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Turbine open house shows undercurrent of hostility

The early crowd at the Dufferin Wind Power/Farm Owned Power (Melancthon)’s first public information session Monday appeared more intent on learning about the proposal than criticizing it, but an undercurrent of opposition nonetheless appeared evident.

Dufferin Wind Power Inc., which owns 70% of the proposed project, is in turn owned by Longyuan Power Group Corp. Ltd. of China.

Farm Owned Power (Melancthon) Ltd. is, more accurately, 401 Energy/ Farm Owned Power. 401 was the original proponent, and it continues to hold a 49% interest in 30% of the project.

If approved, the project would have 49 turbines with a combined nameplate capacity of 100 megawatts – 31 of 1.62 MW, and 18 of 2.75 MW of nameplate capacity.

Given the assessment cap of $40,000 per megawatt capacity, the project would generate at least $4 million of new industrial assessment for Melancthon.

China Longyuan is reported to be the largest wind energy developer in Asia, as well as the most profitable. Its purchase of the controlling interest in the proposed wind farm here is its first wind farm investment outside China.

In a report on a survey carried out on attitudes toward renewable energy in southern Germany at Nossen and Zschadra, Fabian David Musall and Onno Kuik say the structure of Dufferin Wind/Farm Owned Power differs from community projects in other parts of the world where the locally owned developments are favoured over the corporate ones.

Opponents of the local project suggest it isn’t truly farm-owned because of the corporate structure. They are opposing it on that basis as well as on their opposition to turbines generally.

Melancthon Township Council is also in opposition but for different reasons. It simply feels that the township already has more than its share of turbines, and is anxious to refer any new proposals to municipalities that don’t have any but would like some.

In a letter to Energy Minister Brad Duguid, Melancthon Mayor Bill Hill says his township already has 111 turbines and, in addition, there are seven in the Plateau project and, as well, the 100 MW Dufferin Wind (the 49-turbine proposal) in process.

“It is not my intention to speak for our neighbours but members of our council were in attendance at the Ministers Forum at the recent AMO Conference in London and wanted me to pursue a comment made by you during that session.

“You stated that there were many communities in Ontario that contact your Ministry because they are interested in getting into the renewable energy business and would welcome turbines.

“It would be appreciated if you or your senior staff could forward the names of those communities to our CAO Denise Holmes. We would be happy to provide them to people who continually approach our Municipality,” Mayor Hill wrote.

He goes on to say that Melancthon Township feels it has “contributed enough to your government’s initiative.”

Meantime, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is heartened by a RE/MAX farm market report that had found property prices rising in agricultural areas.

“It is promising to hear that the value of agricultural property has increased in most regions of Ontario, especially in areas like Chatham-Kent and Windsor-Essex where wind energy has also enjoyed significant growth over the past few years,” said Chris Forrest, vice-president of communications with CanWEA.

“This would seem to run contrary to claims made by opponents that wind energy has decreased property values. Chatham-Kent, for example, has enjoyed a significant increase in farm land value in 2011 while also seeing several new wind farms come online.”