BLENHEIM – Tim Verbeek, co-owner of a large greenhouse operation near here, is accusing developers of the South Kent Wind Project of snubbing the environmental review process.
He contacted The Chatham Daily News concerning the construction of a turbine proceeding near Platinum Produce on Communications Road, south of Highway 401, despite the fact the greenhouse currently has an appeal about the location before the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT).
Verbeek said one turbine in question was originally going to be constructed 503 metres from the bunkhouse used by migrant workers employed by Platinum Produce, which violates the minimum 550-metre setback.
Pattern Energy and Samsung Renewable Energy, developers of the South Kent Wind Project, moved the turbine back 50 metres, but Verbeek said it is still 240 metres from a section of the greenhouse. Another turbine, which is part of the ERT, is also close by the greenhouse.
“The concern is for the health and welfare of our workers,” he said.
Verbeek said the fact construction of the closest turbine is proceeding is “a flagrant smack in the face to the whole Environmental Review Tribunal process.”
He said the family-owned business just finished its oral closing submissions about a week ago to the ERT.
“It’s in the ERT’s hands right now, and no decision is made, and yet they’re going to put up that turbine regardless,” Verbeek said.
The Daily News contacted Pattern Energy about the issue.
Matt Dallas, spokesperson for Pattern Energy, said an e-mail: “We received an approval from the ministry for the moves and construction is permitted to continue on the amended layout.”
The ERT involves just two turbines that could be impacted if there is an adverse decision, he added.
“Our siting practices are consistent with Ontario’s stringent regulations in respect of setback,” Dallas said.
He added, “we responded to feedback from residents during the development process. Once we were advised that workers use a structure on the property as a bunkhouse, we moved two turbines to ensure they are in compliance with Ontario’s stringent regulations on setbacks (550 metres).”
If the ERT rules in favour of Platinum Produce, Verbeek said, “they’ve got that turbine up and then they could be operating that thing and just appeal it again.”
He points to the situation where four wind turbines are supposed to come down because they are too close to the Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport, but there doesn’t appear to be any movement to make it happen.
Verbeek said the initial response of Pattern and Samsung was to try to convince Platinum Produce to become a “participant” in the project, which would eliminate the issue of having to move the turbine location.
He said the greenhouse business was initially offered $20,000 by the energy companies, which eventually rose to $500,000 to become a participant.
A major concern Verbeek has is the fact South Kent Wind Project’s own website states ice can build up on the turbine blades, which can hurl chunks of ice up to 275 metres.
Noting a section of the greenhouse, where workers are often present, is within 240 metres of the turbine in question, Verbeek said, “ice falling down on a glass roof isn’t ideal for our employees.”
Dallas said the Siemens wind turbines being installed at the project have multiple sensors that are designed to detect ice build-up and can automatically trigger a turbine shutdown.
In addition, turbine conditions are continuously monitored by operators that can take appropriate actions when necessary, he added.
By The Numbers
– One wind turbine was 503 metres from bunkhouse used by migrant workers employed by Platinum Produce.
– South Kent Wind moved turbine back 50 metres to be within 550-metre minimum setback from dwellings.
– Wind turbine was within 240 metres of greenhouse operation.
– Ice that can build up on wind turbine blades can be hurled as far as 275 metres.
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