West Lincoln Ald. Sue-Ellen Merritt doesn’t hide the fact she’s not a support of wind turbines being built in her town.
So when she saw an opportunity to make things more difficult for the developers of a 77-turbine development Monday night, she pounced.
“It’s not about a victory. I don’t see a victory in any of this,” she said after getting her fellow councillors to unanimously support her motion to try and force the Niagara Region Wind Corporation to bury all of its energy transmission lines in the ground instead of running them overhead.
The NRWC hopes to start constructing before the end of the year on an industrial wind turbine farm in West Niagara it says will cost between $550 and $600 million to build. But that cost could increase dramatically if it’s forced to bury all of its lines.
“We’ll consider it, but it’s a cost matter. It’s about 10-20 times the cost of going above ground,” said NRWC spokeswoman Randi Rahamim, adding that there will be around 27 km of transmission lines in West Lincoln. “It’s certainly not something we’ve currently planned for.”
Exactly how and where the wind company would run its power lines connecting the turbines to substations and into the province’s power grid hasn’t yet been finalized, but it will have to sign a road use agreement with the towns its turbines are located in.
In West Lincoln, where 44 of the 77 units will be built, opposition to the project has been fierce.
When it came out Monday night that the company intended to bury collector system lines on private land it was leasing to house the turbines and on land protected by the Niagara Escarpment Commission, but not on other public land, Merritt was furious.
She put forward a motion to request township staff to request all the lines be buried.
“Any proponent is required to sign a road use agreement prior to installing lines, so that’s the time when council has asked they be consulted,” said West Lincoln director of planning Brian Treble. “We can’t say no (to a company installing lines) but we can discuss with them how it’s built.”
The cost of burying lines compared to running them in the air using traditional poles and wires is significantly higher because the lines need to be protected, Rahamim said.
She wouldn’t comment on exactly how much of the project cost is earmarked for collector system and transmission lines.
But Merritt said cost is the company’s problem to worry about.
“That’s the cost of doing business,” she said. “Why can (NRWC) spend that money on specific areas, but not for everyone else who has to live with this.”
Rahamim said the company would try to work with the township, but said she doesn’t believe council can force the lines underground.
“I think under the Green Energy Act we don’t require municipal approval for that,” she said. “But would we want to work with (the township) and incorporate as much of their priorities into our plans? Absolutely. But the cost is quite significant and may not be feasible.”’
Niagara Region Wind Corporation plans to build 77 wind turbines, but has identified 80 potential sites.
In West Lincoln … 44
In Haldimand County … 31
In Wainfleet … 5
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