If Saskatchewan is known for wheat and Nova Scotia for lobster, one look at the Ontario Wind Atlas shows exactly how unique an area Chatham-Kent is.
In fact, the online tool, from the Ministry of Natural Resources, is almost like Mapquest for finding the best breeze in the province.
Colour-coded in red and pink, southwestern Ontario is one of the few prime areas in the province for wind, primarily through small pockets along Lake Erie and Lake Huron.
The best spots – at least on land – are around the Hudson Bay coast, but feature difficult terrain without any road access.
So there is no question why more than a dozen wind companies have already flocked to Chatham-Kent, with the number of proposals drastically exceeding what could realistically be constructed.
“When you look at the province as a whole, Chatham-Kent and Essex happen to be two areas that have the best wind readings,” said Ralph Pugliese, the municipality’s director of planning services. “It’s not surprising we would get this level of interest.”
Fifteen wind energy companies – either alone, or in partnership – are currently at various stages in the approval process proposing projects which would result in nearly 1,400 megawatts of capacity.
There have been various estimates that more than 700 turbines are part of these applications. However, the latest count based on company information and planning department statistics suggests approximately 594 turbines.
This isn’t the number that would be erected, as there is a grid capacity restriction in the Hydro One transmission facilities of 450 megawatts in the area between London and Windsor.
These 450 megawatts represent approximately 250 turbines which could be built in Chatham-Kent in the event all of the transmission line capacity was awarded to local projects in the upcoming request for proposals (RFP) competition – and not elsewhere in Ontario.
“The chances of (250 turbines) are slim,” Pugliese said.
Wind companies typically estimate the number of turbines based on the wattage they’ve been contracted to supply.
Tom Storey, of Storey Samways Planning, said these figures constantly fluctuate as the process unfolds.
“They’ve got to line up the property to start with, then they find out their constraints,” he said.
Right now, only two companies have received municipal approval.
Kruger is currently building its 44-turbine project at Port Alma, while Gengrowth had four projects approved for Dover, Harwich, Howard and Tilbury East, with a total of 20 turbines.
With various Ontario jurisdictions also involved with wind projects, Pugliese said municipalities have much to teach each other.
“The advent of wind energy has added yet another dimension to the planning landscape,” he said. “There are different issues associated with wind energy. We’re learning along the way.”
In April, councillors voted for staff to create a report on the potential proliferation of wind turbines and ways to mitigate the impact.
This report would come before the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) proceeds with its third round of RFPs.
Tim Taylor, OPA spokesman, said the draft RFP for renewable energy supply (RES III) is scheduled for release this month and involves approximately 500 megawatts.
“Around the end of the year, given our normal process, there would be some successful projects announced,” he said.
To view the MNR wind atlas, visit www.ontariowindatlas.ca.
By Trevor Terfloth
7 June 2008
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