Wind farm developers see the scenic Bruce Peninsula as an ideal locale for industrial turbines.
At least two companies have announced plans to erect some 200 turbines throughout the northern stretch of Bruce County.
“We have always believed that the Bruce Peninsula is a good wind area to add to the Ontario grid and we believe that is why our project is still on track,” said Daniel LeBlanc, project director for Preneal Canada, which hopes to build up to 75 turbines in Northern Bruce Peninsula.
The company says it has already approached landowners and signed agreements to develop a wind farm of up to 200 megawatts in the former Eastnor and Lindsay Townships.
Just south of the proposed Preneal project, Tribute Resources has announced plans to erect 125 turbines in South Bruce Peninsula.
The company, which says it has acquired options to lease on about 10,000 acres of land near Mar, says it has determined after three years of collecting data that the wind resources on the Bruce Peninsula are “among the best in Ontario.”
But while wind developers favour the peninsula, many in the area, which is part of a UNESCO world biosphere reserve and a key migration route for birds, say it is the last place a large-scale wind farm should go.
Residents have joined together to create the Bruce Peninsula Wind Turbine Action Group to protest any wind farm plans.
“We are trying to preserve this area as a world biosphere, as a natural area for people to come and relax and camp and hike. I just don’t feel that an industrial wind turbine area is conducive to what we’re trying to protect,” said spokeswoman Mary Anne DeVries.
Northern Bruce Peninsula is a dark sky community, with many rare plants and birds and the world-famous Niagara Escarpment and Bruce Trail, she said.
“We are such a narrow strip of land, there’s no hinterland. There’s no way of getting away from these (turbines) – Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, you’re going to see this.
It’s the amount of turbines that they want to put up here. It’s devastating. We feel that it’s going to have a devastating effect not only on the tourism but also on the species and ecosystem diversity,” she said.
She said there is significant “local outcry” and opposition to the wind farm proposals.
Under Ontario’s long-term energy plan, the under-construction transmission corridor between Bruce Power and Milton allowed Ontario Power Authority to offer additional contracts for renewable energy projects under its Feed-in Tariff program. More than 1,000 megawatts of green energy contracts were up for grabs in 2011 and awarded to 19 companies.
The province has recently reviewed its FIT program and projects that have not yet been approved will be invited to resubmit their applications for consideration under the new rules and pricing, said OPA spokesman Tim Butters.
He said no new enabler lines, which would link wind projects on the peninsula to the power grid, are planned as a result of the FIT review.
“As we move into the updated phase of the FIT program, a new process for assessing applications will be introduced. This will occur when the process moves forward and the OPA opens a special application window for large FIT projects. The timing of the application window will be communicated once details are finalized,” Butters said.
LeBlanc said if Preneal’s Bruce Peninsula wind farm is approved by the OPA, the company would not have to rely on the province to build an enabler line.
The company would pay for a transmission line itself, he said, to connect the turbines to the grid.
Bruce Peninsula resident Gord Henrich said people should be concerned about the required connection lines.
“People don’t realize the number of towers that could potentially go straight up the peninsula. Everybody thinks, oh yeah the turbines are up there in Mar but there’s power lines and there’s transformer stations,” he said.
“I’ve chosen to fight the environmental concerns and the alignment of the enabler line.”
Northern Bruce Peninsula council has not yet taken a position on the wind farm proposals. However, there are concerns, said Coun. Tom Boyle, especially with the proposed density.
A “majority” of people on the peninsula supported the construction of the three smaller turbines, built by Skygeneration, that are currently in operation, he said.
“As much as those three were supported, there’s probably the same majority now that would not be supporting (the current wind farm proposals). It’s not a total love-in like it used to be for sure,” he said.
A representative for Preneal Canada recently requested planning and natural features information from Northern Bruce Peninsula council to include in the company’s wind farm application.
Council decided to forward the letter to Bruce County, which handles the municipality’s planning matters, but attached a clause that says doing so “should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the project,” Deputy-mayor John Bainbridge said.
Mayor Milt McIver said council will await a formal proposal before deciding on its position.
LeBlanc said his company remains committed to the project, despite the conclusions of the FIT review which also recommended a reduction in prices for wind projects.
“It really depends on the government and the OPA when the wind projects are going to be approved in Ontario and we are working, basically, to be ready for whenever that decision is made,” he said.
Tribute Resources is also continuing work to secure a FIT contract, said a company spokeswoman. The company’s Mar Silver Birch wind farm proposal has been “in the queue” since June 2010, she said.
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