By Frank Dobrovnik, The Sault Star, www.thesudburystar.com
A growing chorus of critics says the provincial government needs to be more up front about proposals for wind energy projects across Ontario.
Sault Ste. Marie MP Tony Martin will hold a press conference Friday calling for a public hearing into plans for wind turbines that could one day be planted in Lake Superior. Martin was contacted by a group of area residents last month about windmills rumoured for Alona Bay, and wrote to the local Ministry of Natural Resources office with their inquiries. What he heard back last Thursday made him “apoplectic,” he says.
“It’s quite alarming,” he said. “It blew me away that they are actually thinking of putting these things out on the water. What impact will that have on the lake? We have no idea until we do some significant research.”
On June 25, the Ministry of the Environment posted a policy proposal on its Environmental Registry seeking “to provide greater certainty and clarity on off-shore wind requirements,” as part of the Green Energy Act’s intent to expand Ontario’s transmission grid through clean and renewable sources. Kim Mihell, the MNR’s renewable energy planner for Algoma District, wrote Martin that the ministry has received applications for two projects in the Alona Bay area.
However, Mihell added that “no decision has been made with regard to the status of these applications, which are in the preliminary stages of the MNR’s Crown land windpower application process … (T)hese applications are not progressing at this time as no offshore windpower applications will be processed until the MOE and MNR policy reviews are complete.”
Once the policy reviews are complete, “there will be significant opportunity for public input and comment,” she wrote.
An initial 60-day comment period has been extended to 74 days, to next Tuesday. The public can view the policy proposal, formally called “Renewable Energy Approval Requirements for Off-Shore Wind Facilities — An Overview of the proposed Approach,” at www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/ Enter the number 010-7895
But Martin says online comments aren’t good enough. People who live in the area have “not been given any opportunity to give any input, nor are they being communicated with very effectively with the powers that be as to what is being planned, and when, and how,” he said.
Further investigation into renewable energy has turned up further possible projects for Crown lands in this area.
The Ontario Power Authority has an interactive map on its website, powerauthority.on.ca,of all the projects for which it has offered contracts through its Feed-In Tariff Program, which pays project developers to put at least 10 megawatts (10,000 kilowatts) renewable energy into the provincial grid. In Algoma, contracts have been offered for at least two proposed projects:
* Bow Lake in the Montreal River Harbour, with a capacity of 20,000 kW; and
* the Goulais Wind Farm in Goulais River, with a capacity of 25,000kW of energy (developer Confederation Power Inc.). The project is expected to utilize 10 to 16 wind turbines and would be in service in 2013.
The projects are small compared to the 189-MW Prince Wind Farm just outside Sault Ste. Marie, but Martin says that’s not the point. People feel as though they’ve been kept in the dark about plans underfoot to alter their landscape, not to mention “environmental and health impacts,” he said.
“There are still a lot of unanswered questions out there … This is significant enough that there needs to be more sharing of public information, and a chance for people to hear each other and ask questions and have those questions answered.”
Confederation Power posted a small “notice of proposal” in The Sault Star last week about the Goulais Wind Farm.
They invite comments at : Confederation Power Inc., 1400-95 Wellington St. W., Toronto, ON M5J 2N7; online at www.confedpower.com/projects/goulais; by phone at (416) 640-5574; or e-mail goulais.info@ confedpower. co m.
A spokesperson with OPA did not respond to a call for comment Wednesday afternoon.