A new association is prepared to submit at least 15 applications for wind projects, including at least one in Niagara, when the government opens the next window for its Feed-in-Tariff program.
The Rural Community Power Producers Association (RCPP), through its member co-operatives, says it will inject close to $300 million in revenue into Ontario’s rural communities.
“In a nutshell, we have local residents, farm collaboratives, First Nations and other institutions working to develop local, sustainable energy projects,” said Tom Lewis, project manager for IPC Energy, the proponent behind two proposed wind farms in the Niagara region – in Wainfleet and West Lincoln. “These are renewable projects that are owned by local residents.”
Projects included under the RCPP umbrella have a range of local ownership from 15 to 100 per cent.
The Niagara co-operative is targeting a 20 per cent local ownership rate, the remaining 80 per cent will be owned by an Ontario numbered company.
The Niagara Renewable Energy Co-operative Inc. is run by Martin Langbroek, Larry Dykstra and Darrell Boer, who made up the former Vineland Power Inc., the original proponents of the five-turbine IPC project in Caistor Centre. They have partnered with Spain’s M Torres, a turbine manufacturer, said Dykstra.
The Niagara co-operative has yet to select a project site, although Dysktra said it would be on the escarpment – eliminating municipalities like St. Catharines, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls and Grimsby. The project, said Dykstra, could include as little four wind turbines or as many as six. That decision would depend on which model of turbine is selected for the project, Dykstra said.
The reason Dykstra, Langbroek and Boer, all greenhouse operators by trade, sold their stake in the IPC project, said Dykstra, was because it was a costly venture to see it to fruition. IPC, said Dykstra, was better prepared to see it through the final stages.
It will cost about $30 million to build the 12-megaWatt wind farm. Co-operative membership is already at 35. The goal is to bring that number to at least 50 – representing a 20-per-cent local ownership – by the end of the month.
Membership is $500 and grants members preferred shares when they go up for sale. Every member will also have voting abilities.
“Last time, we were new at this and all we wanted was to develop and potentially build a wind farm thinking it was just a good idea,” said Dykstra. “When we ran into resistance in the community, we thought, if we ever do this again, we need to get more of the community involved so that it has more ownership. If you see a turbine in your backyard that’s a kilometre away from your back door, I think it wouldn’t bother you as much if you are a part of it, and invested in it.”
Dykstra is a supporter of renewable energy and not just wind. At his St. Catharines greenhouse, Dykstra is investigating solar possibilities.
“Sun and wind literally don’t cost anyone, anything,” said Dykstra. “Eventually, we will run out of other sources of power.
“The key is that it’s clean, renewable and it’s not going to cause anyone ill health effects.”
The idea of the association, which has six co-operatives to date, is to improve the negative perception communities have when large wind companies come to town to develop these massive projects. Project sizes are purposely minimized to be as non-intrusive as possible, says a press release issued by the group last week.
If all co-op projects are granted approval, RCPP projects will produce roughly 450,000 megawatt hours of clean, renewable energy per year. Co-operatives have also been established in Chatham Ken, Haldimand, Lambton Shores, Huron and South Bruce. Not all co-operatives, said Lewis, are looking at wind, some are looking at other renewable sources such as solar.
“We believe that if renewable energy projects are going to be installed in rural Ontario that there would be more support from residents if they had direct ownership and interest in the project,” said John Andrews president of IPC Energy, which will be responsible for developing RCPP renewable energy projects.
Lewis said the Niagara project could be affiliated with phase two of his company’s Caistor Centre development. When that project was originally proposed it included two phases – the first, a 10-megawatt, five-turbine wind farm is under a six-month technical review by the provincial government. Lewis expects a decision on that project, and a similar one it is embarking on in Wainfleet, within the next two months.
Membership on the Niagara co-operative is open to all residents of Niagara. For more information or to get involved call 1-855-607-1016 or visit www.rcppassoc.ca.
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