A rural backlash against industrial wind farms is delaying urban Ontario hundreds of jobs promised under the province’s $7-billion deal with Samsung.
Angry residents opposed to wind turbines are filling rural meeting halls and politicians are demanding a moratorium on future wind farms until a recently announced federal health study on turbines is completed.
The fight is keeping people from working the plant floor in three communities and delaying the opening of the Samsung plant for London promised a year ago by Premier Dalton McGuinty.
“I am anxious we move on this and I have made it clear I am anxious,” Energy Minister Chris Bentley said Friday.
The agreement the McGuinty Liberals cut with Samsung calls for the Korean industrial giant to open four plants in Ontario.
Plants in Tillsonburg, Toronto and Windsor have opened but they’re not operating at capacity. The London plant is delayed.
Each plant is being built to serve an Ontario wind farm or solar project. When the projects are approved, the plants will be humming, said Bentley, MPP for London West.
“The manufacturing facilities are all designed to serve these (Ontario) projects first and foremost,” he said.
“The jobs are coming because they are all tied to the projects.”
Bentley cited “procedural delays” such as environmental reviews and “various consultations and discussions” as slowing the process.
Bentley said he didn’t know how many people the three operating plants employ, but agreed they’re not at capacity.
The Samsung plant announced a year ago for London will employ 200 people and make parts for solar panels.
Today, not only is the plant not making parts, but a site hasn’t been selected and the company doesn’t have a partner, meaning it will be a long time until it opens.
Peter Tabuns, NDP energy critic, slammed Bentley for not speeding the approval process and dealing with concerns that have fuelled opposition.
“I have dealt with green energy developers who are frustrated,” Tabuns said.
“He needs to look at the approval process, look at why it is difficult to sort this out and why it is taking so long.”
Tabuns said he’s heard from companies that have cleared hurdles and are still not hooked up to the grid, awaiting approval.
He also points to regulatory approval from Ontario Hydro and the Ontario Power Authority as slowing the process.
“The minister has control in these operations and should look at the approval process,” he said.
“It’s disappointing. We need this work, we need this investment.”
Bentley defended the Liberals’ record, saying the Green Energy Act has created 20,000 jobs and the total will grow when Samsung’s projects are approved.
He pointed out Samsung doesn’t get any money until it starts supplying power to the grid.
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– In 2010, Samsung announced a $7-billion investment in Ontario, for four manufacturing plants in Windsor, Tillsonburg, Toronto and London, creating 16,000 direct and in-direct jobs.
– Samsung will make money once its solar and wind farms are operating. It will also get a $110-million bonus if it hits all employment targets.
– The company projects the first phase of projects to be in business in 2014.
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Product: Solar modules
Promised: About 200 jobs
Product: Wind turbine towers
Promised: 300 permanent jobs
TILLSONBURG PLANT (SIEMENS)
Product: Wind turbine blades
Promised: 300 jobs
Product: Solar inverters
Promised: 200 jobs
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