STRATFORD – The potential for a 69-megawatt, 27-turbine wind energy project in North Perth and Perth East is expected to draw big crowds to a pair of open houses planned for June 6 and 7.
“It will be well attended,” said Warren Howard, a North Perth councillor and a member of Elma-Mornington Concerned Citizens, a local group fighting the planned low-density wind farm north of Milverton.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of people there.”
That reflects what Howard suggested was considerable resistance among area residents to the proposed installation, known as the Conestoga Wind Energy Centre.
“There is very little support – and strong opposition,” he said, noting there is a “very narrow” group of landowners in North Perth who are involved in the project, and some of them have hired lawyers to try to get out of their lease agreements. “I think it’s fair to say the rest of the community opposes it.”
According to a draft project description report, the development would see as many as 27 wind turbines installed on privately owned agricultural land about five kilometres north of Milverton, bordered by Hwy. 86 to the north, Hwy. 23 to the west, Line 72 to the south and Road 121 to the east. The tallest turbine tower is expected to be 105 metres in height, spinning at between five and 20 revolutions per minute.
The company behind the project, Conestogo Wind Power Partnership and its parent Invenergy Canada, has already obtained a Feed-In Tariff (FIT) contract. The local meetings June 6 and 7 are part of the public consultation required through the province’s Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process.
But the municipality is not exactly rolling out the welcome mat for the project’s developers.
At their May 14 meeting, North Perth council members unanimously endorsed a motion (in a recorded vote) indicating that council does not support Invenergy’s proposal for the local wind turbine development.
“It was blunt,” said Howard of the motion, which was prompted by a request from Invenergy for the municipality’s help in identifying potential members of a community working group.
The aim of that group, according to the letter from Invenergy’s director of business development James Murphy, is to find community members “interested in collaborative discussion who can identify and surface issues of concern related to the wind facility.”
Asked Tuesday about council’s decision, Murphy offered the following comment in an e-mailed response:
“We’ve previously had productive conversations with North Perth, and have not received a formal response about our invite to participate in the Community Working Group,” he said. “If they have determined not to participate, we will continue to find ways to have constructive dialogue.”
As for the potential for opposition at the public meetings, Murphy suggested that, as with any new project, “it is welcomed by some and opposed by others. We’re grateful for the support we’ve received and working where possible on issues that have been raised.”
He added that the company has seen “lots of support, though it is fair to say that some individuals make it uncomfortable for people to demonstrate their support for the project.”
The first open house on the project will be held in Milverton June 6 from 6-8 p.m. at the Perth East Recreation Complex. The second one will be held in Listowel June 7 from 6-8 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion.
Murphy said the open houses will start with a brief presentation on the status of the project, followed by a moderated panel that will receive written questions and provide answers. There will be information boards in the room for people to gather additional information.
Pending provincial approval of the project, Invenergy’s proposed timeline would see construction begin toward the end of 2013.