Ontario’s energy minister pledged yesterday to do what he can to solve the issues that led an Alberta company to shelve a $300-million Huron County wind turbine project.
“We were obviously disappointed to hear it is being shelved,” said Energy Minister Dwight Duncan.
Citing uncertainties about government approvals, Edmonton-based Epcor Utilities Inc., announced last week it would indefinitely delay plans for Kingsbridge II, a project that would have seen construction of 69 wind turbines in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Township.
Stopping the project could cost the company as much as $20 million.
Duncan said that while the company’s No. 1 concern is the municipal approval process, it also is concerned about setback requirements for the turbines and issues with First Nations.
Epcor operates 22 turbines in the area, known as Kingsbridge I, and pays farmers as much as $10,000 for each wind turbine it locates on a farm.
Duncan said the turbines have been welcomed by farmers and the government sees such projects as a way of supporting agricultural and rural communities.
“My hope is we can have a good, close look at the circumstances that led to this decision and work with all the various parties involved to try and bring a satisfactory and timely resolution to the issues,” Duncan said.
He refused to speculate on whether Epcor might change its mind and go ahead with Kingsbridge II.
But Huron-Bruce MPP Carol Mitchell said she spoke to a senior vice-president of the company last Friday.
“I think there is a very good chance of the project going forward,” Mitchell said.
“This is an excellent site for wind. They are committed to moving this project forward and the McGuinty government is committed to moving (renewable energy projects) forward.”
The project has run into opposition from a small group of people, she said. Some want the turbines built a greater distance from residences, while others simply oppose any development of wind power.
“Clearly the majority of people support renewable energy. We are hearing from a very few people, the naysayers,” she said.
Mitchell said it’s time for environmentalists who support wind power to make their voices heard.
While Kingsbridge II may be stalled, other wind projects are moving ahead and Ontario is now the biggest producer of wind power in Canada, Duncan said.
“This is a new industry. Not only will it create reliable power, it also creates jobs,” he said.
By John Miner, Free Press reporter
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