A commercial wind farm has been given the go-ahead in Amaranth Township. The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) ruled this week in favour of a proposal from Canadian Hydro Developers for 22 turbines and a second transformer station.
Hearing officer Norman Jackson, who essentially endorsed the turbines in November but withheld his order until March 10, says he believes changes to the transformer station site will reduce noise while increasing capacity.
Canadian Hydro announced plans during last month’s one-day reconvened hearing to swap an existing transformer with a quieter model and add a fourth sound barrier wall to block reflected sounds it believes may be the source of an intermittent hum that continues to frustrate nearby residents.
That plan, Jackson writes in his decision, “now meets the good planning test.”
“The board must resist the urge to become an enforcement agency when that responsibility in law rests elsewhere,” he says, referring to testimony from acoustical experts that the transformer complies with Ministry of the Environment guidelines. “The board’s function is adjudicative planning, keeping in mind the public interest. In this case, the board’s jurisdiction is limited.”
Monitoring of the new transformer will be part of the MOE processes, he notes.
“It’s no big surprise as far as I’m concerned,” Paul Thompson, who lives closest to the transformer station, says of the OMB decision. “I kind of figured I was going to end up taking my lumps.”
During the hearing, Thompson and others argued noise from the existing transformer, which handles power flow from turbines already operating in neighbouring Melancthon Township, disturbs their sleep, limits their ability to enjoy their property and is a regular annoyance.
Transformer noise has been ongoing issue
Canadian Hydro acoustical engineering consultant Steven Titus admitted under cross-examination by Thompson that if the two new transformers run at their guaranteed noise level the site will be slightly louder than it is now. However, he noted, the manufacturer’s tested noise results are significantly lower.
Those tests, Titus subsequently acknowledged, are done indoors and not under field conditions.
This will be the developer’s fourth attempt to resolve the ongoing noise issue. The first three, which included an earth berm and noise wall, failed to quell concerns.
“They were all theories that didn’t work in practice,” points out Thompson, who has filed a $1.25 million lawsuit against the developer over the existing transformer.
Representatives from Canadian Hydro couldn’t be reached for comment on the OMB decision at press time. Executive vice-president Ann Hughes previously told The Banner her company is planning a defence to Thompson’s lawsuit.
The Amaranth turbines are part of the Melancthon II Wind Project, which includes a total of 88 turbines. The OMB previously approved the 66 new Melancthon turbines, which are expected to be up and running later this year.
By Richard Vivian
Banner Staff Writer
14 March 2008
[Note: the original text on the Banner’s website contained additional material which is not relevant to this story. The text above has been emended to correct this error. -NWW]
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