Norfolk council was called on this week to break an impasse between a green energy company and the county’s public works department.
Capital Power is about to begin work on a 58-turbine wind farm straddling the Haldimand-Norfolk county line east of Port Dover. Forty-five turbines will be in Haldimand while 13 will be in Norfolk.
The project hit a snag recently over the question of how Capital Power should bury its 34.5-kilovolt collector cable in Norfolk. The company must bury the cable in the county road allowance. Capital Power wants to do a direct burial into the earth while Norfolk public works wanted the cable encased in concrete.
Eric D’Hondt, Norfolk’s general manager of public works, worries that someone might cut into the cable with a piece of heavy machinery if it isn’t protected. If that happens, D’Hondt says Norfolk will be liable for any injury.
“You cut through a 34-kilovolt line and it kills people,” D’Hondt said. “We don’t want an accident out there. It is our road. It is our liability.”
D’Hondt said projects like this have a habit of changing hands numerous times. When that happens, liability is dispersed and reliable maps of underground utilities become hard to find. D’Hondt fears the municipality will be left holding the bag if anything goes wrong.
“Tracking down firms has been a problem for us,” he said. “Not only for the old stuff, but for the new stuff.”
Capital Power executives Anthony Zlahtic and Barry Loewen brought the issue to council’s attention. They told council that encasing the 3.4 kilometres of cable in concrete would put the $70-million project behind schedule while adding $1 million to the final construction cost.
The pair said in-ground burial is standard for projects of this kind, adding that the 51-kilometres of collector cable in Haldimand will be buried without a concrete casing.
“We’re a little frustrated with where we’re at,” Zlahtic said.
In a 4-3 decision, council agreed to let Capital Power bury its cable without a casing. However, the firm must do so to a depth of two metres. This is double the provincial standard. As well, the collector cable’s location will have to be clearly marked.
Simcoe Coun. Charlie Luke wondered whether Norfolk public works was overestimating the threat.
“Anything can happen in this world,” Luke said. “I don’t know why anyone would want to take a backhoe and start digging down the side of a county road allowance. But I guess people do things.”
Mayor Dennis Travale suggested that – if there had to be new power lines in Norfolk – it was best to situate them underground.
“When a car goes off the road, chances are pretty good it will hit a tree or a hydro pole,” he said. “Chances are far lower that it will hit a power distribution cable buried a metre beneath the ground. That should be the first consideration.”
Port Dover Coun. John Wells, Port Rowan Coun. Betty Chanyi and Waterford Coun. Harold Sonnenberg rejected any compromise as inconsistent with council’s stated demand for a moratorium on wind turbines until studies into their health effects are conducted.
“We are told we have an abundance of power in Ontario,” Sonnenberg said. “Why then are we putting up windmills when people don’t want them? I will not be supporting this.”
Capital Power will begin the ground work for the wind farm in August. Turbines will arrive in July of next year. The power they generate will come on line around the end of October, 2013.
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