Wes Keller, Orangeville Citizen, www.citizen.on.ca
A TransAlta Corp. executive said last Wednesday there are no plans to expand the Melancthon wind farm northward into Grey County and, in the meantime, the company would listen to anyone who can offer advice on how to deal with complaints of noise from the transformer substation in Amaranth.
Calgary-based Transalta is the successor to Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. (CHD), and now the owner of Canada’s two largest wind farms with a combined capacity of roughly 400 megawatts – at Melancthon/Amaranth and on Wolfe Island.
Jason Edworthy, Trans- Alta’s director of communications, told Melancthon council last Thursday that CHD is “a jewel in the crown (of TransAlta’s generation network).”
He said the township staff had “done a tremendous job” of accounting for the company’s taxes (segregating the amount to be paid by TransAlta to participating landowners), and said it was “exciting to see the areas” on which the township was spending its amenities payments.
He said the only change likely to be seen in the transition from CHD would be signage. (The sign at the CHD office is still the original.)
Mr. Edworthy did have one concern: the township’s reasoning in its call for a moratorium on wind turbine development.
Mayor Debbie Fawcett responded that “people are wary of health implications,” but Deputy Mayor Bill Hill referred to the reduction of assessments near the transformer substation, and said the township “didn’t want others to come in and potentially reduce all tax assessments in half.”
Mr. Edworthy said the “process (of reassessment) did not consider scientific evidence available publicly.”
In an interview earlier last Thursday, Mr. Edworthy said the CHD substation in Amaranth has had “the most investment in the TransAlta fleet.” He said the company has done everything it could measure to satisfy neighbouring concerns.
He said the substation is in compliance with Ministry of Environment guidelines and has sound barriers plus a new transformer. “We don’t know what to fix. We can’t measure any more. If anyone can tell us how to measure (the problem), we would follow through.”
The substation has two 100-megawatt transformers, adequate for the 200- MW capacity of the Melancthon/ Amaranth (Melancthon EcoEnergy Centre) wind farm.
TransAlta is a giant in the industry by comparison with CHD. It has roughly 80 plants in Canada, the U.S., including Hawaii, and in Australia. Why did it make its hostile takeover bid for CHD?
In a nutshell, it needed CHD’s “green energy” plants and future developments to reduce its carbon footprint.
“We have a lot of coalfired plants,” said Mr. Edworthy. “There’s lots of coal in Alberta. The company recognizes it’s got to go green going forward. CHD was a logical target – hostile at the start but friendly at the end.”
Even with the addition of CHD, TransAlta generation is heavily weighted with coal: 4,967 MW capacity with an added 271 MW under development. It has 893 MW hydro with 18 MW in development, 1,843 MW in gas-fired, 950 MW wind power with another 1,123 in development stages, 164 MW in geo-thermal, and 25 in biomass.
At the moment, 57% of capacity is in coal-fired, and 20% in natural gas. Between them, wind and hydro account for 22% of capacity. On location, 75% of capacity is in Canada, 22% in the U.S., and 3% in Australia.
At the time of the hostile bid last summer, CHD had announced plans to expand its operations by 100 megawatts annually in wind, hydroelectric and biomass as well as, possibly, solar.
Going green, TransAlta also needed the expertise of CHD personnel in wind, water, solar and biomass. So the entire staff complement was simply transferred to TransAlta.
Locally, Mr. Edworthy wasn’t entirely certain of the number stationed at the CHD operations centre, but did say there would likely be a dozen involved, which would be an increase from seven permanent a year or so ago.