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Wind farm footprint revealed

An early map of one of Canada’s largest planned wind farms shows industrial turbines potentially sprouting across most of West Lincoln and parts of Pelham, Wainfleet and Haldimand.

But the “preliminary study area” released by Niagara Region Wind Corp. in advance of a July 28 community meeting stops at least 10 kilometres short of the Hamilton border.

The proposed wind farm location was recently shifted further south and east of Hamilton in response to Nav Canada concerns about how 150-metre-tall industrial turbines might affect the use of radar at the city’s airport.

Project spokesperson Randi Rahamim said the changes won’t affect the energy potential of the project, which is expected to generate up to 230 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 70,000 homes.

But Rahamim added the actual footprint of the wind farm will likely shrink before final turbine locations are announced. Just don’t ask where those sites are yet.

“We really don’t know yet,” said Rahamim, who nonetheless expects the question to be popular at the upcoming information session at Smithville District Christian High School between 5 and 8 p.m. “It’s a bit of a chicken and the egg thing … You want to consult (with the public) early, but because it’s early we really don’t have all the answers.”

The corporation did submit a list of around 30 potential turbine sites to Nav Canada earlier this year, but Rahamim said those co-ordinates are already out of date.

Even the size of the turbines is up in the air, she said, since the corporation hasn’t yet chosen a manufacturer. But project leaders did decide not to build higher than 150 metres.

Rahamim said project boosters want to hear from their future neighbours “to try and incorporate their priorities and concerns” into planning for the wind farm.

Cam Pritchard isn’t convinced that’s possible.

The West Lincoln resident helped form a local wind farm opposition group more than a year ago in response to plans for a smaller, five-turbine project slated for the border of Glanbrook and West Lincoln.

He said members are still coming to terms with the scale of the proposed Niagara Regional Wind project.

He said he objects to the “big secret” surrounding potential turbine locations, but added his beef is “more with government than with wind developers.”

“We’ve lost our democratic rights as Canadian citizens, and I feel like that’s a real crime,” said Pritchard, referring to the province’s Green Energy Act, which removed municipal councils from the decision-making process on green energy projects such as wind farms.

Pritchard said neighbours worried about their health and property values are hoping the looming provincial election will knock the wind out of both projects slated for West Lincoln.

Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has vowed to kill the heavily subsidized feed-in-tariff program that pays developers a premium for green power.

Pritchard is also hoping Nav Canada’s flight safety concerns could ground some, or even all, of the planned turbines on the horizon, which are slated to soar 40 stories into the sky.

The five-turbine project destined for an area on the edge of Glanbrook is also on Nav Canada’s radar.

Larry Dykstra, one of the founders of the HAF Wind Energy project, said project engineers are still in talks with Canada’s civil air navigation service.

But he doesn’t anticipate having to move the project’s proposed footprint, which borders Westbrook Road.

“We think there are potential solutions to all of the problems they’ve raised,” Dykstra said. “They (Nav Canada) are being very reasonable to deal with.