The expansion of Wind Rush Energy’s initial 12- turbine Ashton Ridge wind project to a currently proposed 18 appears to be at the root of potential problems.
The original 12 (in two phases of six turbines each) had been appropriately zoned by East Luther Grand Valley council following interviews with adjoining property owners.
Although there was a public meeting about the expansion into a third and possibly fourth phase to be known as Grand Valley wind farm, as many as a dozen letters to the council are indicative of dissatisfaction over a lack of such personal contact for the expanded proposal.
Much has changed from the original proposal.
Whereas the Ashton Ridge zoning was for a total of 12 1.5-megawatt, turbines, that has now been changed to 10 2-MW ones in two Standard Offer Contracts (SOC) of 9.9 MW each. Wind Rush has since won a third SOC contract, for what Wind Rush principal John Pennie says would be three 2-MW turbines at the Grand Valley wind farm project.
This accounts for only 13 turbines with a total capacity of 26 MW, more or less consistent with the Ontario Power Authority’s website which specifies a total capacity of 27.8 MW for the three projects. Mr. Pennie said in an interview that he is seeking zoning approval for the additional five as “a future consideration.”
Under the SOC, the turbines would feed to the local distribution grid – unlike the major wind farms, such as Melancthon I and II, which feed the provincial grid.
This apparently has raised some misunderstanding. Amaranth resident Paul Thompson, who has issues with the Melancthon I transformer substation, told ELGV council he feared the proposed two transformers for the Grand Valley projects would be twice as noisy as the one at the Melancthon I substation.
Mr. Pennie says, however, that his transformers would be 44 kilovolts, as opposed to the 230 kV output of the Melancthon I ones.
He says there are two identical 44-kv transformers in the village of Grand Valley but no complaints of noise.
East Luther resident Susan Wilson, who favours renewable energy, says there has been either a lack of information or misleading information from both the township council and Wind Rush. For the Jan. 8 meeting, she had submitted a list of 30 questions, but not all were answered.
She said Mr. Pennie said all the questions are answered in the Environmental Screening Report, to be released Jan. 23. In an interview, Mr. Pennie said Wednesday there hadn’t been time to review all the questions, as Ms. Wilson’s letter had arrived only the day before the meeting.
There is some confusion about “free hydro” for adjoining neighbours of the projects. Mr. Pennie denies he ever said he would deliver free electrical energy, but has agreed to offset the neighbours’ energy costs “up to a limit.” The turbines might be capable of producing electricity even when the grid has been shut down, but Mr. Pennie said the agreement is to shut down the plant when the grid goes down, so it would be impossible to plug a neighbour into the generator.
Ms. Wilson says that’s also misleading. She said Mr. Pennie offered her $100 a month, whereas her Hydro bill is double or triple that amount.
Some of the other concerns of neighbours include what might be meant by “buffer zones” with respect to setbacks. Ms. Wilson and her husband, Bruce Tait, operate a tree farm. She said she’s fearful that she wouldn’t be able to continue the tree operation if the plantation was within the “buffer zone.”
Mr. Pennie is scheduled to appear at the Jan. 23 council meeting.
By Wes Keller
10 January 2008
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