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Three wind projects set for Bluewater area; NextEra Energy planning projects that will include over 200 turbines  

Credit:  By Cheryl Heath, www.seaforthhuronexpositor.com ~~

NextEra Energy Canada is ready to talk wind.

The Burlington-based wind-energy company is in the formative stages of starting three wind projects both within and near the Municipality of Bluewater’s borders. The first turbine is scheduled for installation in 2013.

NextEra officials report while there is the perception the projects are near the final phase, such is not the case. As it stands, the Bluewater project, which will span an area stretching to Huron East, will include 40 turbines; the Goshen project, which hugs the Goshen Line, is set to feature 70 turbines; and the Jericho Project, in the Grand Bend area, will house 93 turbines.

Project director Nicole Geneau says the company first began formulating its plan to create Bluewater projects in 2005, when it was attempting to determine which areas had the best wind resources. Geneau says the first potential wind leaseholders were approached in 2006. Though, notes Geneau, all three projects were actually started by another company, Canada Greenpower.

While there is the requisite number of leaseholders online, Geneau says the company’s first priority is to conduct the studies necessary to ensure the transition to wind energy is a smooth one. These wind farms will be the company’s first in Ontario, though it has 76 farms operating in North America, including two in Quebec, and one in Nova Scotia.

“We have been doing high-level analysis,” says Geneau. “We have a year’s worth of avian surveys.”

One of the main focuses of the avian survey, says Geneau, is the tundra swan migration pattern.

“That analysis led to project areas,” she says, noting the databases show swans hug the coastline but do not come inland. Further, she says, swans migrate during a “defined amount of time” so that if there are turbines in flight paths, they “need to determine if it can be mitigated.”

“There is another full year of surveys. That’s where we are at now,” says Geneau, who adds even after the turbines are erected, monitoring will have to continue to ensure the Ministry of Environment’s guidelines are followed. It is that policy, notes Geneau, that is the cause of some misinformation given a popular complaint of wind farm opponents is two full-time staff are on duty at Wolf Island, with the sole purpose of picking up birds killed by turbines.

As for the recent question raised at the Huron County council table with regard to emergency measures in the event an employee is facing a medical emergency while working in a cell high above the ground, Geneau says the company has practices in place and is willing to provide training to both firefighters and Emergency Services crews.

Company communications spokeswoman Jose Hernandez says the company “has actually provided equipment and training.”

“If asked, I’m sure we could talk to them about it.”

Some technical and siting aspects of the three projects are known, including the fact that no turbines will be erected west of Highway 21, as a direct result of the avian studies.

“We decided not to talk to anyone west of #21,” she says. “It just became a natural boundary.

There are other decisions yet to be made, says Geneau, including which size of turbine to place at the Bluewater, Goshen and Jericho projects. So far, company officials have viewed the 1.6, 2.3 and 2.75 GE models.

Also among the next steps for company officials are meeting with community groups.

“We’re still actively taking comments and questions,” says Geneau.

And, she adds, the company is open to presentations from those seeking a moratorium on wind development as long as the rules guiding decorum are followed.

“The time for feedback and consultation is now,” says Geneau.

While NextEra does not have a local office, company officials encourage area residents with questions to contact them via e-mail or phone. A full list of contact details can be found at www.nexteraenergy.com

Source:  By Cheryl Heath, www.seaforthhuronexpositor.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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