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Two-year process still in the way of Goulais wind-farm  

Credit:  By DARREN TAYLOR SPECIAL TO SAULT THIS WEEK, www.saultthisweek.com 17 November 2010 ~~

Residents of the Sault and Algoma region concerned about the proposed Goulais wind power project can be assured it’s not yet a done deal.

That should come as a bit of relief to all those in Algoma District who don’t like wind turbines, whether it be for environmental, health or politically motivated reasons.

Or, whether they just don’t like their appearance.

Or, because renewable energy like wind power costs more.

Confederation Power wants to build 10 to 16 wind turbines in the area approximately 20 kilometres north of the Sault in Phase I of the project, to be operational by 2013, and another six to nine turbines in Phase II.

Phase I would generate 25 MW of power, Phase II would generate 15 MW, for a combined output of 40 MW of electricity for the provincial grid.

At a public forum hosted by Sault MP Tony Martin and Save Ontario’s Algoma Region (SOAR) at Alexander Henry High School Nov. 4, SOAR’s Gillan Richards urged those who oppose all windfarm development in Algoma for environmental, health and political reasons to “take action and be heard,” as none of the many projects proposed for Algoma by various companies have received final approval from the province.

Confederation Power’s senior vice-president of development David Eva, speaking from his Toronto office, confirmed “We’re still at the stage of working with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for them to decide if it’s OK for us to even continue investigating these lands.

“There are no permits to build anything yet… we have to go through the full renewable energy approval process, which is a lot of environmental investigation, field work, engineering work, a great deal of public consultation with the public and other stakeholders, First Nations, local government… generally a two year process.

“Only at the end of that would there be issued a permit that would allow us to go and build the facility.

“Approval is a 15-step process. We’re at Step 4, which is an application to study these lands, the effect our project would have on birds, bats, vegetation, wildlife, plants, noise pollution, visual impacts.”

“We will address questions about our particular project, and as we conduct work out in the field and put together project development plans, we will be sharing that with the public. There will be a great, great degree of information available on our website ( www.confedpower.com).

“We will be spending the next year to 18 months on completing our field work, design work, putting together documents for review by the public and the ministries, and assuming that all goes according to plan, we see the first phase up and running by early 2013. We have two phases for this project and no plans to expand our project beyond the stated 40 megawatts.”

Algoma Highlands Conservancy board member Dean Thompson told Sault This Week over the weekend “We’re generally opposed to the industrialization of what we perceive to be pristine environment in that area, but our primary concern with regard to windfarm development would be its impact on birds, bats and other wildlife…birds, bats and all wildlife are all integral [to the environment]. Different species of birds have different value, while bats are crucial to insect control.”

Thompson said wind-farms will also have a negative impact on eco-tourism in the area.

“I think its true they [windfarms and outdoor sports and recreation] can co-exist, but I think it would be fair to say most people would say it’s aesthetically displeasing…as a kayaker and cross-country skier, I definitely prefer to see an area that is not affected by large numbers of wind turbines, and I speak from experience because I live near the Prince Wind Farm near Gros Cap.”

“We have strongly recommended a moratorium on all further windfarm development until there’s a comprehensive environmental assessment on the effect on wildlife. To date there hasn’t been a study like that, certainly not one dealing with the cumulative effects from all windfarms in Ontario.

“At the Wolfe Island windfarm near Kingston, more than 300 bird and bat kills per month have been documented per month in the first six months of operation… and that facility has only 83 turbines compared to the existing 126 turbines at Prince Township. The study was done by consultants for the company that runs that facility, Canadian Hydro Developers.”

For those more concerned about higher hydro bills than the environment or outdoor sports, literature has shown that wind and solar energy will cost consumers more.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association has acknowledged Ontario power rates are going up but has tried to cushion the blow by stating the wind energy industry creates not only power but jobs, pointing to Quebec’s ambitious plan to create 7,000 jobs in the manufacturing, construction and operations of wind installations in that province by 2015.

Confederation Power’s David Eva told Sault This Week that, “Windpower is 13.5 cents a kilowatt hour, hydro’s slightly less, solar is the one that’s much, much higher.”

“All new sources of energy cost more. If you wanted to build a new gas plant or hydro plant today, it’s going to require a certain price for power to justify building the plant in the first place. “The way the Ontario Power Authority has approached it is to try and find the right balance between setting rates high enough where developers are actually willing to come in and build renewable energy projects [like wind turbine farms and solar farms], and rates low enough for Ontario energy consumers to afford.

“They’ve set different rates for different technologies, to try and get that balance of a fair rate of return while minimizing costs to consumers.”

“A small amount of high-priced power won’t have a large impact on the overall power system.”

From the grassroots right up to Queen’s Park, renewable energy looks poised to become a hot issue in next year’s provincial election campaign.

Renewable energy, including windfarm projects, form part of the 2009 Green Energy Act passed by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives called for a moratorium on wind energy development in the province in April, with PC leader Tim Hudak stating “green energy policies unnecessarily drive up the cost for consumers and have punitive results on our broader economy.”

Source:  By DARREN TAYLOR SPECIAL TO SAULT THIS WEEK, www.saultthisweek.com 17 November 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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