VARNA – Two public meetings in an area slated for a wind farm development mark the final steps before the project is submitted to the Ministry of the Environment for review.
Any feedback from meetings held in Varna and Seaforth will be incorporated in the consultation report and submitted by month end with all other paperwork in an application for Renewable Energy Approval of the 60-MW Bluewater Wind Energy Corp., which consists of 37 1.6-MW GE turbines and a transmission line that will run to the Seaforth TS.
The company is asking for comments by June 18 on the reports on archeology, cultural heritage, natural heritage, water, construction, design and operation, decommissioning, and the project description report that were available for viewing last night.
“The reason we drew a line in the sand in terms of a deadline for comments is not because we want to discourage people from sending us comments at any time – they’re welcome to do so – but in terms of the consultation report we have to and consolidate to submit with the Renewable Energy Approval application, we had to have a point where we were putting everybody’s comments together so we could make sure they were all addressed,” said Nicole Geneau, who is project director of development for NextEra Energy Canada, ULC.
The company is asking the MOE to approve a total 41 locations for turbines, which will allow flexibility in case some end up being unsuitable. Thirty-seven will be constructed.
“The reason for permitting a larger number than we’ll construct is because the guidelines and the regulations for siting them under the Renewable Energy Approval process is very, very prescriptive and restrictive,” she said.
Geneau said the input from stakeholder consultation is reflected in the project development.
“The array that we published in December as a draft array for comment we were pretty confident we had listened and accommodated as much feedback as we could at that point. And we were right. The feedback we received after December wasn’t really about the turbine locations it really was more about roads or underground collection cable and we’ve been able to adjust infrastructure to reflect comments,” she said.
She said a one-kilometre setback from the village of Zurich’s boundary was incorporated into the layout to accommodate an initial request from the Zurich Chamber of Commerce. In subsequent conversations, the requested setback from the village increased to the point that the parties had to “agree to disagree,” she said.
“Just because we haven’t agreed to everything a stakeholder group has requested doesn’t mean we haven’t consulted and engaged with them,” she said.
After the company submits its application by the end of June, the MOE is expected to spend two to five weeks determining whether the application is complete. Once all information is in hand, the entire application will be posted on the Environmental Registry for public comment for minimum 30 days. At end of public comment period, the MOE has six months to do a technical evaluation of project and render decision. Geneau expects the project will receive REA approval by February 2012. It is anticipated the project will be commissioned by year end 2013.
Dave Roy, a councillor who represents the Stanley East ward in the Municipality of Bluewater, refused to comment and deferred to the mayor, Bill Dowson, as the two chatted in the parking lot. Dowson said he has to remain neutral in order to represent the municipality’s residents because some are in favour and some are opposed to the project.
The municipality’s concerns are contained in 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.
In July 2011, the project was 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 project will receive 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity produced in the 20-year contract.