Grey Highlands is putting more pressure on wind developers with a bylaw that formalizes the municipality’s expectations and lays out what a proponent is expected to do when dealing with council and the community.
The bylaw “establishes accountability mechanisms within the framework” of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, according to chief administrative officer Dan Best.
While Grey Highlands has passed a motion declaring itself unwilling to host wind energy projects, under the bylaw it is also exercising its options in dealing with industrial wind project developers.
For example, the bylaw ensures that proper procedures, such as providing draft copies of supporting documents 60 days prior to a first public meeting, are followed. It also requires the proponent to distribute the Ministry of Environment consultation form to the clerk 90 days prior to the last public meeting.
The bylaw also requires a developer to post a draft of the project description on the company website
Coun. Stewart Halliday says the bylaw is a means of making sure wind energy proponents live up to their responsibilities under the Green Energy Act, which provides municipalities a great deal of latitude in dealing with wind developers that is not often immediately evident.
“Some of the proponents have taken a sort of a casual approach to dealing with the municipality. They just drop off draft reports that are kind of cookie cutter reports . . . and haven’t really made what I would call prior commitment,” said Halliday.
“It’s been known for quite some time now that you have to work with the municipality. There’s a lot of give and take and we want them to sit down with us.”
Deputy-mayor Paul McQueen says the Green Energy Act is vague about the rights of municipalities and communities. “Now there is a process in Grey Highlands when they come knocking on our door. There’s now a public process to allow the community to hear and view all about the project,” he said.
Halliday and Coun. David Clarke say they’ve heard a developer seeking lease option agreements in the Rocklyn area, but the community and the municipality still haven’t been told anything official.
“If the rumour is you want to put 20 turbines up there, we’d like to know what kind of plans you have. One of the serious things we’re concerned about is the setbacks from other properties and from the road,” Halliday said.
Halliday said discussions at the Good Roads conference in February with Doris Dumais, the MOE’s head of environmental approvals, revealed that the municipality can negotiate the locations of wind turbines.
“You don’t have to accept them. She said spend some time negotiating with these people if you feel the safety zones are important to your municipality. Wind developers . . . talk about not being able to move wind turbine locations. Yes they can be moved to meet safety and common sense setbacks,” said Halliday.
This is the case with the five turbine project planned near Badjeros.
“Badjeros is what I call a shoehorn situation. Probably in that area, if you apply what I call manufacturer’s safety standard setbacks, you could probably accommodate three turbines,” said Halliday.
The minimum setback for turbines under the Green Energy Act is about 50 metres from the boundary of a road. The turbine towers plus blade length is about 150 metres. General Electric recommends a safety zone of 225 metres and Vestas, a Danish wind energy systems developer, recommends a 400- metre safety zone.
“We’re squeezing these big industrial turbines into an area that is close to the road,” Halliday said.
Halliday said under the Green Energy Act wind developers are required to consult with municipalities, but that consultation isn’t defined. Many of the standards laid out in the act are minimum requirements. It’s up to municipalities to negotiate more substantive standards, which is the intent of Grey Highlands’ new bylaw.
“We’re defining it . . . Badjeros is a nice little community and you have five big industrial things that are 150 metres tall that they will be able to see and maybe even hear them throughout the hamlet,” said Halliday.
Coun. Paul Allen said while he would have liked the bylaw in place a few years ago, when International Power Corporation received approval for a project south of Maxwell. Council learned from the experience and is determined to make future developers more accountable.
But even with the new bylaw, Allen is not confident the municipality can force wind developers to the table.
“I agree when the (Green Energy) act says there are minimum standards. There are minimum building standards too. If you’re going to hire a contractor who is just going to do the minimum, do you really want them? But you can’t force someone to do more than the minimum. We can try that, but I don’t think it will work,” he said.
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