Revisions to a proposed Wellington County policy on wind turbines met with some questions from residents at a public meeting at the Arthur arena Tuesday evening.
About 40 people, staff and politicians attended the meeting to voice their opinions of the policy drafted by county planning staff.
The meeting came a week after a public meeting to introduce the draft policy was held. Ward 3 councillor Walter Trachsel, chair of the county planning committee, chaired the meeting. More public input is being sought as the plan is expected to be dealt with at the committee level again on June 12, before possibly going on to county council for consideration.
Several projects are proposed for Wellington County and Wellington North Township. Among the largest proposed locally is the Arthur Wind Farm Project by Schneider Power Inc. just north east of the village. The project would have five wind turbines generating up to 10 megawatts of power.
The Schneider proposal has been before Wellington North Council which is waiting for the county to approve its new policy before dealing with the Arthur Wind Park plan.
Mayor Mike Broomhead said township council wants to see what the county policy will include before a rezoning proposal is considered.
“There’s a lot more to it, but we really need the county,” the mayor said after Tuesday evening’s meeting.
Once approved at the county level the turbine policy would be included in the Official Plan.
The goal of the county policy is to recognize the need for increased energy supply and provide regulations governing construction of such facilities.
The county recognizes the need for energy from sustainable sources and Wellington North has been found to be a good location for wind for turbines.
The objectives of the proposed county policy are to provide for the orderly and compatible development of wind energy systems, ensure a coordinated, integrated and comprehensive approach to wind energy development, identify areas where turbines would be allowed, and establish criteria and regulations.
In it draft policy the county has identified three types of turbine projects – micro systems generating three kilowatts of power or less, small scale systems generating from three to 100 kilowatts and large systems of 100 kilowatts or more.
The policy also includes requirements for where turbines could be located, what planning approvals would be needed and what local councils would be involved in when it comes to approvals.
Some of the criteria that would have to be considered for larger developments would include environmental
studies, engineering studies, bird migration and access to public roads for turbine tower maintenance and its impact on agricultural land.
Senior county planner Mark Paoli said the planning committee will consider issues raised at the meeting.
“We need to look at all the impacts,” the planner said, referring to regulations needed on the different three turbine generating sizes in the draft policy.
Senior planner Gary Cousins also noted the turbine policy doesn’t deal with potential other renewable resource generation such as solar power or biogas.
He was answering a question asked by John Northcote, who generates solar power on his property east of Arthur.
Northcote raised a number of issues, including connection to transmission lines, setbacks from county or township roads of power lines from turbine development to allow for small and big generation projects to move ahead and whether building permits should be required for all three types.
The draft policy would not require a building permit for a small scale system.
Paul Day of Mapleton, who belongs to a group interested in planting some four million trees in that township, voiced concern the policy didn’t specifically state as one of its goals to protect agricultural land.
“Our main goal is to maintain the long-term viability of sustainable agriculture,” Day said. “I think this (draft policy) is a little weak.”
County planning committee member Lou Maieron said the committee was attempting to strike a balance between concerns raised and the need for renewable energy.
“We don’t want to put in too many restrictions and we want to encourage people who want to look at alternative energy,” he said.
Northcote supported the committee and its work.
“It’s a good plan,” he said. “I think it’s raised some interesting questions you’ll have to review.”
Wayne Baker said the policy should include county regulations on turbine tower height and how they are constructed.
Trachsel said county residents are encouraged to submit questions in writing prior to the planning committee meeting on June 12.
“We’re just trying to get it right,” he said of the process.
By Kris Svela
30 May 2008