Some Grey Highlands councillors and residents were disappointed at how unprepared representatives of a wind energy development project were when they appeared before council earlier this week.
Representatives of Natenco – a wind energy consultant firm and the shareholders of Flesherton Wind Energy (Silver Springs) refused to disclose the identity of the owners of the project during a special council meeting held on Monday.
“There is no relevance to who the owners are. It’s not relevant,” said Ken Zuckerman, a spokesman for the owners in answer to a question by Coun. Lynn Silverton.
That answer brought a gasp from three dozen people who packed the council chamber.
“I don’t know why they had a problem with telling me who the owner of the project is. That very statement at the beginning made me very wary of everything else they said,” said Silverton later during an interview.
Grey Highlands resident Donna Close was incensed at the refusal of the owners of the project to attend the meeting at the request of the council and then have their representatives refuse to cooperate.
“It’s incredibly insulting. Of course it’s relevant. Who is going to be financially responsible for this project? Ownership is relevant. . . the proponents were supposed to come to this meeting. We’ve got people who showed up that don’t know the answers. Why once more do we have the hired guns. They are the consultants. Why aren’t the owners here? They are the ones I want to see face to face,” said Close, whose property is called a receptor which reflects its near proximity to a turbine.
Gerry Weinberg was offended by Zuckerman’s refusal to answer Silverton’s question.
“I think it was terribly insulting and I don’t think they should be allowed to get away with that kind of comment. If they are trying to pretend to be dealing in good faith with the public and council, surely someone in authority should be getting a better answer than that, “ Weinberg said.
Things got worse when Natenco representatives failed to produce up to date information about the project. The map they circulated of the project to be located east of Lake Eugenia showed five wind turbine sites but the latest plans call for only four turbines. The exact location of the new sites couldn’t be confirmed and the roads on which they are located was unclear. Zuckerman promised a newer map would come later.
That annoyed Coun. Paul Allen who chaired the meeting.
“You are changing things on the fly. We don’t we have a map that’s up to date? It should have been provided for this morning not at some future meeting,” he said.
Company spokesperson Andrea Kausel told council that because planning for the Silver Springs project was undertaken prior to the approval of the Green Energy Act in late 2009 there was no requirement to hold public meetings.
That touched off a round of debate with councillors who insisted that the public was entitled to better information about the project and insisted on public meetings.
Zuckerman said he was reluctant to attend a public meeting because of his experience in other places where hostility by opponents lead to threats being made against a member of the team. He said he only wanted to deal with the specifics of this project and wasn’t interested in dealing with the larger overarching questions that have plagued wind energy development.
“Those are macro issues. There is no right or wrong answers,” he said.
“We sat here for a couple or three hours. I don’t think we’re any smarter about anything. They had the wrong maps, they had the wrong roads, they have the wrong number of turbines . . . they are calling our health and our homes a macro issue. I don’t think so. These are very important issues to all of us,” said Lori Gillis a staunch opponent of wind turbines.
Eventually Kausel agreed to attend two public meetings – one during the week and a second one on the weekend to explain the project and answer questions posed by residents submitted ahead of time.
Chief administrative officer Dan Best suggested that residents send in their questions to Natenco ahead of time so that company representatives could come to the meetings prepared.
No date was set for the meetings expected to take place sometime next month.
The company is also managing the development of a second project —Grey Highlands Clean Energy – which is to be located along Grey Road 4 west of Singhampton.
It received approval under the province’s Feed-In Tariff agreement in April 2010. Plans are to build 10 turbines on eight properties.
Kausel said the owners of this project will abide by all of the regulations for this project that are required under the Green Energy Act.
Council had invited Grey Highlands Zero Emission People – another wind energy developer with plans for a project south of Grey County Road 4 in the Maxwell area as well as a solar energy developer SkyPower Limited which has plans to develop a 10 MW solar energy project in Grey Highlands. Neither of them showed up to Monday’s special meeting which was called to hear from renewable energy developers in the municipality.
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