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Gunn’s Hill gets FIT contract

NORWICH – Prowind Canada Inc. has been offered a Feed-in Tariff (FIT) contract for its proposed 10-turbine wind farm on Gunn’s Hill Road in Norwich Township.

The wind energy company received the offer Monday as part of a group of 25 projects given FIT contracts that will tie into the transmission line running from the Bruce nuclear power plant to Milton. The transmission line upgrades will provide the grid capacity needed to take the electricity the project’s 10 turbines would generate. The line upgrades should be complete by the end of 2012.

Prowind’s Juan Anderson said the FIT contract would be a significant boost to helping the Gunn’s Hill project reach reality. With the contract offer, Prowind is now moving to schedule at least one more public-consultation meeting as required under the provincial approval process.

The Gunn’s Hill Road project has been in stasis awaiting a FIT contract, as Prowind didn’t want to submit its renewable energy approval application until it was sure it would get a contract from the Ontario Power Authority.

“This puts us in a position to continue with our application,” Anderson said. “Our revised project documents weren’t released because we’ve been awaiting a FIT contract.”

Anderson said those documents would be released prior to the consultation meeting, after which a so-called consolidation report would be written and the formal renewable energy approval documents submitted to the province. He said the company is now proposing to use a newer-generation of the turbines it had wanted to use, which he said are quieter and produce more electricity.

The 10 turbines would also tie into the grid at a different location, as the company is now proposing to tie into a higher-voltage line that runs west of Woodstock.

There has been strong local opposition to this project from neighbouring property owners, concerned the health impacts of these wind turbines on humans and livestock have not been adequately studied.

They have turned to the Township of Norwich for support on these concerns, and council has been an ally in their attempts to push for these studies and this information to be available. As municipalities are limited to commenting as part of the provincial renewable energy project approval process, Norwich Mayor Donald Doan said there was little more the township could do to help block the project.

One particular concern is the distance between turbines and the nearest homes and livestock barns and pastures. In current regulations, a turbine need only be 500 metres away from the nearest residence, which opponents contest is too close.

“We’re trying to make sure accurate information is available to everyone,” Doan said Monday afternoon. “Council’s – and my – concern is over the setbacks. Are they proper setbacks? Looking at the numbers being used in Europe and the United States, they’ve moved beyond these setbacks.

“Why aren’t we using their most up-to-date information? Why not use their current (setback) figures? It doesn’t make sense.”

The Prowind offer is the largest FIT contract to be awarded to date in Oxford. The first significant one was a 10-megawatt solar farm between Ingersoll and Beachville awarded over a year ago.