By the end of next year, 110 turbines should be turning on the 182-megawatt Enbridge Ontario Wind Farm in the Municipality of Kincardine.
The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) released its decision last week, coming out in favour of the municipality, Bruce County planning and Enbridge, and allowing the largest wind farm in Canada to go ahead.
“We’re happy and pleased with the decision,” said Bob Simpson, general manager of Enbridge. “We can now go forward to the municipality and present our site plan applications for approval.”
Enbridge has already commenced the project with about 20 site plans, not under appeal, approved by Kincardine council.
“We expect to have all the others in place by Dec. 1, 2007,” said Simpson. “We’ll start 20-30 foundations this year and that will allow us to commence tower construction by April, 2008. We should be commissioning part of the project next summer.”
The decision comes with two conditions, said Simpson. The first is that Enbridge must file with the municipality an operational protocol in case of ice on the turbine blades, which has already been done.
The second is to put in place a dispute resolution protocol which will be finalized and lodged with the municipality, he said.
“We also volunteered a proposal to guarantee that we are installing 110 turbines only,” said Simpson, “and we will have the bylaws amended to state clearly that we are putting up only 110 turbines.”
In his decision, OMB chairman J.P. Acheson said the most compelling evidence was that of the municipal planner who stated the appropriate agencies were informed of the project and had no concerns. Also, the local conservation authority had no difficulty with the project and the county planning committee was satisfied with the Environmental Screening Report.
Acheson added that the board had no evidence that the Bruce Nuclear facility or the Hydro One transmission facilities had concerns about the project.
“It is clear to the board from the evidence that the proposed development will enhance the economic base of the area and does not significantly impact upon the predominantly agricultural economy of the area,” states the decision.
“The board, after reviewing the submissions and considering the evidence filed, finds that the county and the municipality have undertaken a full and complete planning review of the proposal in a diligent, comprehensive and open manner while freely recognizing the many challenges associated with this new form of development.
“They have set clear goals and benchmarks to be met by any proponent of a wind farm project.”
Acheson stated the policy directions require site plan approval of all turbines as well as holding provisions to secure performance from the proponent.
As for concerns about tower failure and proper setbacks, Acheson said the turbines are certified to international standard and must be installed in accordance with the Ontario Building Code. “The likelihood of tower collapse is remote and in all likelihood far less likely to occur than the failure of other structures currently permitted and located within public road allowances.”
As for concerns about noise, Acheson said the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE), not the board, should make the final determination regarding compliance with the ministry guidelines for noise.
By the same token, he noted that Enbridge has stated it can meet the ministry’s noise guidelines.
Kincardine deputy mayor Laura Haight said the decision was very comprehensive.
“I’m thrilled with the way it was written,” she said. “We’re gratified that the bylaws passed were upheld. It’s been a long and arduous process and I respect the position taken by the appellants, but the municipality did everything in accordance with proper procedure.”
The decision comes in the wake of almost seven weeks of testimony at the hearing held in Kincardine during May and June, with appeals against 38 zoning bylaws, involving 55 of the turbines.
Those appealing the Enbridge zoning bylaws were Kathy McCarrel and the Windfarm Action Group, as well as three individuals, Bill Palmer, Tony Clark and John Thompson, who had individual appellant status.
McCarrel said the action group is disappointed at the decision and takes little comfort in knowing that the MOE will be enforcing any charges laid against wind farms.
The group is pleased that the OMB chairman stated the need for a noise complaint protocol which the public knows about and can use, if necessary, said McCarrel.
In addition, the group managed to get site-specific co-ordinates for all the turbines, and four of the sites will not have windmills on them, McCarrel said. Also, the proponent must model the noise impact beyond 1,000 metres from nearby homes, she said.
As for the Windfarm Action Group, she said the members felt strongly enough about the evidence they presented at the hearing and felt it had to be made public.
“We hope for improvements now at the county level which will funnel down to the municipalities,” she said. “For now, we just wait and see, and take action if needed.
“It’s a travesty of justice,” said Clark who was upset that he had not received a copy of the OMB decision at the same time as Enbridge and members of the media. “That’s a weird way of doing things,” he said.
“This is the worst thing to happen to rural Ontario,” he said of the decision.
“People will eventually wake up and see what’s happened. It was a political decision; this government has got to go. It can take away human rights just like that.”
He said the opponents could appeal the OMB decision but it would be very expensive.
“Kincardine council and (Bruce) County council should hang their heads in shame for their lack of due diligence,” Clark said. “I guarantee we will see 1,000 turbines in Bruce County and at least 200 in the former Kincardine Township.
“The MOE is reviewing its noise guidelines and is expected to have new guidelines by September, but the OMB has already allowed this project to go ahead.”
By Liz Dadson
24 July 2007
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