North America’s largest wind energy company generated local static Tuesday as it asked Middlesex County to smooth the process in allowing transmission lines along county roads.
The transmission poles would connect NextEra’s three proposed wind farms near Thedford, Parkhill and Strathroy along county-owned roads.
County councillors expressed concerns about the poles’ height – each would be about 35 metres tall – possible conflicts with other services, such as drainage and hydro, and clearance at intersections.
Southwest Middlesex Mayor Vance Blackmore wondered if they would exacerbate worries that Middlesex roads already have too many signs and poles.
County engineer Chris Traini said, “In a perfect world, we would limit the amount of above-ground utilities if possible.”
But he conceded the county is required to share its rights-of-way and needs to make sure policies are in place to protect county interests.
That means NextEra should not consider this a negotiation but a matter of following county policies, said Adelaide Metcalfe Mayor David Bolton.
It was clear this was less a meeting about transmission lines than about managing residents’ opposition to wind turbines – which opponents claim are harmful to human health, the environment and bird migration patterns.
Together, the three projects would bring about 175 wind turbines, each as tall as 150 metres.
About 20 opponents showed up at the council meeting to hear transmission-line details they say they’ve long sought.
In contrast to the customary congeniality with which council greets visitors and delegations, Warden Jim Maudsley reminded attendees there would be no comments from the gallery and they were to listen quietly and respectfully. He said they would have their turn to speak, if they requested delegation status, next month.
North Middlesex Mayor Don Shipway said a federal study on possible health effects of turbines is due in 2014, at about the same time turbines here are expected to start spinning, and, “It seems to me that your company and yourself are trying to pass this through before the health reports are back.”
Derek Dudek, community relations consultant for NextEra, said “we remain positive” the turbines will have no impact on health, a theory he expects to be supported by the federal study.
NextEra project director Adam Camp said the company manages 60 wind farms and has investments in four provinces and 22 states, with $50 billion in assets in energy generation: “It’s a very reputable company.” After the presentation, Camp said there’s a possibility the three NextEra projects might also have transmission links with a Suncor project in Lambton County.
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