With an election looming, the Ontario Liberals have upped the ante on green energy – pushing ahead 25 wind and solar projects for Southwestern Ontario.
The projects announced Monday will produce enough electricity to power a city the size of Windsor, with wind and solar farms stretching from Woodstock to Wallaceburg and from Forest to near the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.
The more immediate jolt with the Oct. 6 election nearing is political: The ruling Liberals say green jobs will save the economy and the environment; the opposition Conservatives say the price of green energy is choking consumers and burdening business.
The London region is ground zero, with 200 solar projects, more than 180 wind turbines and a battle between farmers paid by energy companies and residents who say their health and quality of life have been harmed.
Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell, the Liberal MPP for Huron-Bruce, has been a strong proponent for wind and solar and a lightning rod for opponents.
“This announcement (will further) strengthen our rural communities by creating jobs and cleaning up the air that our families breathe,” Mitchell wrote Monday in a news release.
But in Essex County, on a farm in Harrow just 640 metres from a wind turbine, Collette McLean says it’s Ontarians and their wallets that are being taken to the cleaners.
Green energy companies are being heavily subsidized to produce power through Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program, brought in by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals in 2009, she said.
The 25 new projects are the latest to be offered contracts by the provincial government.
“It’s free money at (our) expense . . . How much longer can we put up with this as taxpayers?” she said.
The Liberals say new green energy is replacing dirty coal-fired power, but experts say that’s only half-true: Green energy reduces use of coal on high-demand days, but intermittent sources such as wind and solar can’t be used to close coal plants.
Ontario Power Generation’s Lambton station near Sarnia – its closing already twice delayed – is one of the coal-fired plants to be shut down in 2014.
The new wind and solar projects would tap into new power lines planned by Hydro One between Bruce and Milton.
Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid described the benefits in a news release: “These projects will create more good jobs for Ontario families and provide new, clean power for local communities to grow and prosper. Our efforts are transforming our electricity system, attracting investment, creating thousands of jobs and building a better future for our children and grandchildren.”
The projects will help attract about $3 billion in new private investment and will keep the province on track to create 50,000 green energy jobs by the end of 2012, the Liberals say.
But Tory energy critic John Yakabuski says most new jobs will be temporary construction work and the bill to Ontarians will be enormous. A Tory government would kill the FIT program, he said.
“Were going to insure the family budget is protected from Dalton McGuinty and his expensive energy experiments.”
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14 projects from Forest and Thedford to the Bruce Peninsula; eight west of London from Strathroy to Wallaceburg and three east of London.
19 wind farms will produce 1,018 megawatts of electricity; the largest will be in Thedford.
6 solar farms will produce 27.5 megawatts of electricity, the largest in Thorndale.
Projects will tap into a huge expansion of power lines that connect Bruce to Milton near Toronto.
FEED-IN TARIFF PRIMER
Created by Ontario’s Liberal government in 2009.
Ontarians subsidize producers of new electricity from wind, solar, biomass, biogas, landfill gas and water.
Wind producers get 13.5 cents a kilowatt; solar 53.9 cents. The average price of electricity in Ontario this year has been 3.14 cents.
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