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Durham-area wind project moving ahead

NextEra Energy Canada is moving ahead with plans to develop a wind energy farm between Durham and Priceville.

The East Durham project received approval from the Ontario Power Authority on July 4 to connect to the hydro distribution system.

Without that approval the project was on hold. Now the company can ramp up environmental assessment and technical studies, which are part of the renewable energy approval process.

Assessments will be done to see if the project will affect on cultural and heritage resources and the natural environment.

“If potential impacts are found, we will determine how changes to our design can reduce, eliminate or mitigate the potential effects,” said Laura Cantave, the director of the East Durham project.

Construction on the project could begin by next summer with startup expected in 2013.

NextEra Canada is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC in Juno Beach, Fla. The company operates approximately 85 wind turbine projects in 17 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces with more than 9,000 wind turbines that produce 8,300 megawatts of electricity. In Ontario eight company projects have received OPA approval.

The East Durham project is for a 23 megawatt generation plant that could have either 14 turbines with a rating of 1.6 megawatts each, or 10 turbines at 2.3 megawatts each, depending on the technology chosen for the project.

Each tower will be approximately 80 metres from the ground to the hub in the centre of the blades.

The East Durham project, which was started in 2006 before the advent of the Green Energy Act, is to be built on properties bounded on the north by Con. 4 in the former Glenelg Township, on the south by County Rd. 4 and the Southline, on the east by Sideroad 50 and Camp Oliver Rd. on the west.

Josie Hernandes, the company’s senior media relations spokesperson, said in a recent interview wind data gathered over the past five years shows that the project is viable and there is access to hydro transmission lines.

“There is enough wind here to make it work and we do have access to transmission lines. There is capacity or availability in that line. We know that we can design a project that’s going to comply with all of the regulations,” she said.

Hernandes said there are a number of constraints that the project must meet before it receives government approval, including include noise requirements and setbacks from houses, natural features, wetlands and watercourses.

“The Feed In Tariff contract offer (of July 4) is a contract to sell our power. We still have to get all of the approvals from the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of the Environment, the conservation authority. We’re still in the process of doing that,” Hernandes said.

Cantave predicts the next public information meeting will be held by next summer, once the studies are completed and the proposed locations for wind turbines have been determined. In the meantime, she noted, the company is willing to work with the municipality and the community.

“All of the comments that we receive whether it’s through an event that we host or an e-mail that we receive, we address them and certainly take those concerns into consideration and talk about them . . . so that the public knows that just because we’re moving ahead doesn’t mean that the public doesn’t have a say. They certainly do. We are absolutely required to respond to every question we receive,” Cantave said.

Once all of the studies are done and the project documents are completed they are made available for public viewing and comment for 60 days. At the end of that period the second public open house would be held.

“The idea is that people can look through the information and if they have any questions they can bring them to the meeting,” Hernandes said.

According to information provided by NextEra officials the East Durham project will create about 150 construction jobs and pay out $8.75 million in earnings and construction cost.

Over the first 20 years of the project it will pay an estimated $1.3 million in property taxes and $14.6 million in corporate taxes as well as $3.98 million for land rental from local property owners.

Local contributions are expected to reach a total of $27.5 million.