About 300 people packed the county council chamber for a review of a consultant’s final draft of a wind power and renewable energy planning study, May 7.
“The turnout shows it is an important issue,” said Ray Duhamel, manager of planning services with the Jones Consulting Group, which has been working with the county to formulate planning policies for wind power and renewable energy projects.
Duhamel outlined a new mapping of the county, which designated four management areas for wind power developments, including a no-build zone from the lakeshore inland 200 metres. He said large-scale wind power developments must prove they will not hinder “expansion opportunities” in settlement areas over a 20-year period.
“There will be a mechanism to work out the issues as they arise,” he said.
County councillors were given the first opportunity to comment and ask questions about the revised study recommendations.
Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Bob Sylvester expressed concerns that the policy on protecting settlement areas may hurt plans for large-scale wind-power installations in Lakeshore that would be situated close to the Essex border.
“It is unlikely the Town of Essex will expand into Lakeshore,” said Sylvester, stressing that Essex would need to annex a portion of Lakeshore in order to plan settlement to the north.
?Sylvester also asked if power lines from wind power developments could be buried. On a visit to other wind power sites, Sylvester said he noticed “three sets of poles…just a mass of poles.”
Duhamel noted that the power grid in Essex County does not have enough capacity for every wind power and renewable energy project.
In the public forum, concerns over the impact on people and property by wind power development outweighed most other concerns, including bird migration.
Amherstburg lawyer Anthony Leardi called on county council to consider prohibiting the development of large wind turbines in favour of renewable energy systems that are less controversial and more compatible to the county. If allowed, he said turbines should be limited to 100 feet in height, because they would be visible for great distances across “flat” Essex County.
Leardi said the county should also be prepared to decommission turbines should any of the wind power companies go bankrupt.
“Private companies can go bankrupt,” Leardi said. “You will be left with these turbines sticking up in the sky and tons of concrete in the ground.”
Colette McLean, a Colchester South resident who will be close to the proposed 24-turbine Harrow Wind Project, stressed that Essex County is more densely populated than most existing wind power developed areas.
“Why is it that, as a rural resident, my property, or even my potential safety, is not afforded the same criteria as a railcar or vehicle in this county?” asked McLean.
“Considering the recent events with turbine collapses, potential ice throw and other turbine incidents, it is the duty of this county council to address this issue with a full review on the required distances to avoid these risks, rather than continually relying on wind proponents’ criteria.”
County council is expected to deal with the renewable energy planning policy at their May 21 meeting.
By Andy Comber
16 May 2008
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