Ontario’s pledge to increase local control over large wind and solar farms is “a lot of smoke and mirrors,” says one Lambton County anti-wind activist.
Marcelle Brooks, a rural Lambton Shores resident with the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group, dismissed Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli’s announcement Thursday that municipalities will have a greater role in where future large renewable energy projects locate.
“There’s not a lot of credibility here,” Brooks said.
“Truly, did they change direction, or did they just put a new spin on it?”
Chiarelli said Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) system for awarding renewable energy contracts will be replaced, for large projects over 500 kilowatts, with a new competitive process where the government says wind companies will be required to work with municipalities on locations and site requirements.
The change comes as a growing number of municipalities are declaring themselves unwilling hosts for wind farms, and some mayors are saying Ontario’s wind energy push is dividing their communities.
The Liberals lost the Lambton-Kent-Middlesex riding, and other rural seats, in the last provincial election.
Brooks said Thursday’s announcementsdoes nothing for residents opposed to projects that already have FIT contracts, including Nextera and Suncor’s proposals to build a total of nearly 140 turbines in Lambton Shores, Plympton-Wyoming and Warwick Township.
Both projects are awaiting provincial environment approval to proceed with construction.
“Lambton Shores, with the two projects we have, is completely saturated” with wind turbine sites, Brooks said.
“Once all the fine print is read, is it really going to make a different to our communities?”
In Enniskillen Township, where three wind companies had been pursuing projects recently, Mayor Kevin Marriott one of the companies, RP Global Canada, informed the municipalities by phone that it’s pulling out of the municipality.
“It was a morale boost,” Marriott said.
None of the companies that have been active in Enniskillen have FIT contracts.
Enniskillen’s council has declared the township an unwilling host for wind projects, and a citizens’ group has been organizing community meetings to oppose wind farms.
Marriott called Chiarelli’s announcement “definitely a big step in the right direction.”
But, the mayor said questions remain, and he’s concerned the province doesn’t appear to be giving municipalities a clear veto over large wind projects within their own borders.
“What does ‘more say’ mean? Is it a little bit, or a lot?”
Marriott said that, based on what Enniskillen landowners are telling him, he can’t imagine township council ever welcoming a wind farm.
“I’ve heard loud and clear that we’re better off without them,” he said.
“I’m just hoping that we can declare ourselves turbine-free.”
Lambton is currently home to only 14 wind turbines – 10 near Kettle and Stony Point First Nation and four in Brooke-Alvinston.
Chad Burke, with the citizens’ group Conservation of Rural Enniskillen, welcomed Thursday’s announcement but said his organization’s work against wind farms isn’t stopping.
“We’re going to continue on until we know, 100% sure, there’s no chance of having industrial wind turbines in Enniskillen.”
In Plympton-Wyoming, Suncor has launched a legal challenge against the municipality’s tough wind turbine bylaws, which includes a requirement they be built at least 2-km from neighbouring homes.
Ontario only requires a 550-metre setback.
While Thursday’s announcement isn’t expected to impact Suncor’s project, P-W Mayor Lonny Napper said, “There’s other turbine companies lurking in the area” who may now be discouraged from looking at Plympton-Wyoming.
“Places that have a love affair with wind turbines, like Chatham-Kent, can proceed and get more of them,” he added.
“And then, everybody’s happy.”
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