by John Spears, Toronto Star
A proposed array of giant wind turbines could crimp plans for Collingwood Regional Airport to build its business, says an airport official. The developer of the wind farm says the turbines – the closest of which would be 3 kilometres from the airport – pose no threat to airport operations, according to an expert consultant.
But Charlie Tatham, who heads the services board that operates the airport for the town, says the technical arguments of experts only go so far. “The less technical concern is: it’s just plain loony,” Tatham said in an interview about the proposed turbines. “What would possess them to stick them within a couple of kilometres of a busy airport runway?” “It’s embarrassing in some respects to have to explain why it’s dumb to put 500-foot towers close to a busy airport. It’s just dumb.”
Tatham and several local politicians have scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to air their concerns.
The wind farm at the root of the issue has been proposed by wpd Canada Corporation of Mississauga.
The company wants to erect eight turbines just west of the village of Stayner, the closest about 3 kilometres south of Collingwood airport. The blades would reach 150 metres (492 feet) above ground level.
The wind development, if it goes ahead, won’t shut down the airport, Tatham acknowledges.
But it will require some modifications in flight paths in and out.
In addition, a consultant’s report commissioned by the airport says:
“There is significant concern that the turbines are very close to the normal departure zone, and could cause a safety hazard to departing aircraft in marginal visibility conditions.”
The airport has been trying to boost its attractiveness to corporate and business aircraft, especially with the impending closure of Buttonville airport, says Tatham. Buttonville was sold to a developer last year; it is slated to close within five years.
Traffic at Collingwood airport has been growing at 10 to 15 per cent a year for the past several years, he says.
The airport has also spent $100,000 on new equipment making it easier for aircraft to make instrument approaches. The turbines, he says, will protrude into these approach areas, forcing the aircraft into higher flight paths.
It makes the airport less attractive, he says: “Looking at it as a common sense, what on earth would you do this for?”
Kevin Surette, a spokesman for wpd, says his firm hasn’t been given the consultant’s report commissioned by the airport.
But he says his firm has carefully studied the area for several years.
“Safety has always been our Number One concern,” says Surette.
The company hired its own consultant, he said:
“His report has said there are no safety issues to be concerned of.”
Surette says the site was chosen after the company studied wind maps to choose promising locations, then measured wind characteristics in promising areas and found local landowners who were willing to lease their property for turbines.
He said wpd will make a careful study of the report prepared by the airport’s consultant, once it is provided to the company.
If the company gets clearance from provincial authorities to move ahead with the project, the turbines could be up and running by the spring of 2013, Surette said.