While a majority of Canadians favour wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy generation, East Garafraxa Council is taking a hard line on local developmental control – and has gone on record as seeking setbacks that would effectively preclude any turbine construction.
Oddly enough, the Township has never opposed wind farm developments. But two years ago it had commissioned a study into how such could proceed with the least impact on residents. More recently, Mayor Allen Taylor came away from an AMO convention with the knowledge that the study means nothing to the provincial government.
The township’s study, which had been completed in full consultation with residents, was adopted as Official Plan Amendment (OPA) No. 3, which might have meant that Ontario Municipal Board hearings such as the one in Amaranth would never happen in East Gary provided that wind farm proponents were in compliance.
But, the mayor notes in [a] letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty, the OPA has never been approved by the province. Instead, the province has adopted the Green Energy Act, which effectively takes away any authority the municipalities might have over renewable energy developments, including wind farms.
The Act proscribes setbacks of 550 metres from residences – an increase from a previously accepted norm of 400-450. But township council was a bit taken aback when Energy Minister Brad Duguid was reported to have asked for a 5,000-metre (5 km) setback from bathing beaches for offshore turbines.
“Council would support the same setback to the proposed off-shore turbines, for turbines on shore, and suggest that Minister Duguid consider the concerns of more than the ‘people who were concerned that if they go to the beach, they could be looking up at a huge wind turbine’,” the letter to the premier says.
Mayor Taylor says he discussed the setbacks and the township’s lack of control over turbines that would extend into East Gary from the Belwood Wind Farm with Minister Duguid. In an interview, he quoted the minister as responding, simply, “Get used to it.”
Getting used to it might be good advice if the Green Energy Act remains in force. Canada is being viewed as being among the leaders in new wind farm development, and it appears Ontario is leading the pack.
In the most recent accounts of development, Siemens Canada has inked a deal with Samsung C & T to supply up to 600 megawatts of wind turbines, and plans to build Ontario’s first blade factory.
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