With 66 turbines now and plans for another 18, Ontario’s $200 million Erie Shores Wind Farm could be a sign of things to come for the Great Lakes region.
Located on the outskirts of a tiny fishing village called Port Burwell, the 99-megawatt wind farm is actually a collection of dedicated easements from traditional agricultural farms across a 19-mile region.
Forty-two landowners have entered into 20-year lease agreements, with a 20-year option to renew.
Some have multiple turbines on their sites.
Each parcel is no closer than 1 mile and no greater than 2 miles from Lake Erie’s northern shoreline. The wind farm collectively produces enough electricity for 25,000 homes, according to the Ontario Ministry of Energy.
The project was developed by AIM PowerGen Corp. of Toronto, a subsidiary of the United Kingdom’s Renewable Energy Generation Ltd.
“It certainly has performed to our expectations,” Sarah Borg-Olivier, who is an investment relations officer for Macquarie Power & Infrastructure Income Fund, the wind farm’s owner.
Each of the turbines has a generating capacity of 1.5 megawatts. That’s slightly less than the four AMP-Ohio turbines west of Bowling Green, each of which has a generating capacity of 1.7 megawatts.
To the layman, they all look the same: towering, commercial-scale turbines jutting into the sky, each about the height of a 25-story building.
Nobody of course knows how either country’s landscape will be transformed during the next 20 years.
But there’s one sure bet: Change is coming now that gas prices have surpassed the $4-a-gallon mark, with costs for heating and air conditioning on the rise, and world leaders calling for reductions in greenhouse gases that contribute to the Earth’s warming climate.
Coal, nuclear, hydro, or wind?
The debate continues on the U.S. side of Lake Erie over what the new energy mix should look like.
In Canada, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s administration has shown a strong preference for hydroelectric power and wind power.
Jennifer Keyes, who is the manager of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ renewable energy section, said the premier has called for Ontario’s five coal-fired power plants to be phased out by 2014.
That’s being done, she said, to help establish the province as a Great Lakes leader for reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – although it’s unclear where all of the electricity will come from to replace those mothballed stations.
“This is an industry we want in Ontario,” Ms. Keyes said, referring to wind power. “We think it’s a viable one.”
The McGuinty administration has set a goal of doubling its output of renewable energy by 2025 while promoting more conservation.
“With that doubling, we’ll see the phaseout of coal,” Ms. Keyes said.
But Gail Krantzberg, a former Canadian chair of the International Joint Commission who’s now director of McMaster University’s Center for Engineering and Public Policy, said the McGuinty administration may have to buy dirty energy produced by coal-fired power plants in the Ohio Valley if it can’t find enough viable ways to make up the difference.
Wind, by its nature, can only be a supplemental source of power because it takes steady breezes to spin the turbine blades.
Yet when those blades turn, there’s clean energy being produced.
Port Burwell, seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, may seem an unlikely hub for such activity.
Niagara Falls, which is the closest metropolitan area, is more than a two-hour drive away.
For Jim Wilgar, AIM PowerGen Corp.’s site consultant, it’s an exciting project. Construction began in 2005. The project went online in July, 2006.
Wind power is the fastest-growing form of energy in the United States, though it commands only about 1 percent of the U.S. energy market.
The energy source has generated a lot of interest in the Great Lakes region, not only because of the steady winds coming off the lakes but also because of its environmental benefits.
But there’s a downside: the effect on birds, bats, and other avian creatures, especially those that use the lakes region as a migratory flyway. Studies are under way to determine the extent of impact.
More than 120 of the region’s policymakers and business leaders recently met in Buffalo for the first annual Great Lakes Wind Collaborative, an initiative established in 2007.
“I am confident this Great Lakes initiative will be a world leader as our binational region seeks to usher in a new era of environmental consciousness,” New York Gov. David A. Paterson said.
The U.S. Department of Energy claims wind has the potential to produce $80 billion in economic activity and 300,000 jobs for the Great Lakes region.
“The potential for wind power generation in the Great Lakes region is enormous,” Larry Flowers, national technical director of the Energy Department’s Wind Powering America program, said.
By Tom Henry
Blade Staff Writer
27 May 2008
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