Six farmers – five from Tarbutt Township and one from Johnson Township – have erected a 210-foot wind-test tower to collect data over the next 12 to 15 months to determine if it is feasible to erect windmills in the area.
If it is, they would then have to purchase generators, put up windmills, and they would use the power for their own use on farming operations and then to sell any excess to the power grid. The Ontario government is paying for any excess power produced.
The six farmers are all situated along the three-phase power line that runs along Government Road, where any future power generated for sale to the province would be done. Proximity to a three-phase power line is a must to transfer power.
The six landowners, going under the name Wind Initiative Development Committee, are a break away group from the Rural Energy Alternative Development group that is looking into a number of renewable power resources in Algoma, from wind and solar to the planting of specialty crops in the thousands of acres of unused farm land within the district.
“I guess you could call us a group of impatient farmers,” says Jack Tindall, one of the six investors, adding Sault Ste. Marie MP Tony Martin has been “behind us” in the group’s effort to erect a test tower and collect data.
Other members of the group are Rob Martin, Keith Good, David Beith, Brian Reed and Ed Karhi.
Tindall said Beith and Karhi have been the “up-front men, handling the day-to-day activities, obtaining the necessary permits and doing whatever has to be done.”
The pair, Tindall said, has handled the bulk of the work since members decided to leave the Rural Energy Alternative Development group, allowing it to “pursue their own economic development plans and work with groups in the forestry field and support Sault-based research in the forestry sector.”
The six landowners wanted to concentrate specifically on wind, which also helped yield the split from REAL, which is concentrating on several different kinds of alternative energy studies.
Tarbutt Township clerk Glenn Martin, who serves as unpaid secretary-treasurer, said the group required a municipality to host it in order for it to be eligible for government funding.
“There is absolutely no cost to the township, although, potentially there is considerable benefit, if only through taxation and assessment,” he added.
The estimated cost of the wind tower test is $81,700. Martin said Federal Economic Development for Northern Ontario’s contribution is 38 per cent of eligible costs to a maximum of $25,000. And the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. has contributed 30.6 per cent of the costs to a maximum of $52,000 combined. The six landowners were responsible for putting up the balance, about $29,700.
Tindall said Tarbutt has given his group “great co-operation,” also feting Martin’s contribution.
The tower will gather data for 12 to 15 months.
“And when we get the information and all figures are studied, we sit down to see if it is financially possible to go ahead and pursue a wind power project,” Tindall said.
Martin said the next step is securing bank funding.
Tindall said his group’s goal is to help the farm community in Tarbutt Township.
“If we are told we have enough wind speed, and we decide it’s a go, then we decide whether or not to establish wind power projects on an individual basis or on a partnership scale along the three-phase power lines along and adjacent to Government Road.”
Should the project prove feasible, the six farmers will then decide if they are going to purchase wind mills and generators individually or carve out joint ventures.
“I can tell you that a generator, for this type of project, can run in the $300,000 area,” Tindall said. “And then there are the windmills. . . . The figures we might end taking to the bank will make or break our case.”
The test tower was put in place by Northern Wind Power, of North Bay. Helimax, out of Montreal, is in charge of collecting data and interpreting it.
By Tom Keenan
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