Not everyone blown away
MONTREAL RIVER – Public consultation has started on the Bow Lake Wind Farm project, the kickoff to a lengthy and detailed process that could see windmills dotting the Montreal River area by 2011.
The project is a business venture headed up by five Irish businessmen and one Canadian. Vortex Wind Power spokesperson Kevin O’Donovan said the company was basically set up to develop wind farms in Ontario. The company is negotiating with the provincial government to lease 600 acres of Crown land.
“We did an assessment of the opportunities in North America, generally for wind farm development, and identified Ontario as being a place that had a lot of good potential,” O’Donovan said during a public meeting at the Captain Tilley Community Centre in Goulais. “The Ontario government has some very positive targets for renewable development. . . . Wind farms are going to play a big part in this. We felt that this was a very good location with good foundations for wind farm development in the future. That’s why Vortex was set up – to concentrate on development in this part of the province.”
O’Donovan met with about 30 area residents who attended the first of two public open houses slated to be held this year. He said response to the project has been positive, offering proof by the numerous business cards stuffed into his hands by area contractors and consultants. They hope to secure jobs once the two-year environmental assessment process is complete and the project receives the green light to proceed. If approved, construction would begin in 2010.
The total pricetag is about $25 million. Temporary jobs will be created during the construction phase leaving three permanent positions once Bow Lake is fully operational in 2011. At maximum capacity, nine 100-metre turbines will produce 10-12 megawatts of power compared to the province’s largest wind energy producer at Prince Lake, which is close to 200 megawatts. O’Donovan said talks are underway with Great Lakes Power to use some of the existing infrastructure to get the electricity to market.
“We will be trying to minimize the number of lines that have to be built,” O’Donovan said. “There are a number of substations around the wind farm and that’s why we picked the area but ultimately we will be governed by the utility saying where we can be connected.”
One challenge facing Vortex will be delivery of the massive turbines to the remote location eight kilometres east of Montreal River Harbour.
“You are going to have to upgrade some existing roads, build some new roads to get to the actual site itself,” O’Donovan said. “That’s part of any wind farm.”
Another wrench will be convincing opponents to the project that it’s sound. For local kayaking enthusiast Mike Petzold, the Bow Lake Wind Farm presents a dilemma. Petzold said he understands that compromise must be made to support efficient, green sources of energy. But he worries that his customers – who travel hundreds of miles from the U.S. Midwest to take in the natural the beauty of the Lake Superior coastline – will be disappointed to see the rugged landscape dotted with more industrial development.
“It’s a place where you find wilderness,” Petzold said. “If I was coming I think I would be disappointed to see a giant turbine. We don’t kayak out in the middle of the lake but hopefully these will be set far enough back that we won’t be able to see them from along the shoreline.”
The next step in the process to see Bow Lake Wind Farm become a reality will be the erection of a 60-metre tall tower to undertake wind testing this spring.
Environmental studies are underway to determine a windmill’s effects, if any, on wildlife, birds and bats. Archaeological studies are slated to begin this summer. Vortex is also holding meetings with Batchewana First Nation and Michipicoten First Nation, which both consider the area a traditional hunting ground. A second public open house will be held this fall.
By Tori Cook
24 February 2008
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