Norwich Council hears from group, clerk about turbine issues

By Tara Bowie, Norwich Gazette

NORWICH -Norwich Township appears to be a leader in protecting its residents from possible ill effects of wind turbine developments. Michael Graves, CAO/clerk for the township, spoke openly with council and a concerned group of citizens about current bylaws in place regarding large-scale wind development.

“We have looked at current bylaws on our books and we do have things in place to cover things like drainage and to cover possible road damage. Financial aspects are also covered in our current bylaws,” he said. “However, this is all predicated by the current state of the Green Energy Act. At any time, the rules can change.”

The Green Energy Act has stripped lower-tier governments’ abilities to even weigh in on solar developments and has restricted municipal power with regards to wind development, Graves said.

The East Oxford Community Alliance came to council recently to restate the more than 70-member organization’s position that wind turbines will not be good for the area.

Although a 10-turbine project slated for Gunn’s Hill Road, being developed by ProWind, appears to be stalled, the group remains active in deterring wind development in the area.

“We know by rumour that ProWind is not moving forward with the project, but we see this as an opportunity not to just sit idly by.

“We see it as an opportunity to make sure we do this all right,” Joan Morris, a member of the East Oxford Community Alliance, said to council.

Last month, ProWind removed its tower from the test plot property for the development. The tower was built two years ago to collect data for the development for various studies required by the Ministry of the Environment.

Bart Geleynse, representative of the wind energy company, said the company had collected all the information needed and decided to remove the tower.

He added that, although the Ontario Power Authority had not yet awarded a contract for the project, the project was not being abandoned.

“This is still an active project. The tower coming down in no way means there is a change in direction for the project,” he said.

Council discussed wind turbine development thoroughly in December at the first meeting as a new council.

At that point, councillors agreed they needed more information about turbines.

Graves is currently working on scheduling a meeting between the Ministry of Environment and all Oxford County mayors and councillors, as well as Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman and MP Dave MacKenzie. The meeting is expected to take place some time in March in Norwich. Councillors will also be meeting with a representative from the Ministry of Environment during the Ontario Good Roads convention later this month.