Buffeted in some quarters by opponents of wind farms, the Canadian Wind Energy Association says it plans to do a better job of building support for its members.
“One can’t deny there is opposition,” Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said in interview, though he added: “We have also had a number of projects go through with relatively little.”
The wind industry is awaiting the outcome of a court case in Ontario that, at the most drastic, could leave the wind industry in a regulatory limbo by wiping out the rules governing how far wind turbines must be set back from homes.
Ontario currently has about 1,400 megawatts of wind generating capacity, one-third of Canada’s total. Ten more projects are due to come on stream this year, adding 450 megawatts.
“There are three things we need to do,” said Hornung.
“The first is more effectively engaging communities, more effectively engaging municipal leaders, and working toward making sure discussions at the community level are full, frank and well informed.”
The association ran a survey last year that showed broad support for wind energy. But opponents of wind farms have also banded together, and many developments have spawned local opposition groups who argue that the developments threaten the landscape, wildlife and residents’ health.
Second, wind developers have to talk about the benefits that wind brings, Hornung says. More components for turbines are now being made in Ontario, for example.
And Hornung says that in Wolfe Island, near Kingston, where turbines have sparked controversy, revenues for the local municipality have surged because of the wind development.
Hornung says wind proponents also have to combat “misinformation.” Some opponents have said Europe is turning away from wind energy when that’s simply not true, he said.
Opponents of wind also mistakenly compare the cost of new wind energy to the cost of existing generation, such as low-cost hydro-electric energy, Hornung says.
The correct comparison is to compare wind with the cost of any new development going forward, he said, and in that case wind is much more competitive.
The wind association may have a tough fight on its hands if the Conservatives form the next Ontario government.
While the Liberals have promoted wind development with the Green Energy Act and attractive feed-in tariff rates, conservative leader Tim Hudak has been skeptical.
“We cannot continue to pursue green energy policies that unnecessarily drive up the costs for consumers and have punitive impacts on our broader economy,” Hudak said in a speech last year.
Hornung acknowledged the uncertainty that an election year creates.
“Any time you have a change there is uncertainty,” he said
“Uncertainty makes everybody nervous. It’s important to be working with all parties. We’re talking to everyone and making the case for wind energy in Ontario.”
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