Anger, confusion, frustration, shouting and finger pointing resulted from irate residents showing up to what was thought to be a public meeting hosted by the Bluewater Wind Project.
The wind farm, proposed by International Power Canada Inc., would see 50 2.5-megawatt turbines installed on about 3,387 hectares of land, between Conc. 2 of Huron Township, Lake Range Drive, the Conc. 10 of Huron and Sideroad 5.
The project would be connected by overhead transmission lines, heading north on Sideroad 20 through the Municipality of Kincardine, turning west on either the Conc. 6 and 8 where they would connect to the existing transmission lines near Bruce Power.
IBI Group was hired by International Power Canada Inc. to obtain Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) for the Bluewater Wind Project.
Huron-Kinloss Township and surrounding area residents were under the assumption last Tuesday’s meeting was going to be an organized and informative presentation, allowing the opportunity for a formal question and answer session.
Over 250 people packed into the meeting room at the Ripley Huron Community Centre, shocked to find a number of billboard displays, a few specialists who could respond only to specific questions about noise levels, distance separations and bird migration and one representative from each IBI Group and International Power Canada Inc. who could speak to the project directly.
As residents arrived, they were greeted by the newly formed anti-wind action group Huron-Kinloss Against Wind Turbines (HALT). Protesters carried signs and set up a display at the arena entrance.
“Our goal is to inform people and work together to try and stop the wind turbines from going up,” said HALT organizer Tom Morrish. “We want reasonable set backs and an individual health study done.”
Many residents were angered by the lack of formality of the open house.
“This is not a meeting, it’s just a waste of taxpayers’ money. It’s a joke,” said former Bruce Township resident Tony Clark. “They (wind turbines) produce next to nothing, are expensive and inefficient and don’t produce when we need them to.”
Derek Dudek, REA co-ordinator/planner for IBI Group, was swarmed by people for the duration of the open house.
In a phone interview the next day, he said there are a number of background studies that have to be completed before the six mandatory reports can be submitted to the Ministry of Environment (MEO).
Studies such as archeology, biology, noise and water resources have been started but reports have not yet been finalized. Others such as a cultural study, have yet to be started.
Dudek said they will take the public’s input into consideration when altering its turbine layout.
Once IBI Group has its information, they can begin the process of mandatory reports.
The first project description report has been started, which is an overview of the project and is currently in draft form.
Next is a technology specification report, which explains the technology used in the project. A construction report, design and operation report, decommissioning report and finally, a consultation plan report, are all required by the MOE.
“We’re a long way from starting the construction,” said Dudek.
Once all six reports are approved, a final public meeting will be held prior to the wind farm construction. The company will present the draft reports to both the Township of Huron-Kinloss and the Municipality of Kincardine as well as Aboriginal groups to review 90 days before the final meeting. Sixty days before the final public meeting, it will be released to the public for review.
Dudek expects the final meeting to take place early 2011.
“However, everything depends on the Bruce to Milton project because we need the line to be complete before any new projects can start,” he said.
Dudek expects the project will begin construction in 2012 or later.
Farmlands within the designed wind farm area are starting to be cleared of crops, which Dudek said has caused some confusion.
He said these are not set locations for the turbines, but are areas being cleared for the archeological studies.
As for property value and health problems, Dudek said “it is our opinion they have been taken into account with the noise guidelines created by the MOE.”
A study on bird migration and bat habitation, and their roll in the wind project, was completed in June by Natural Resources Solutions. Biologist Andrew Ryckman was on had to answer questions about the study.
“We did a study on birds and bats and are working to keep the turbines away from sensitive areas,” said Ryckman. “We put our findings in a report and will finalize where the turbines can go and not go according to the findings.”
Although the study was completed at the end of June, Ryckman wasn’t sure when it would be ready to be viewed by the public.
He said the REA process details when each study needs to be done from the beginning of a project to its completion. This is why the turbine sites had to be created before the bird migration study was done.
“It’s unfortunate how this process works, but we have to follow it,” said Ryckman.
He said the REA process was implemented last year and requires the studies to be completed in a 120 metre radius of the wind farm. Natural Resource Solutions studied woodlots, wetlands, lakes and natural areas.
“Any area that is significant to these species we try to keep the turbines away from,” Ryckman said.
However, prior to the implementation of the REA, Ryckman said there was no set area they could study.
“Before that we could study a much larger area. There was no set area we had to stay within,” he said. “We would have a (study) station at the lake if this new act was not put in place.”
The shoreline is not within the required 120 metres study, so Natural Resource Solutions did not do any studies along the lake.
“Bird migration studies were done within the project area. We haven’t looked at them outside the project area,” Ryckman said.
Jim Salmon, president of Zephyr North Company in Burlington, was hired to do noise assessments and layout the turbines according to their findings. He said they did the noise assessment according the Ministry of Environment’s guidelines. Studies are done according to a number of standards and the information was written up in a report.
“We move the wind turbines around so the noise reciprocators are compliant with the standards and guidelines,” said Salmon. “This is just a draft. All the studies have to be completed first. There is a process that has to be followed.”
He said approvals from the Ministry of Environment (MOE), the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Ministry of Tourism (MTO) are needed. The wind company must also meet with the Ontario Energy Association.
“If they can jump all those hurdles then they can get the REA authority and can start building,” said Salmon. “Then they need building permits from the local government (the Township of Huron-Kinloss).”