Construction has begun on a 110-turbine wind farm in Kincardine after the objections of some local residents were overruled by the Ontario Municipal Board.
Enbridge Inc. received the OMB’s decision late Tuesday and, after reviewing it Wednesday, gave the go-ahead to start building access roads on the site in the former Bruce Township.
Debbie Boukydis, the company’s director of public and government affairs, said 20 to 30 turbine foundations should be installed before the end of the year and the turbines will be erected starting next April. They are expected to go into operation next summer. The 182-megawatt project will be one of the largest wind farms in Canada.
“We have a contract with the Ontario Power Authority that we are to be delivering power by 2008, so we’ll be able to meet that objective,” she said in an interview Friday.
“The turbines themselves have been in the Kincardine area for some time, in a laydown area, so we were very hopeful that we were going to be able to . . . get the preliminary construction done, to prepare the farm for the turbines next spring.
The OMB’s decision came after eight weeks of hearings that stemmed from objections raised by opponents of the project.
About three dozen residents represented by the Windfarm Action Group appealed to the OMB to overturn municipal rezoning that allowed the development.
Boukydis said the opponents represent a small percentage of the municipality.
“We did some polling, I guess it was probably two summers ago, that showed over 70 per cent of the community supported the project,” she said, noting Kincardine and Bruce County councils have also been in favour, as are landowners who “are looking at this as stable revenue for them for the next 20 years.”
But one opponent says that approval has come because local residents have not been properly informed of the risks believed to be associated with wind farms.
Ron Stephens, a Kincardine resident who blogs about the issue at windfarms.wordpress.com, acknowledged the development as planned by Enbridge meets local and provincial planning requirements.
“The problem is the planning requirements are faulty,” Stephens said, citing expert opinions that turbines should be placed at least two kilometres from homes.
The turbines will be placed about 450 metres from homes. According to opponents, the noise caused by the turbines can lead to sleep disturbances, headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, nausea and stress in people who live nearby. They will also affect birds and animals, cause a drop in property values and generally lead to a loss of quality of life.
Stephens said people do not become fully aware of a wind farm’s negative effects until they personally experience them, by which time it is too late for them to get out of their agreements or sell their land at a fair price.
Boukydis said Enbridge has listened to the concerns of local residents and has worked to address them by substantially increasing the distances between the turbines and homes. But meeting the targets specified by opponents would make it impossible to construct the wind farm at all, she said, adding the project’s size was also scaled down from 121 turbines and 200 megawatts to 110 turbines and 182 megawatts.
“We’ve been trying to try to come up with compromises that will satisfy everyone,” she said.
Enbridge wants to be a good corporate citizen, Boukydis said. The company has a storefront on Queen Street in Kincardine, where four people are currently working on a full-time basis. It underwrote last month’s Energy Solutions Expo in Tiverton and plans to remain involved in the community in similar ways.
With an estimated 300 people on site during the height of the wind farm’s construction, it will mean a boost for the local economy, she said, adding between five to 10 full-time jobs in operations and maintenance will also be available.
Enbridge also plans to keep local residents updated through newspaper advertisements, mailed updates and open houses.
“As well, we’re planning to have a community barbecue to thank everyone for their support,” Boukydis said.
By Jonathon Jackson
20 July 2007
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