In an effort to provide more environmentally friendly energy in the province of Ontario, Renewable Energy Systems Canada has announced plans to develop wind farm projects in both the Whitney and Denbigh area.
The proposed location for the Denbigh site is about one kilometer northwest of the town. It will consume approximately 25 kilometers of land for the wind turbines. The perimeter covers land in Addington Highlands, Greater Madawaska and the Township of Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan.
Whitney’s proposed site is located approximately six kilometers northeast of the area, potentially taking up 20 kilometers of space in the Township of South Algonquin.
The proposed sites are supposed to generate between 100 to 130 megawatts of energy via the 40 to 80 wind turbines that will be erected in the designated territory.
Stephen Cookson, Project Manager of Renewable Energy Systems Canada, says that this is an exciting time for the company as they move into more wind turbine development in Ontario. The company has constructed wind energy sources across the world for 25 years, and has directed some focus on Northern Ontario to develop more sustainable energy options.
“It is very exciting,” says Cookson, who says that more opportunity for wind energy is being opened up in Ontario through the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) who is now opening tenders for new wind energy projects.
“The OPA has put out an opening for proposals for wind energy systems, so we are working towards getting one of these tenders,” says Cookson.
If accepted, the OPA would fund the projects and purchase the energy produced from these farms for provincial use, springing the projects in Whitney and Denbigh into top priority.
Prior to construction, Cookson says that the areas are carefully looked at from an environmental prospective to see the potential impact of these wind turbine farms will be to the area.
According to Helen Kwan, Project Coordinator for Jacques Whitford Limited, the company in charge of assessing the Whitney and Denbigh plots, a number of different factors are looked at when assessing the area.
“We look at everything from terrestrial characteristics, socioeconomic impacts and other land uses based on potential impacts of the development of the land,” says Kwan.
One of the main focuses of their environmental review will be the complete review of the ecological footprint left in the forests by the new development. Though each site plan is different, Kwan suggests that the footprint left by these projects is minimal.
Cookson has also began a review of public opinion from people in the areas surrounding the farms, opening the floor to any questions, comments or concerns with the plans.
The Councils of South Algonquin and Addington Highlands have been given a presentation about the plans for turbine farms from Renewable Energy Systems Canada. And public forums are currently in the works so the people of the areas close to the farms can have their questions answered.
Cookson says that the early reactions have been supportive of the project, but no construction will begin until the public is informed of the details.
“There are still a lot of questions and worries surrounding the project, but hopefully we can answer those at the public meetings,” says Cookson.
Though wind energy offers a positive alternative to hydro, there are some environmental concerns that some in the community fear will have a negative impact on the forests and its wildlife.
Bill O’Borne, a member of the Bancroft Field Naturalists, has been watching the bird population in the area decrease over the past couple of years. He worries what this might do to potentially spread this decline of the bird population.
“If there is any clear cutting that is involved with these projects, hundreds of birds existence are threatened,” said O’Borne. “And that is not even factoring in what would happen to the mammals in those forests as well.”
But, for O’Borne, the benefit needs to go beyond the environment. He worries that the local community and businesses will be left out of the mix, resulting in thousands of dollars being spent in the area with no benefit to the community.
“It is just never good to see government or big business dollars being spent on local land, and not benefiting the local workers and businesses,” said O’Borne.
Construction on the two wind turbine farms will not take place until more information is received from the OPA in regards to the funding and tenders.
Public meetings about the farms will commence soon according to Cookson, who is expecting a response from the OPA by the fall.
By Dan Schell
2 July 2008