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Villain or hero: The answer is blowing in the wind  

Upcoming discussions over the prospect of another Algoma windfarm – this time east of Montreal River harbour – could be heated. The company proposing the project doesn’t expect any waves, but the jury remains out

Blight on the landscape? Benefit to the environment? These are likely to be just two of the many issues debated when public consultation begins on construction of a second wind farm in Algoma.

Vortex Wind Power proposes a six-to-nine turbine wind project that would cover about 600 acres of Crown land in the area east of Montreal River harbour. If approved, the Bow Lake Wind Farm would be significantly smaller than Canada’s largest – the Prince Wind Farm on the southwest edge of Sault Ste Marie, which houses 126 turbines spread over 20,000 acres.

“The site was picked because it is good, high elevation and close to the lake” says spokesperson Catherine Taylor-Hell, whose consulting company will carry out the public process for Vortex.

Little information is known about the developer – there is no website and all initial contact with the company is being done through M.K Ince and Associates Ltd., of Waterdown, Ont.

Taylor-Hell said Vortex has experience developing, constructing and operating small- and medium-sized wind farms on private property. This will be its first venture in Northern Ontario and its first lease on public land. The project has a preliminary start-up date of 2011, following a two-year environmental assessment process.

“We are not expecting any opposition, but it’s tough to say,” Taylor-Hell added. “Other consultations in Ontario have been positive.”

Vortex bid on the land, or grid, following the opening of the renewable energy agenda initiated by the provincial government. The project is designed to provide development, support economic development and ensure the sustainable managements of renewal energy on Crown land. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources will oversee initial development stages of the Bow Lake project.

“There are several EA (environmental assessment) processes at play in these projects,” says MNR spokesperson Sheila Walsh.

“The wind power proponent must satisfy all requirements of different agencies – federal and provincial – in order to obtain the various approvals”.

Vortex hopes to link up with the existing road system currently used by forestry companies, but the project may involve road upgrades and the possible construction of new routes through the area. Vortex maintains the environmental impact will be minimal due to the size of the project and the findings of completed studies.

“The bird monitoring for fall migration was carried out this fall from strategic vantage points in and around the project area,” Taylor-Hell said.

“The number of birds/species flying through the project area and their altitude were recorded.

“Stopover counts were also included to ascertain which birds stop and use the area for feeding or resting. Winter and summer monitoring will also be carried out in and around the site this year.”

It is not known what effect, if any, Bow Lake Wind Farm will have on land animals, such as moose and wolves. But trappers and hunters are expected to attend next week’s meeting.

Taylor-Hell said the company is prepared to meet the public and outline the scope of the project.

“In this case, there are already a lot of roads, so we don’t anticipate a large problem. But we are mandated to mitigate any effects,” she added.

“I want to emphasize the positive impacts of wind energy on the environment and local communities.”

Algoma University College biologist Istvan Imre agrees that, stacked against other energy-producing options, windmills are the clear choice from an environmental perspective.

“Compared to a hydroelectric dam, a windmill doesn’t change waterways or prevent fish migration. . . . Windmills have a relatively small footprint.”

The open house on the Bow Lake Wind Farm project Feb. 21 at Captain Tilley Community Centre in Goulais River from 5 to 8 p.m.

By Tori Cook

The Sault Star

16 February 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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