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Wind park given green light

Up to 69 wind turbines are likely destined for South Cayuga in the near future.

The Ministry of Environment has given its approval for the Grand Renewable Energy Park wind project a go for Haldimand County. The approval would give Grand Renewable Solar LP, the company behind the project, to construct the energy cluster in South Cayuga.

One of close to 200 renewable energy projects in the province, the Grand Renewable Energy Park would see close to 70 turbines built within a 700-acre facility.

The green light was given to the project after a technical review and extensive public consultation a ministry report stated. The approval does not come without conditions – ones that were raised during extensive public consultations.

The conditions of the approval require the proponent to: continue a dialogue with Aboriginal community for the lifespan of the project, undertake post-construction bird and bat monitoring, and create a community liaison committee to help exchange ideas and share concerns with residents to name a few.

Under guidelines of the Renewable Energy Approval (REA), the proponent will have to construct and install the facility within three years of its approval.

News of the project approval wasn’t met with warm reception by Haldimand Wind Concerns, a citizen action group with a mandate to inform and educate the public about the concerns behind wind turbines.

Betty Ortt, secretary for Halidmand Wind Concerns, said the project will cause a great harm to the natural habitat of the area. Ortt claims there is a “kill, harm and harass” permit that allows the proponent to control animals living within the area of the energy park.

“It’s to help counteract the negative affects (of the turbines),” Ortt said.

Ortt noted residents have 15 days to appeal the decision to the Environmental Review Tribunal.

Not all oppose the construction of the turbines. Dunnville farmer Franz Seitz has a turbine on his property that is a part of the Mohawk Point Wind Farm in Lowbanks.

A long-time supporter of wind energy, Seitz said one has to think about the future especially when other energy sources such as fossil fuels are depleting.

“Eventually you have to look at different energy sources,” Seitz said. “I see this and think we have to do more with renewable energy.”

Seitz said he’s heard about health concerns surrounding the turbines, but wonders if they are true considering there’s no evidence of such coming from European countries.

“Europe has invested in them for many years. You look there and you don’t hear anything about them,” Seitz said. “There are health issues (in the world) but can you really blame them on wind energy.”

Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt said there’s a lot of misconceptions regarding the issue during the project process which created a lot of frustration.

“People aren’t understanding what’s going on and that’s created angst,” Hewitt said. “Renewable energy has a role to play in our future. However in the past we would’ve like to have seen the process include engaging the community.”

Hewitt believes there is an economic value for Haldimand and council would have liked to have input in the process, but the Green Energy Act limits the role of municipalities.

“We’re somewhat sidelined by it,” the mayor said. “The process is flawed.”

On the other side of the coin, Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant MPP Toby Barrett doesn’t see wind energy as an economic benefit to the county.

Barrett said at a time when there is an excess of energy that it has to be sold to other jurisdictions, having more energy put into the grid doesn’t make sense.

“We currently can’t afford the price for electricity,” Barrett said. “They’re coming on stream when we least need it. We have to pay others for take our loss because we can’t turn off the tap.”

Barrett said there is much resistance from his constituents regarding wind turbines. While there isn’t much concern from “a half dozen turbines here and there,” a large cluster of the devices “scares people” he said.

He believes turbines are a threat to tourism and retirement based economy of the county.