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Bluewater resident promises to fight wind turbines until he’s in a cremation urn

BLUEWATER – A resident in the rural area of southwest Huron County says he will fight wind turbines until he is put in a cremation urn.

“We may not win all the battles, but doggone it, we’re going to win this war,” Dave Griffiths, of Bluewater Against Turbines, told councillors from the Municipality of Bluewater during a special council meeting to discuss three wind energy projects slated for the municipality. Numerous times during his five-minute address to council, his words were met with applause and a smattering of standing ovations from people who packed the auditorium at Stanley Community Complex.

In July 2011, three wind energy projects with a total capacity of 262 megawatts in Bluewater and area were among 19 wind energy projects awarded contracts under the Ontario Power Authority’s Feed-In Tariff Program in the Bruce-to-Milton transmission area. The projects will receive 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity produced in the 20-year contracts.

NextEra Canada, ULC proposes to build its 60-MW Bluewater Wind Energy Corp, with a total 37 turbines and its 102-MW Goshen Wind Energy Centre, with a total 63 turbines that straddle Bluewater and the neighbouring Municipality of Huron East. The draft layout locates 15 turbines in Bluewater. The projects, which are scheduled to be commissioned by year end 2013, will use 1.6-MW GE turbines.

Northland Power Inc. proposes its 100-MW Grand Bend Wind Farms, with up to 48 turbines. The project, which is scheduled to be commissioned approximately year end 2014, will use 2.3-MW Siemens turbines.

Griffiths criticized the government for its support of wind energy projects and said, “Thanks to ignorance and greed, some of our citizens are walking to the edge of a cliff, along with our government.”

Councillors raised concerns related to possible decreased property values, noise, flight patterns of tundra swans and geese, and a host of other potential issues.

Nicole Geneau, who is project director of development for NextEra, said a 2010 study in Chatham-Kent indicated no relationship between the presence of wind energy projects and an effect on property values.

She also said the company’s natural heritage assessment and environmental impact study has been signed off the Ministry of Natural Resources.

She outlined a proposal from the company to create the Community Vibrancy Fund Agreement, which would draw on $3,500 per megawatt of nameplate capacity – the nameplate capacity of each turbine in the project is 1.6 MW – on an annual basis for municipal projects. It is proposed the fund will be administered locally, but its use is expected to be in line with the company’s list of preferred uses. Additionally, $5,000 per kilometre of transmission line build on municipal right-of-ways would be contributed annually. Under the current layout, that would mean a total of nearly $325,000 annually.

“I don’t think it even touches what we could use for the impact the turbines are going to make on us,” said Janisse Zimmerman, who is the Zurich ward councillor.

When NextEra was asked what changes it had made to its layout based on public input, Derek Dudek, who is community relations officer, pointed to discussions with the Zurich Chamber of Commerce that resulted in a boundary change.

However, Robert Westlake, of the Zurich Chamber of Commerce, said after ongoing discussions with the company to encourage a boundary change that would allow for future growth in the village, he realized “we were negotiating with ourselves.”

Council also reviewed the Municipal Consultation Form, which is a three-page form completed by the municipality that is submitted as part of the renewable energy approval process. It asks the municipality to list issues related to such things as infrastructure, natural and built heritage, emergency protocol, permitting and licensing. The municipality has modified the form to create a package of letters and motions passed by council related to wind energy.

After a 25-minute closed door discussion, council passed a motion to bring the form back to its May 28 meeting.