Energy company Nextera has been given the green light to start building a 92-turbine industrial wind farm in Lambton and Middlesex counties.
Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment issued a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) earlier this week for the company’s proposal to build a 150-megawatt wind farm spanning Lambton Shores, Warwick Township and North Middlesex.
Some final details still need to be worked out, but construction of the Jericho Wind Energy Centre is expected to begin as soon as possible, said Ben Greenhouse, director of development with Nextera Energy Canada.
The project has been in the works since 2008, he said, and was submitted for ministry approval 14 months ago.
“We’re excited,” he said, noting a laydown yard – headquarters for construction – will soon be built on Thomson Line, north of Jericho Road and south of Northville Road.
But not everyone is enthused about the approval.
Lambton Shores resident Marcelle Brooks, with the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group, has been a vocal opponent of the project.
It was a sad day when she saw the approval, she said.
“It was just devastating that our voices simply aren’t being heard.”
Concerns raised about whether turbines are being set back the required 550 metres from residential properties, and environmental concerns about nesting eagles near powerlines, haven’t been adequately addressed, she contends.
Concerns have also been raised about wind turbines affecting tundra swan migration, and the potential health impacts to people living nearby.
Brooks said she was planning to convene a meeting Wednesday with people affected by the project – connecting to Hydro One’s distribution system – to talk about options.
An appeal period ends April 29, which provides for a 15-day window.
“The fight isn’t over yet,” Brooks said. “The ministry’s working against us, we have industry working against us, but we’re fighting for our homes, for our communities.”
The approval comes with a 20-point list of requirements that include an acoustic audit, water use restrictions, and meeting all Endangered Species Act of 2007 requirements.
They’re familiar territory for Nextera, said Greenhouse. This is the company’s seventh Ontario wind energy project approved, including Bornish and Adelaide wind farms in Middlesex County.
He said it is the company’s intention to comply with all of the requirements, noting the company has “rigid requirements” about not disturbing the eagle’s nest during mating season.
But nobody is enforcing those rules, Brooks said.
“What happens if they don’t comply?”
An MOE spokesperson said the Ministry will be responsible for enforcement.
Nextera conducted community consultations as part of its approval process, Greenhouse said, noting a consultation report summarizes most of the concerns and Nextera’s responses.
“I think we can say categorically that we are of the view that we meet all of the requirements under the provincial legislation,” he said, adding the project will bring economic development to farming operations and the community.
More details about the project are available at nexteraenergycanada.com.
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