Representatives of NextEra Energy Canada were put through their paces during a presentation to Huron East council’s May 15 meeting.
Concerns about a Seaforth-area dairy farm located on Centennial Road where transmission lines are proposed for NextEra’s 37-turbine project near Zurich and costs to decommission the transmission line were fielded by Nicole Geneau and Derek Dudek, of NextEra.
NextEra will hold its final public meetings about the 37-turbine project in Bluewater on June 13 from 4-7 p.m. at the Seaforth Community Centre and on June 14 from 4-7 p.m. at the Stanley Complex in Varna. The Bluewater project is one of eight NextEra projects the company hopes to have come into operation by the end of 2012.
“You are going past a major dairy farm – have you done any studies on how the transmission lines could affect milk production?” asked Tuckersmith Coun. Les Falconer.
Falconer questioned why industrial wind projects are required to study their effect on bats and other wildlife but not on livestock.
“That is his livelihood so why not move the transmission lines? Why are we not worried about milk production but we’re worried about bats? We need to help that gentleman out and not put that line near his farm,” said Falconer.
“We understand there’s a concern but we believe there’s a zero per cent chance it will affect milk production if it’s done properly,” she said.
Deputy-Mayor Joe Steffler asked what “Plan B” would be if it ends up that milk production is affected by the proximity of the transmission lines.
Geneau reiterated that there should be a zero per cent chance of milk production being affected but added that a protocol has been developed to respond to any issues that arise including a 1-800 phone number that will be widely publicized.
“Let us know and if there’s an issue, our team will take action. We have an excellent track record of finding solutions,” she said.
Falconer also asked where the transmission line poles will be going and wondered why the project wouldn’t use the poles already in place on Staffa Road, instead of erecting poles along the preferred route of Centennial Road.
“Staffa Road already has poles on it and that would get you away from the dairy farm on Centennial Road,” he said.
Geneau said NextEra is still in discussion with Hydro One about the poles and added the route hasn’t yet been engineered.
“We want to do that in consultation with the municipality. We’re trying to keep as many options open as possible,” she said, adding that Centennial Road is still the preferred route.
Falconer wondered why a community conference call organized by NextEra to answer questions about the proposed project did not contact some of the people living along the proposed route but did call people who lived miles from the project.
“They dialed out based on the area code and some of the people got missed,” responded Dudek.
Geneau added that the conference call piloted new technology and worked “fairly well.”
“We were pleased to be able to get through so many questions,” she said.
Councillors also asked questions about decommissioning the project at the end of its lifespan.
Seaforth Coun. Bob Fisher asked if Huron East needs a bond from NextEra to ensure there is enough money to decommission the transmission lines if the provincial government decided to stop providing the same level of funding for green energy over the next 20 years.
Geneau responded that NextEra has a very detailed report itemizing the steps that must be taken during the decommissioning process if it’s determined that at the end of the 20-year contract that it’s no longer economicially feasible to continue the project. She said the industrial wind turbines being erected should have a 30-year lifespan.
“We are required to return the land to its prior use. We are going to pay for it. We have been in business for 20 years, this is our business and our agreements are worth the paper they’re written on,” she said, adding that if the wind project changed hands or went bankrupt, all legal obligations would still be met.
Updating council on the progress of the industrial wind project, Geneau said the seasonal environmental fieldwork, including ecological land classification, amphibian studies, seasonal avian studies, bat monitoring and stage 2 archeological assessment, has been completed. She added that work is still being done on the natural heritage report and the archeological stage 2 report.
The proposed timeline shows June 18 as the cut-off date for the consultation report and the submission of the final REA (Renewal Energy Approval) during the month of June. In August, NextEra anticipates its submission to be deemed complete and posted to the Environmental Registry. By next February, the final approval is expected with construction beginning in summer of 2013 and commercial operation beginning that winter.
“We operate 9,000 turbines across Canada and we have a track record of a commitment to safety,” she said.
Geneau added that a Community Vibrancy Fund will provide $5,000 per kilometre of transmission line for a total of $65,000 per year for 20 years to Huron East, “over and above any assessment by MPAC to be administered by council.”