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Final public open house held for St. Columban wind project

St. Columban Energy LP hopes to have its industrial wind turbines spinning in early 2014 if everything goes according to plan after its last public open houses in Seaforth, Brussels, Gorrie and Bluevale last week.

Jose Menendez, of St. Columban Energy LP and a vice president of Veresen Inc., said at the Seaforth open house that he and representatives of his company were answering questions about the planned 15-turbine project and expected to submit its complete reports to the Ministry of the Environment in a month’s time.

“Things are going reasonably well,” he said. “We haven’t heard any questions that would change any of the reports we are putting together.”

Menendez said most of the people attending last week’s open house in Seaforth were asking technical questions about engineering and construction.

“Not a lot of the questions were related to any concerns at all,” he said.

A recent five-page letter from the municipality of Huron East to St. Columban Energy expressed concern about the locations of two turbines, T9 and T10, and their proximity to road allowances at Summerhill Road and Beechwood Line.

Speaking about T9, the letter acknowledged that the turbine is too close to two local residences to be moved but pointed out that since the turbine is 65 metres from the roadway and less than the hub height of 99.5 metres, council is concerned about ice throw from the turbine hitting passing traffic.

“In reviewing the Public Health & Safety component of your report, Council has concluded that the mitigation measures proposed to reduce the setback of Turbine 9 from Summerhill Road are not adequate and do not meet the expectations of Council,” said the letter from Huron East. “It is the opinion of Huron East Council that you have ‘trivialized’ the risk to users of the road by quoting a probability of a vehicle strike once every 260,000 years based on 20 cars per day on a road allowance 200 metres from the turbine. Summerhill Road is a paved concession road with more than 100 vehicles per day, 65 metres from the turbine.”

The letter noted council “is not interested in statistics about probability of a ‘vehicle strike’ even though the probability given your proposed location of T9 is much higher than you have projected,” adding that council doesn’t want to subject any road to any ice throw. It pointed out that a setback of 100 metres should be the “absolute minimum” and requested the company remove T9 from its proposed location.

Huron East’s letter also expressed its disappointment in the lack of consultation about the transmission route to the Wingham transformer station, which travels directly through the hamlet of Cranbrook. Huron East suggested instead, that the line travel along Walton Road and then north along McDonald Line as the most direct route.

“This proposed route would not take the line through any urban areas but your company has dismissed this option because it would have to go through a small provincially significant wetland on either side of McDonald Line near Amberly Road. Given that the road allowance has been in existence for many years through this wetland, and that there may be options other than burying the transmission line adjacent to the travelled part of the road allowance, Council simply desires a detailed explanation as to why this route being proposed by the Municipality is not being given serious consideration,” said Huron East’s letter.

The response from Veresen’s environmental manager Hali Zigomanis, sent May 7, informed Huron East that the turbine blades are “equipped with a very sophisticated torque reading sensor” as well as vibration monitoring equipment that will immediately shut down the turbine if any ice builds up on it.

“It was not our intent to trivialize our calculation of the probability of an ice fragment impact with a vehicle, or to increase anxiety on the part of the municipality,” said the Veresen letter, which added that a modeling exercise was done specific to that intersection which resulted in a calculation of one turbine ice fragment impact with a vehicle on Beechwood Line or Summerhill Road every 1,000 years.

Responding to the municipality’s concerns about the interconnection lines, the Veresen letter said St. Columban Energy LP selected “the best route that has minimal or no impact on any feature.” Because of the significant wetland along Huron East’s suggested route, the Veresen letter pointed out “the entirety of the route in that area would be exceptionally difficult to construct, as it is our opinion that directionally drilling in that area is not advisable due to the saturated soil conditions and apparent water levels.”

As well, the letter said stakeholders have expressed the preference for buried lines, not the above-ground lines that would be necessary along that route.

Menendez added, at the public open house, that “from an impact perspective, the line doesn’t impact houses if there is one or 100 houses” along McNabb Line.

While the project’s draft report said that heritage homes could be impacted by the vibration caused by drilling the underground lines, Menendez pointed out that there are ways to mitigate that potential effect.

Menendez said St. Columban Energy LP will look at the questions accumulated during the second public open house to see if any further mitigation is needed for the project.

“If there isn’t any, or if they’re minor, our expectation is that in a month’s time, we will complete our reports and submit them to the MOE,” he said, adding that he expects to hear the MOE’s decision about the project in the next six to eight months.

He added that the public can make their questions and concerns about the project known directly to the MOE after the next 30 days. Another public review period of 30 days will occur once the MOE decides that the St. Columban Energy reports are complete. That 30-day period will be advertised in local media.

Construction is expected to being on the St. Columban wind project in July of 2013, operation to begin in early 2014 and repowering or decommissioning to happen approximately 20.5 years after the operation begins.