By Tori Stafford, Kingston Whig-Standard
A group that has been fighting for four years against a proposed wind farm on Amherst Island got bad news yesterday.
“I’m very, very disappointed,” John Harrison, director of the Association to Protect Amherst Island said of yesterday’s announcement that the Ontario Power Authority awarded a Feed-in Tariff Program contract.
“I think such a project is inappropriate for Amherst Island.”
The project mirrors one that has been an ongoing battle on Amherst Island between developers, council and public opponents, including the Association to Protect Amherst Island, a group made up of over 140 local residents lobbying against the development of wind farms on the island.
Harrison’s group has been fighting the arrival of wind turbines since a project was broached in 2007.
Harrison claims the concept doesn’t make economical sense, as there is not enough wind in the area to run the turbines to full capacity. He also cited noise and safety issues as major reasons for opposing a wind farm on the island.
He believes the regulations by the Ministry of the Environment are too lax.
“With the noise issues, the current regulation is a maximum of 40 decibels of sound,” Harrison said. That regulation may be fine for traffic noise, he said, but the situation is different with wind turbines, as the sound is periodic, and therefore more effective to the human ear.
He also said the current regulation of turbines being set back at least 550 metres from residences is too small, as the noise produced travels much further.
The power authority said the Amherst Island wind farm is projected to have capacity of 75 megawatts. The contract has been offered to Windlectric, a joint venture between Algonquin Power of Oakville and Gaia Power of Kingston.
Neither company could be reached for comment.
“At this stage, it’s all so new,” said Ulrike Kucera, media relations officer for the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
“Until business contracts are discussed and formally finalized … specific information on the project size, timeline or prospective business contracts cannot be provided.”
Murray Beckel, director of planning and development for Loyalist Township, said the project is so young that the township has yet to see any paperwork on the wind farm.
“We’re basically at Step 1 of a 10-step process,” Beckel said. “We’re at least a year away from any groundbreaking or building. It will probably take longer.”
A number of steps must be taken by the developer, Beckel said.
First, the company must hold a public meeting to introduce the project and take in public response. The company must then perform a series of tests in the area with respect to noise, effects on wildlife and environmental effects, and logistical testing regarding how to transport and build the turbines, including archeological tests.
Beckel said he had not seen any information indicating that these tests had begun, though he said it is possible that some of the tests are already underway.
The results of these tests and studies are then sent to the municipality, which has 90 days to review the information. These reports must also be sent to any aboriginal groups in the area.
After that, a second public meeting must be held before approval is given by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. This process, Beckel said, can take several months.
Meanwhile, Harrison said his group will continue to work against the proposed project.
“We’ve been active for four years,” he said, “and we have absolutely no inclination to stop any time soon.”