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Burlington council cancels pier’s wind turbine

City council unanimously agreed Monday to drop plans for a wind turbine on the Brant Street Pier following up on a Community Services Committee recommendation made April 18.

Councillors were unmoved by arguments made by BurlingtonGreen Executive Director Amy Schnurr who argued the financial payback, missed opportunity and go forward solutions offered by the wind turbine were too good to pass up.

Schnurr said the “advancement of renewable energy and recognition of its critical role in tackling the implications of climate change is a given.”

She said using the wind turbine to produce energy for decades to come on the pier would “recoup cost and not negatively impact the environment. We are grateful paybacks were not the focus of discussion when it came to decisions about saving the Jefferson Salamander or when deciding to add bike lanes to our streets.”

She also argued the turbine would be a powerful symbol for Burlington and a “beacon” for the city as a progressive municipality. Her go-forward solutions in favour of maintaining the turbine included taking full advantage of the turbine in its place in the city’s most high-profile location and said it offered “an opportunity to help people learn about renewable energy and to reduce misconceptions about wind turbines.”

In spite of her passionate support to keep the wind turbine on the pier, councillors were not swayed to change their minds. The chief objection to keeping the turbine was that the energy produced by it could not be transferred to the Burlington Hydro electricity grid.

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison, who said on trips to the Toronto shoreline he noticed little movement by wind turbines and was concerned the Brant Street turbine would be ineffective, summed up the general council feeling.

“I think we’re moving strongly in the direction of renewable energy. I think that’s the way we want to go and I think that’s the way we have to go and I think that’s the way our constituents expect us to go but I think they expect us to spend every penny wisely to get the biggest return for it. I just don’t see this being effective use of renewable energy dollars. It’s not $100,000 (for the wind turbine), it’s $200,000-plus because if you have to get wiring to take the power up to the transformer and it can’t take it and you have to buy batteries… it’s just not efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Mayor Rick Goldring offered some perspective on the genesis of the wind turbine idea and suggested that, over a six year period, it now makes more sense to drop the idea.

“When the pier project was started back in 2006 in a very different environment we considered including that (the wind turbine).

There wasn’t the same progress that we’ve had on renewable energy, so I think the attractiveness of that particular feature in 2012 wasn’t the same as in 2006 plus the fact that this can’t connect to the grid, that was not our understanding in the very beginning, that’s a key piece.”

The Brant Street Pier, which was slated to cost $6.2 million and was started in 2006, was expected to open in 2008. Plagued by problems and delays, the pier’s budget has ballooned to $15 million and it’s expected to open in June 2013.