ROSENEATH – The proponents of the Clean Breeze Wind Park say they are open to working with residents to address their concerns.
Andrea McDowell, Environmental Assessment Manager for M.K. Ince and Associates Ltd., said the company will consider any impact on what the population may experience and any threats to archeology or natural heritage. M.K. Ince and Associates Ltd. were hired as consultants by Natenko LLC, the financial power behind the proposed wind farm.
“It depends on the concern, but we are open to reasonable change,” Ms. McDowell said.
The proposed wind farm location is bordered by Wilson Drive east to County Rd. 23, and Cranberry Lake Road north to Centreton Road. The Clean Breeze Wind Farm would include five turbines capable of generating upwards of 12.5 megawatts of electricity. M.K. Ince and Associates Ltd. hope to start construction next fall.
“Right now we are reliant of a form of electricity generation that kills hundreds of Ontarians every year, that’s coal,” Ms. McDowell said. “We absolutely need to shut that down. We need to replace it with clean energy.”
M.K. Ince and Associates Ltd. held the first of two open houses to discuss the wind farm project at the Alnwick Civic Centre on Friday, Nov. 26. Ontario’s Green Energy Act requires two open houses be held before the company is granted approval.
The Clean Breeze Wind Farm is Natenko’s first project in Canada. The company has several similar projects in Germany that generate upwards of 500 megawatts.
The Green Energy Act requires wind turbines be set back 550 metres from homes and businesses.
Natenko vice president Larissa Murray said the company ‘goes to great lengths’ to study the potential risks turbines may have on human and animal health. Ms. Murray agreed the company is willing to make reasonable changes to the project.
“We are willing in any way, shape or form to consent to what is reasonable and if it’s feasible to the project,” she said.
What’s feasible for the project may not be feasible for the children who live in Falconhurst, a private treatment centre for abused girls located near the proposed wind warm, said Falconhurst program director Andrea Smith.
“Something like wind turbines surrounding our property would not be a good environment,” Ms. Smith said. “It would completely devastate our business.”
Ms. Smith said the children who live at Falconhurst are unable to deal with excessive sound or disturbance. “The effect it would have on the general population would be ten times that for our population,” she said. Gwyer Moore, spokesperson for the Alliance for the Protection of the Northumberland Hills, said a 550 metre setback requirement is not acceptable for residents living near the proposed project.
“It will have a significant effect on property values in the surrounding areas,” Mr. Moore said. “People have stopped plans to build houses once they heard wind turbines might be coming to the area.”
Mr. Moore believes more than one kilometre is an acceptable buffer zone between the turbines and homes.
“At that stage it probably has a significantly less effect on property values,” he said.
Security was intense during the open house. An OPP cruiser was parked in front of the Civic Centre and a team of security guards was hired by the consulting firm. Residents were also asked to sign in before entering the meeting. M.K. Ince and Associates also videotaped the meeting. A sign outside of the open house informed residents they would be videotaped and should leave if they are not comfortable being filmed.
“This company has tried to use intimidation tactics in the past,” Mr. Moore said.
Ms. McDowell said the video is used to document the meeting to prepare a report to the Ministry of Environment. She added the video helps in case the meeting ‘gets out of hand.’
“We have had property destroyed and people threatened,” Ms. McDowell said. “We like to have a record in case things get excitable.”
The Alliance for the Protection of the Northumberland Hills plans to battle the proposed wind farm on every front possible. Mr. Moore said they will challenge the proposals, address the issue politically and fight local wind farms on an individual level.
“It’s absolutely a winnable fight,” Mr. Moore said.