VARNA – A company that aims to build wind developments in Huron and Lambton counties visited Bluewater council Nov. 21, offering an update on two proposed developments and fielding questions from council.
The leader of a Bluewater anti-turbine group also made a delegation to council Nov. 21, claiming a number of issues are being swept under the carpet and asking council to consider longer setbacks if turbine projects go ahead.
Nicole Geneau and Derek Dudek of NextEra Energy spoke first, giving council an update on the proposed Bluewater Wind Energy Centre and the proposed Goshen Wind Energy Centre.
The Bluewater centre would be a 60-megawatt project in the municipalities of Bluewater and Huron East with about 37 wind turbines, according to Geneau.
The Goshen project has a 102-megawatt feed-in-tarrif (FIT) contract that calls for 63 turbines and would be located in the municipalities of Bluewater and South Huron.
Dudek told council NextEra will release the draft layouts for both projects in the first week of December, followed by the release of reports and public meetings.
After final public meetings, the company hopes to submit its application to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and will await a renewable energy approval (REA) decision.
Geneau told council her company anticipates construction on the Bluewater and Goshen projects in 2013, and expects the projects to be commercial before the end of that year.
An open house for the Goshen project is scheduled for Dec. 7 in Varna, while an open house for the Bluewater project is scheduled for Dec. 8 in Seaforth.
Geneau told council the number of turbines cited above is what will end up being built, but when NextEra puts forward REA documents there will be a larger number of turbines cited in the draft plan.
“What always happens is that one of the turbine locations ends up becoming not viable,” she said. “Ultimately, though, we will only build 37 locations for Bluewater and 63 for Goshen.”
Geneau told council it’s expected 400 construction jobs will be created over the course of 2013, with about $24 million in earnings for the construction teams.
She said NextEra will be looking to “hire local” for those jobs, adding the two projects will result in 14-18 permanent jobs in operations and management.
Geneau said there will be one operation centre in either the Municipality of Bluewater or South Huron, serving both the Bluewater and Goshen projects.
She also spoke of “induced jobs,” saying with 400 people working on the construction project, workers will be a “large draw” on hospitality services and local mechanics.
NextEra expects to pay $148,000 a year in taxation on the projects according to Geneau, though that number includes portions that go to the county and to the province for education.
She said about 50 per cent will go to the province for education, “which results in not a huge amount left over” for Bluewater.
Geneau said one of the ways NextEra has addressed that with its Summer Haven project in Haldimand County is working with the county to develop a community vibrancy fund.
“The amounts that we’re looking at contributing there would be about $3,500 a megawatt and $5,000 per kilometre of transmission line that ends up being located in the public right of way,” she said.
Geneau said the fund is set aside to support “activities around recreational development, tourism, sustainability projects, community projects.”
She added the fund is managed by the municipality, not by NextEra, and is an annual contribution.
Questions from council
After Dudek and Geneau’s presentation, Hay West Coun. John Gillespie suggested there’s anecdotal evidence that property values go down with the implementation of turbines, and asked what allowances NextEra has made for decreased property values.
Geneau said her company has not experienced a reduction in property values near any of its wind projects and cited studies that have not seen a reduction in property values.
Gillespie suggested if property value assessments do go down, NextEra has no plan to address that issue.
“Respectfully, that’s not our responsibility,” Geneau said, adding there is no statistical evidence done through methodical study that property values decrease.
Gillespie later noted Bluewater council has passed a motion that requests a $25,000 annual fee for each turbine erected in its municipality, and asked if Bluewater has started discussions with NextEra about how that will work.
“You have not,” Geneau said, adding she’s bringing forward a proposal to establish a community vibrancy fund that’s consistent with the proposals the company is bringing forward with municipalities across Ontario.
Stanley West Coun. George Irvin referenced bird migration studies and asked if NextEra is doing studies on tundra swans.
Geneau said tundra swans were “very high on our list of species to look at and study.”
Irvin also asked how close to Highway 21 NextEra anticipates building turbines. Dudek said he believes the closest would be in the Bluewater project – about 2 km.
Geneau said NextEra has exceeded all setbacks in a bylaw passed in 2008, though it’s not required to under the REA.
Bluewater Against Turbines (BAT) president Dave Griffiths spoke after the NextEra presentation, saying the proposed wind farms will forever change the Municipality of Bluewater’s landscape.
“The present situation has been created by corporate greed, individual greed, and a government which held on by the skin of its teeth thanks to urbanites, and they have no idea what’s about to hit them,” Griffiths told council.
He suggested Europe has “gone down this ‘turbine road’ over the past few decades and and yet we have failed to learn by their mistakes.”
Griffiths said later that after a few thousand turbines are up and running, “we’re all going to feel the effects – not being able to keep our lights on as we do today and maintain our homes at temperatures we currently enjoy.”
He claimed Denmark and many other European countries are “suffering through what they label as, ‘electrical poverty’ due to the fact they pay as much as 40 cents per (kilowatt hour) and we here in Ontario … are paying an average of eight cents.”
Griffiths suggested there are many issues being swept under the carpet, including:
* “The loss of of value of one’s nest egg – be it their farm, their home, or their cottage along the lake”;
* The “visual effect,” which he suggested is going to be critical in the “West Coast of Ontario”;
* Health effect turbines are allegedly causing;
* The loss of farm land;
* The loss of birds, bats and wildlife that has been “documented worldwide”;
* Electricity pricing; and
* “(T)he billions of dollars Ontario is in debt and will continue to pile up, due to wind turbines.
“We do not want these turbines at all,” Griffiths said. “We don’t want them ever, to be quite frank.
“If this so-called government for the people manages to shove them down our throats as they seem to be so good at, I am asking our council to please … ask for longer setbacks from your citizens.”
Griffiths suggested Bluewater is responsible for the health, safety and well-being of its residents and the community as a whole.
“Therefore I ask our council to not sell us out for a mere $25,000 per turbine,” he said. “That is a pittance for these mega-corporations and their backers.
Griffiths added if a compensation package is inevitable, he’s asking for it to be distributed to the municipality and every person affected by losing property value or having to abandon their homes due to sickness.
“We don’t need any more broken promises and we certainly don’t need our communities disrupted any more than they already are – pitting family member against family member, neighbour against neighbour, closing our schools … and causing civil unrest which will only get worse,” Griffiths said.
“Please keep us, you citizens, safe, healthy, and pave our way into a democratic, positive future where everyone will be proud to live (and) enjoy their life with their families in a community they love – the Municipality of Bluewater.”
Some in the gallery applauded after Griffiths’ presentation, but council asked no questions.