Representatives of NextEra Energy were grilled by members of West Grey council over company plans for a revamped wind farm near Priceville.
Community relations consultant Derek Dudek told council Monday that because the proposed location of the project has been enlarged, the public notification process must begin again starting with the first public information meeting planned for July 18 in Durham. The location is yet to be announced.
A second public meeting required under the Green Energy Act is to be held in October.
Coun. Carol Lawrence wants the meetings structured so that company representatives and experts present information to an audience and answer questions.
Dudek said the company prefers a format where information is posted on boards placed around the room with experts prepared to answer questions one on one. That didn’t sit well with Coun. Bev Cutting.
“I suggest that you make it a proper public consultation . . . just because you want to do your way isn’t what we prefer. It’s our properties, do it the way we want it done,” Cutting said to applause.
She also wants to know the locations of the wind turbines prior to the July 18 meeting.
Dudek said he would take that request back to company officials.
The project study area has been extended to include 10,000 hectares bounded on the north by Concession 6 of the former Glenelg Township, Sideroad 50 and the Artemesia-Glenelg Township Line to the east, the West Grey-Southgate boundary on the south and the Baseline Road on the west.
The actual size of the project is expected to be about 20 hectares. Most of the property in the area is farm land with some wooded areas and aggregate.
The company received a 20 year contract last summer under the province’s Feed-in Tariff program.
The 23-megawatt project is expected to include 14 turbines, a buried collector system from the turbines, a transformer substation to connect to the Hydro One distribution system and possibly an overhead 44-kilovolt line to connect to the nearest transformer substation.
Dudek said several studies, such as biological field work related to bird nesting and the bat population, archeological studies and cultural heritage studies, will be carried this year. Plans are to begin construction in the summer of 2013 with operations to begin in the winter of 2013-14.
Cutting wants the setback for wind turbines from the roadside to be more than 60 metres since the height of the wind towers and blades is more than 130 metres. She said a turbine situated close to a road could create a hazard if it fell across a roadway. She also raised questions about what the company was doing to prevent stray voltage from affecting nearby residents and animals.
“It’s not typically a problem for the wind turbines, it’s more related to the Hydro One distribution system,” said Pat Becker, a consultant with Genivar.
At least one councillor took exception to NextEra’s proposed annual donation of $80,500 to the municipality, which it calls a community vibrancy fund.
The amount is based on a calculation of $3,500 for each of the 23 megawatts of electricity that the project could potentially generate. Over the 20 year life of the contract, the municipality would receive of $1.6 million.
While council ultimately determines the use of the funding, the agreement offers a long list of suggestions such as environmental stewardship projects, educational projects, property tax relief, recreation facilities and improvement of fire, police and EMS. The company also has to pay for building permits and development fees.
Coun. John Eccles called it a bribe.
“This is being forced upon us. It’s a bribe. I’m all for wind energy, but I have a problem that this is being forced upon us,” he said.
West Grey resident Dick O’Brien said he was pleased some councillors are showing such an interest in the project and asking tough questions. “Hopefully we’ll get the best of a bad deal that this province is giving to us,” he said.
Yolanda Van Keekan, who lives near the proposed wind project, was impressed with the questioning by councillors.
“I think they are really on top of the vague stuff (NextEra) is giving us. I feel like it’s out of my control and it’s very disturbing,” Van Keekan said.
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