City council’s support for a consortium that wants to build and install 100 wind turbines in the Wolfe Island shoals is not going over well with some island residents.
At its Tuesday meeting, council voted to endorse the new consortium, which includes the City of Hamilton and Burlington-based Windstream Energy Inc. In 2010, Windstream received a Feed-In Tariff contract from the Ontario Power Authority to build a 300-megawatt project on the shoals. It was the first offshore project in the province to get a contract.
In February, however, the province announced it would not approve any offshore wind projects and would not accept new applications until more scientific research on the industry is conducted.
The new consortium, known as the Lake Ontario Offshore Network, wants to “encourage” the government to lift the moratorium.
“I’m quite disappointed,” Wolfe Island resident Barrie Gilbert said of Kingston’s support for the consortium, which would make, assemble, stage and install the turbines for the project, located approximately 5 km off the island.
“It’s near an open lake and Main Duck Island, a national park, one of the last wilderness areas we have in the east.”
Gilbert, a wildlife scientist, is concerned about what effects the turbines would have on birds and fish.
“These (turbines) are going into the bottom of Lake Ontario,” he said. “The fishery effects are unknown. Even small blasting clears out the fish.
“The turbines are in the flyway path for many species. The effect of wind turbines on wildlife habitat is unknown. The government puts them in the worst possible places in terms of wildlife.”
Gilbert described wind energy projects as “corporate-driven and business-driven.”
“It’s a Chamber of Commerce mentality. Anything you build gets their support.
“It’s hubris and arrogance of the corporate sector. They can’t see the purpose of an ecological study. What’s a couple of hundred birds?”
Chris Brown, a Wolfe Island resident and musician and music producer, supports green energy on the island, but “I want to get it right.”
“It’s really an important issue, but this is nascent technology.”
He said the installation of 86 wind turbines on Wolfe Island was “divisive.”
“We had clandestine placements (of turbines),” he said. “There was a number of useless meetings and (Ontario Municipal Board) meetings. You know how many of the 86 turbines were moved? None.”
The motion, by Mayor Mark Gerretsen and seconded by councillor Bryan Paterson, states that among of the reasons Kingston should support the consortium is “the importance of the estimated $850 million in direct economic benefits to the members of the local wind energy supply chain and the City of Kingston.”
The city and the Kingston Economic Development Corporation will work with the City of Hamilton to facilitate and expedite the project.
“Kingston is a key market for green technology investment and jobs,” Gerretsen said in a release. “We are doing what we can to support the industry and to ensure that those investments come to the City of Kingston.”
Jeff Garrah, chief executive officer of KEDCO, said the Wolfe Island shoals project could result in 1,900 construction jobs and more than 175 full-time jobs.
“Kingston’s regional economy stands to greatly benefit from offshore wind moving ahead and KEDCO will do what it can to support (the consortium’s) efforts.”
Last month, Hamilton council gave its support to the new consortium.
“The Lake Ontario Offshore Network is being established to convey the importance of moving forward now,” said Windstream Wolfe Island Shoals president Ian Baines in a release.
“Ontario cannot afford to lose these jobs and investments to our neighbours to the south.
“We have decided to work together to encourage the provincial government to remove the roadblocks necessary to allow a pilot offshore project to proceed through the study and development process so that Ontario becomes a hub of expertise in North America.”
In October, Baines told the Globe and Mail that if the province lifts the ban soon construction on the project could begin as early as 2014. The company’s contract to supply power to the province, he told the newspaper, is still in effect.
The February moratorium resulted in the termination of the shoals project and four other applications.
The moratorium doesn’t apply to wind projects on land.
In February, then Energy Minister Brad Duguid told the Whig-Standard that unresolved environmental concerns about lake-based turbines outweighed the relatively small amount of electricity the proposed offshore projects would generate.
“Offshore freshwater wind power is brand new and it brings with it a lot of issues that have not been addressed,” Duguid told the newspaper.
Although the moratorium is still in place, Gilbert is unhappy about Kingston’s support for the project.
“The whole thing stinks,” he said. “I’m sorry to see them go ahead. I’ll fight it as hard as I can.”
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