Industrial wind turbines and the Niagara Escarpment don’t mix, say top officials with the agency that oversees land-use planning near and on the protected landform.
Both Niagara Escarpment Commission manager Ken Whitbread and chairman Don Scott said they cannot see the NEC approving the construction of any industrial wind turbines within the escarpment plan area, which winds through Grey-Bruce and ends at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.
“If you’re dealing with a turbine that’s 400 or 500 feet tall to the top of the blade, you can’t hide them and they’re not compatible with the aesthetic of the escarpment,” Whitbread said in an interview Tuesday following a presentation at a Grey County council meeting in Owen Sound.
Unlike other areas of the province where Queen’s Park has final say over wind turbine proposals, the NEC can approve or reject applications for wind farms within the NEC plan area.
The agency also has commenting authority for projects proposed within one kilometre of the NEC plan boundary.
At least two companies have announced plans to erect turbines on the Bruce Peninsula. Tribute Resources has said it wants to put up 125 turbines in South Bruce Peninsula, while Preneal Canada hopes to put up to 75 turbines in Northern Bruce Peninsula. Anti-turbine activists on the peninsula say between 200 and 275 are proposed.
The NEC plan area includes the eastern edge of the peninsula.
Scott said some of the turbines, according to one map he’s seen, are proposed to be erected within the NEC area.
He said that’s not something he would support.
The Bruce Peninsula is a pretty unique area as far as I’m concerned. It’s gorgeous. It’s internationally recognized. You’ve got to take care of it,” said Scott, who lives in Wiarton.
There are concerns with the aesthetics of the turbines and required transmission lines. The large red light at the top of the towers would also impact the attempt to make the Niagara Escarpment, which is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, dark sky friendly, he said.
Whitbread said no industrial wind turbines have been approved within the NEC plan area. Some preliminary applications have come before the commission, he said, but they have all been withdrawn.
The NEC has also been successful in keeping turbines outside of the one-kilometre setback of the plan area, he said.
He said it now seems that companies proposing wind turbine developments are avoiding the NEC plan area.
“I think it’s because of that extra layer of regulations plus people can have a direct say. They can appeal decisions and they come and speak to the commission. So I think the wind turbine people take the path of least resistance which is to avoid the escarpment area,” he said.
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