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Wind power meeting draws a crowd

A large crowd jammed into the Markdale Firehall to hear a presentation from a company planning two wind farms in the Municipality of Grey Highlands at a special meeting on Monday, April 30.

Grey Highlands council called a special meeting to invite alternative energy companies with ongoing projects within its borders to make a presentation to council about their plans and proposals. A total of three companies were invited to the meeting, but only one company sent representatives.

Representatives from Natenco/Windrush attended the meeting and made a presentation to council. They represent two wind farm projects in Grey Highlands. One is a four-turbine proposal near Lake Eugenia called Silver Springs. The other is a 10-turbine proposal called Grey Highlands Clean Energy located north and south of County Road 4 between Maxwell and Singhampton.

A crowd of approximately 50 ratepayers attended the meeting – many of whom carried signs or wore pins that said: “Stop the Turbines.”

The meeting proceeded cordially and the audience behaved well through its proceedings.

Despite the cordial nature of the meeting it was obvious that two very different solitudes were present in the room.

Grey Highlands councillor Paul Allen chaired the proceedings and he started the meeting by telling the wind power representatives that the majority of Grey Highlands council does not support wind energy projects within the municipality.

The wind energy representatives – Scott Kuhlke, Ken Zuckerman and Andrea Kausel explained that the two projects are working their way through the approvals process.

The project near Lake Eugenia pre-dates the Green Energy Act and therefore does not have to follow the same process as the project near Maxwell, which falls under the Green Energy Act and its public consultation requirements.

The delegation insisted that the Lake Eugenia area proposal did not require the same public process as the other project. This was a sticking point for council. Deputy Mayor Paul McQueen persistently questioned the delegation about that aspect. McQueen said the public gets upset and angry when it is not consulted about such major projects.

McQueen said it would be in the best interests of the Silver Springs project to hold a public meeting. He also pointed out that Grey Highlands passed a resolution in 2011 stating that council expects all alternative energy projects within its borders to follow the requirements of the Green Energy Act, whether they were grandfathered in or not.

McQueen’s relentless comments and questions on that point led to the delegation accepting that a public meeting about the Lake Eugenia area project would be held in the future.

There was also a tense moment during the meeting when councillor Lynn Silverton asked the delegation for information about who owns the company that is proposing the wind farms. Zuckerman told Silverton that information is not relevant to the process.

Members of council also pointed out that the delegation was telling them that the size of the Lake Eugenia project is four-turbines. However, the project’s reports and maps all show five turbines. Councillors said it would be advisable to have up-to-date information.

“It would be nice to have that in a plan to go to the public with to show what you’re proposing,” said McQueen. “A public process – in my mind – is the proper way to go,” he said

Zuckerman told council that they would like to work with the municipality on the Lake Eugenia project, but that hasn’t happened at this point.
“We’ve tried to meet with you. We can’t ask you guys to do something you don’t want to do. We understand your council is not favourable to wind, but we have to go on,” he said.

Zuckerman noted that there is a much larger debate surrounding the wind turbine issue that is far bigger than his company can handle.

“We’re a small player in a contentious industry,” said Zuckerman. “We’re a small company and we’re caught up in a very large issue,” he said.

After agreeing to hold a public meeting about the Lake Eugenia proposal the meeting turned to the 10-turbine project near Maxwell.

The ten turbines would produce 10 MW of energy and has a FIT contract with the government. It held its first public meeting in August 2010.

However, Deputy Mayor McQueen immediately pointed out that before the first official public meeting can be held the wind energy company must submit a number of documents to the municipality. McQueen asked if that had been done.

Clerk Debbie Robertson said to her knowledge the documents had not been submitted. Later in the day CAO Dan Best said municipal staff would be following up on that issue to make sure the first meeting was indeed proper.

The 10-turbine project near Maxwell is still in the middle of the study phase, with a number of reports to be submitted to the province. Maps and information about the project are available online at: greyhighlandscleanenergy.com

It was clear from some of the comments from members of council that the wind farm proposals would get a rough ride from the municipality.

“Speaking as a resident of Grey Highlands, is there ever a point where you say: ‘we should go somewhere else and leave these poor people alone?'” councillor Allen asked. “These are people who have worked all their lives to retire to a nice country home and now they’re going to be surrounded by turbines. It doesn’t make for a nice retirement,” he said.

Councillor Lynn Silverton asked the members of the delegation two simple questions.

“Have any of you lived beside a turbine? And would you?” Silverton asked.

Nobody in the delegation answered Silverton’s questions. Zuckerman said such questions weren’t fair.

“There are no right or wrong answers. We’re not trying to avoid the questions, but those are macro issues,” he said.

Silverton responded saying the people living in the areas to be affected by turbines have real life investments that are at stake.

“I think it is relevant,” she said.

After the meeting Mawell area resident Lorrie Gillies such she wasn’t impressed by what she heard.

“Our homes and our health are macro issues? I don’t think so,” she said.