’t think we would appreciate it if it were between us and the lake, for the view,” Lamont said.
IPC is holding an open house Nov. 17 from 5-8 p.m. at the Meaford St. Vincent Community hall in Meaford to present background information on the project and wind energy in general. Company representatives will release details the project, reveal the expected locations of the wind turbines, provide some visual simulations along with the status of the environmental assessment. Consultants will be on hand to answer questions and explain the project.