A controversial bid to turn a dozen farmers’ fields in the Eastern Townships near the Vermont border into a huge industrial wind-turbine park will be submitted to Hydro-Québec for approval – but opponents aren’t giving up their fight to see the project die.
In a 16-4 vote Tuesday night, mayors of the Brome-Missisquoi regional council in Cowansville approved the proposal by Sherbrooke firm S.M. International Group Inc. to erect 31 wind-turbine towers in a swath of farmland 80 kilometres southeast of Montreal.
In return, the company will pay the three communities where the land is situated – Stanbridge Station, St. Pierre de Véronne de Pike River and Bedford county – $6.7 million over 25 years.
As well, S.M. will establish a $2.5-million fund for the regional council to use over the same period to clean up and beautify the Pike River. Both amounts are to be adjusted for inflation.
The nine-page agreement is to be finalized today and made public at the council’s next meeting Sept. 18, said Brome-Missisquoi prefect Arthur Fauteux.
Among other things, the council wants the deal to state how and when S.M will begin its payments, how it will cover the cost of noise studies and other impact assessments as well as insurance costs, and how many construction jobs it expects will be created.
Under a separate deal, S.M. also has promised to compensate the dozen farmers on whose land the turbines would be erected. The amounts have not been revealed.
With its turbines rising 139 metres into the sky and spread out over 920 hectares, the wind farm would generate a maximum of 62 megawatts of electricity – about enough to power 12,500 typical homes – starting in 2011, for export to the United States.
It’s one of many bids for new wind-power projects that Hydro-Québec solicited in 2005 and will begin examining after the Sept. 18 deadline for submissions.
The winning bids are to be announced in January. After environmental hearings and other regulatory hurdles, the Quebec government would have final say, with approval expected in early 2009.
“The project is far from being approved – there’s still a long way to go,” said S.M. director David Cliche, a former Parti Québécois environment minister.
Hydro-Québec wants to add 2,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity to its grid, now almost exclusively generated by big hydroelectric dams in remote regions like James Bay.
Construction on the S.M. project would begin in May 2009 and would last 16 months.
A coalition of residents and farmers has opposed the plan, arguing it would be an eyesore, out of all scale to the land around it and – with each turbine blade giving off just under 40 decibels of sound – a low-frequency health hazard.
“We’ll see what happens now with Hydro, whether they choose to accept the project or not,” said coalition organizer Susan Muir.
She was one of 80 residents who attended the council meeting Tuesday and who applauded the four mayors – of West Bolton, Brome, Frelighsburg and Notre Dame de Stanbridge – who voted against.
“There’s still more work to do,” Muir said. “We’re not giving up.”
By Jeff Heinrich
23 August 2007
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