NextEra’s Bluewater wind energy project hit a milestone on June 13 when it finished up its last required public meeting for its Renewable Energy Application, but those affected by the project were still looking for answers.
Jeff Allan came with his NextEra Energy contract for the transmission poles that would need to be erected on his property to get clarification about the terminology.
“They told me it was a standard contract,” said Allan.
Allan took issue with a certain clauses that spoke of enlarging the area needed for the line or the construction of a facility.
“How big is a facility?” asked Allan. “It looks pretty innocent from the surface,” he said of the contract.
He also took issue with the gag order that was included and hoped that NextEra would amend the contract.
Approximately two of the 17 people Allan knows with contracts have already signed.
“If everyone wanted to sign, I would too,” said neighbour and dairy farmer Gerhard Ritzema.
“I’m going with what the community wants.”
Without signing, the lines could be erected on the road allowance or the contract holders could face having their land expropriated.
“Our livelihood is at risk,” said Heather Ritzema. “We have to weigh those risks.”
“If there is an oil leak, then the company is responsible for cleaning up that leak, if there is stray voltage, are they going to fix it?” asked Gerhard.
“Because of the number of dairy farmers on the transmission route, we have tried to go above and beyond to explain the issues to every person on the route to address in advance any concerns they might have about stray voltage,” said Nicole Geneau, project manager of the Bluewater project.
“Everyone is nervous because of the known and we are making as much information available as possible to make them comfortable with those changes,” she added.
Geneau explained that as part of NextEra’s commitments they are required to respond to incidence of stray voltage within a 24-hour period and have to relay those incidences to the Ministry of the Environment within 48 hours.
“The transmission lines can expose a preexisting condition of stray voltage,” said Geneau, who said that it occurs because of improper grounding. “There is a simple electrical solution.”
The transmission route has the Ritzemas’ and the Allans’ neighbours up in arms.
Planning for the Bluewater project began in 2006. It will consist of 37 turbines and will be connected to the existing Hydro One Seaforth transformer station using above ground transmission lines along Centennial and Hensall Roads.
The group noted that the strategies to inform themselves and their neighbours have been set up at inconvenient times and have given misleading information.
The meeting was held at the Seaforth Community Centre from 4 until 7 p.m. and displayed the placards typical for the open house, but also featured simulations of what the landscape would look like from certain vantage points when the wind project was complete.
Geneau and a team of experts were on hand to answer any questions that the public might have.
At this point, NextEra has completed all the needed studies to hand in their application to the Ministry of the Environment, which will happen later this month. The studies completed included the study that looked at the necessary distance of turbines from dwellings based on the 40dB minimum, the heritage report and the archeological fieldwork.
NextEra also set June 18 as the deadline for the comments that will be included in the application.
“Comments will always be accepted,” said Geneau.
In December, NextEra presented an early draft of the project, but since then the locations of the turbines and the location of the transmission lines have been finalized.
While none of the locations of the turbines changed, they were placed based on the findings of the sound study. Only modifications to the infrastructure related to the turbines were moved, like the roads that would service the structures.
Geneau said that NextEra is still working with Hydro one when it comes to the design of the transmission route. NextEra would be constructing their own poles, but is still hoping to connect to Hydro One’s distribution assets.
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