by Ellwood Shreve, London Free Press
CHATHAM — The Ministry of the Environment honoured a request to put a rush on approving the Kent Breeze Wind Farm, the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal heard Wednesday.
Eric Gillespie, the lawyer representing the appellants challenging the approval of the wind energy project near Thamesville, asked Mansoor Mahmood, acting manager of the MOE’s Renewable Energy Approval (REA) unit, if there was a “priority rush” on the project.
Mahmood said this was true, noting it was requested by project owner Suncor Energy due to contractual obligations the company needed to meet.
He added the project met all the requirements under the REA, which is a more comprehensive approval process developed in response to the Green Energy Act being enacted.
“I can assure the tribunal the review of this project was done absolutely 100%,” Mahmood said.
“All the requirements were met,” he added, noting the screening process took more than two months.
Mahmood said since this was one of the first renewable energy applications being dealt by the REA unit under the Green Energy Act, there was plenty of resources to work on the application.
The approval of the wind farm, the first under Ontario’s Green Energy Act, is being challenged by Katie Erickson and Chatham-Kent Wind Action Inc., over concerns noise from the eight turbines to be erected will cause harm to health, including headaches, sleeplessness, stress and inner-ear problems.
John Kowalewski, a mechanical engineer with the REA unit, was qualified at the tribunal as an expert in environmental noise issues. He also participated in developing the MOE’s noise guidelines for industrial wind turbine projects.
He reviewed the Kent Breeze application and said the noise assessment report done by Suncor’s consultant determined wind shear in the project area is considered high.
He said wind shear refers to difference in wind velocity at ground level compared to higher levels where turbine blades spin and can impact noise levels.