A majority of Prince Edward County councillors say they are ready to embrace wind energy.
Council defeated a motion Monday that would have put a freeze on several wind turbine projects proposed for the county.
The defeat allows for six companies to move forward with plans that proponents say will bring millions of dollars in revenue to the county and benefit the environment.
A “procedural interim bylaw” recommended by the planning department would have put a ban on wind turbine development for up to two years to allow the municipality more time to study their pros and cons.
But several councillors said they are tired of talking about the issue and it is time to embrace renewable energy.
Mayor Leo Finnegan and councillors Brian Marisnett, Dianne O’Brien, Sandy Latchford, Peter Mertens, Bary Turpin, Laverne Bailey, Kevin Gale, John Thompson, Ray Best, Richard Parks and Keith MacDonald voted to defeat the motion.
Only Monica Alyea and Peggy Burris voted in favour of adopting planning staff’s recommended moratorium. Lori Slik and Bev Campbell were absent.
O’Brien said renewable energy “is here to stay. We have to suck it up and make it work,” she said. “It’s time to move on.”
The vote took place after the president of Sky- Power, a company proposing a 66-wind turbine project north of Picton, threatened to move his project elsewhere if the bylaw was approved.
“I will take my turbines and put them into a part of the province that wants them,”
Kerry Adler said, during a delegation.
He also said the company was so adamant about starting the project right away it would offer to pay the county to hire independent consultants to study the proposal – a move that could cost $200,000 to $300,000.
Following the vote, Adler said the offer was made to show that Sky- Power is willing to work with the community to ensure the project can go ahead.
“I think the community needs an independent consultant and we will fund that cost because we don’t
think the community should have to bear the cost of satisfying themselves and the government of the community that the developer has done a responsible job.”
Several critics of proposed wind turbine projects spoke at the meeting, expressing concern that the turbines would ruin the rural look
of the county and impact bird and wildlife populations.
SkyPower executives drew some criticism from councillors who voted in favour of the bylaw.
Burris told Adler if he is so opposed to a bylaw that allows the county to take its time studying wind energy “then I question whether you are really committed to Prince Edward County.”
Alyea said the company should understand that the bylaw is meant to ensure the county has time to weigh both sides of the wind energy argument.
“The interim bylaw is important to me,” she said. “I don’t want war in the community.”
But Skypower officials said the company’s project is planned for the north end of the county, away from the migratory path of birds and bats.
Plus, Adler said, it will make the province less dependent on polluting coal plants and bring several million dollars to the county’s economy.
The company has entered negotiations with 50 landowners who could profit $3,000 to $4,000 a year under agreements reached for construction of wind turbines on their properties, Adler said.
“Over and above that, local businesses and the municipality can expect to receive, over the life on this project, $25 million in direct and indirect benefits. That’s in the form of taxes and local benefits to businesses.”
The defeat of the motion, Adler said, allows SkyPower to begin environmental studies for the project, a process that could take six to nine months.
Over the same period, he said, the company will do more consultation with citizens impacted by the project.
“All things going well, we could begin construction in late 2009,” he said.
The vote also allows Gilead Power, another company for which spokesmen appeared at the meeting, to move forward with its offshore project.
Paul Pede, president of the Peterborough- based company, gave council an update on the Ostrandar Point Wind Energy Park.
The company plans to erect 12 turbines on the south shore of the county by 2010. A geotechnical investigation has started, Pede said and a study to see how the turbines would affect bat and bird migration is also underway.
The company is also planning a public open house for August, but no date was given.
Other companies with proposed projects on the go in the county include Canadian Hydro, on Royal Road; Gaia Power, on Army Reserve Road; IPC Energy in the Lighthall Road to Gravelly Bay area; and Trillium Power Wind Corporation is proposing an offshore project in Lake Ontario.
By Stephen Petrick
30 July 2008
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