Islanders ready for wind-farm fight; Amherst Island residents launch coalition to oppose proposed power plant
Amherst Island residents are wasting no time.
Some residents of the rural community are mobilizing themselves to stop a large-scale wind turbine plant that’s likely years away from development. The wind project is still early in the planning phase, but local residents have already organized a coalition to block what they’re describing as an industrial-size plant.
They’re hosting a public information meeting tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Amherst Island Public School.
Hans Krauklis, a member of the Coalition to Protect Amherst Island, said the group isn’t against wind power as an alternative energy source, but doesn’t want to see dozens of giant turbines erected in their rural community.
“There are side effects, including noise, [shadow] flicker and there are quite a number of studies showing the health effects of the noise,” he said.
The coalition has about two dozen members. Krauklis said local residents have been following the progress of a proposed 86-turbine wind plant on Wolfe Island – expected to be operational in the next 18 months – and they don’t want to see the same type of development on Amherst Island.
“We would expect that if this came to pass, we would have something of similar size here – partly because of profitability reasons,” he said.
“An underwater cable is quite expensive.
Indeed, a $14-million underwater cable will bring the generated power from the Wolfe Island turbines to Kingston’s mainland to connect with the Ontario grid. The proponent of the project, Canadian Hydro Developers Inc., has said the 86-turbine wind plant is a necessary size in order for the venture to be economically viable.
The Wolfe Island project, one of the largest in Canada, will generate a maximum amount of electricity to power roughly 75,000 average Ontario households. Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. also has several hundred acres of land optioned for lease on Amherst Island. In December 2006, the Calgary-based company bought Vector Wind Energy Inc., which had done some of the early work on the project.
According to the Vector Wind Energy Inc. website, the Ottawa company had planned to erect 35 to 40 wind turbines on properties situated in the centre of the island. The website also states that the project would be situated on roughly 2,500 acres of privately owned land that’s currently being used as a combination of hay cultivation and pasture lands.
As part of the approvals process for such a project, the company would have to undertake a zoning change to allow for wind generation. But no company has approached the municipality of Loyalist Township for this change.
A Kingston company, Gaia Power Inc., also has land optioned for lease on Amherst Island, but officials from the firm couldn’t be reached yesterday for comment on the status of their proposal.
Rob Miller, a Kingston-based project engineer for Canadian Hydro Developers Inc., said it will probably be years before there are wind turbines on Amherst Island.
“It is way too speculative at this point,” he said. “It’s down the road in terms of our list of priorities for the next few years. We differentiate between projects and prospects – Wolfe Island is a project and Amherst Island is a potential, a prospect.”
Looking to the future, he also said that the company wouldn’t build a wind plant on Amherst Island if the majority of local residents weren’t in favour of it.
“Canadian Hydro would not entertain proceeding with the project until the broader community is supportive,” he said. “Canadian Hydro’s policy is that we really do want to be good, long-term neighbours and we only site projects that people want to see there.” Miller said it’s very early on for people to be “up in arms” about a wind plant on Amherst Island and was surprised to hear about a coalition being formed.
“It seems awfully early to be opposed,” he said.
Miller said Canadian Hydro has a full plate of projects for the next couple of years with the Wolfe Island plant coming on stream, as well as another plant expected to be up and running near Picton by August of 2010.
When Canadian Hydro acquired Vector Wind Energy Inc. last year, it also took over the Royal Road wind project near Picton. Last week, Canadian Hydro announced it had been awarded two 20-year contracts from the Ontario Power Authority to sell wind energy from the Royal Road project. The project will generate enough electricity to power as many as 4,700 average households.
By Jennifer Pritchett
21 August 2007
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