The St. Columban Wind Project Community Liaison Committee (CLC) held the first of its four meetings on June 9, leaving those in attendance with more questions than answers.
The meeting, held at Huron East Town Hall in Seaforth, focused on the construction aspect of the project. Herb Shields of Stantec, who will serve as the facilitator of the meetings, said the four meetings will all be held around “key milestones” of the project.
He said it was important that the first meeting take place prior to construction. Soon, he said, trucks would be bringing large wind turbine parts to the St. Columban area and he wanted community members to be ready.
The meetings are generally held, he said, every six months, with four planned over the next two years.
Members of the CLC include Project Manger Mike Dunn, Operations Manager David Hayes and community member Dennis Mueller.
Mueller said he was inspired to join the committee when he found out that one of the project’s buried power lines would be placed 31 feet from his house, where he is raising three young children.
The meeting began with the history of the project, which received Renewable Energy Approval (REA) in January, after an appeal had been filed, and denied.
Dunn told the handful of people in attendance that to date only surveying has taken place, but that construction would begin sometime in the “third quarter” of this year.
He detailed the number of trucks that would be travelling in and out of the project area. For 15 turbines, he said, with three blades per turbine, plus a number of other components, there would be over 100 truck trips to and from the project.
He then said that in the year’s fourth quarter, community members can expect erection of the turbines and in the first quarter of 2015 the turbines should be commissioned.
The process would also include landscaping around the turbines and the construction and fencing of access roads to and from each turbine.
The construction process, Dunn said, would begin with the digging of each turbine’s foundation, pouring a “mud mat”, installing rebar and pouring concrete for each of the 15 turbines. The process for each turbine, he said, should take about a week. With rotation, however, (pouring the foundation on turbine one, for example, and then moving on to turbine two while the foundation on turbine one sets), the whole process should take about one month.
Throughout the creation of the foundations, Dunn said there will never be any “open trenches” calling it a “pretty clean” operation.
He also touched on the power lines running from the project to the transformer north of Amberley Road. He said the lines will be buried, which is definitely more expensive, but still the best way to go.
Mueller expressed concerns about stray voltage, but Dunn assured him there would be none. Mueller asked Annie Szczygielski, also from Stantec, who was taking the minutes of the meeting to ensure that Dunn’s statement be reflected in the minutes.
Questions about both the voltage and amperage of the power lines were also raised.
Dunn said the voltage the lines will be carrying underground will be no higher than the Hydro One above-ground lines. A man in the audience then, was concerned about the lines, saying that if the voltage is low, the amperage would then, in turn, be high. Dunn said he couldn’t comment on the electrical specifics of the project, as he is not an electrical engineer.
Another man in the audience then became frustrated with both Dunn and Shields, asking what the point of holding a meeting was if there weren’t experts on hand to answer the questions of the people.
Dunn said the meeting was held to discuss aspects of the project’s construction. The audience member persisted, however, asking Shields what Dunn’s qualifications are, calling him “the guy who doesn’t know anything”.
There had initially been concerns about the project burying a power line in the middle of McNabb Line running through Cranbrook, due to heritage concerns in the village.
Putting those concerns to rest, Dunn said there are no plans to bore down the middle of the road at any point in the project. There may be a time where they have to “cross the road” to run lines along the other side, but not down the middle of the road.
Shields said that specific questions about the power lines could be directed to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), but he assured those in attendance that the project, including its electrical components, will adhere to the regulations set out in the REA.
Questions regarding the project’s timeline were also raised, including why the project didn’t start immediately after the REA was received and the appeal was denied.
Dunn said that decision had to do with ordering the turbines and the company’s appetite for risk. He said that once the turbines are ordered, there is a 10-month delivery period. Some companies, he said, will go ahead and order the turbines anyway, but his company didn’t want to risk spending the money if the project wasn’t going to go ahead.
There were also concerns about the cutting of trees on private property without the landowner’s consent. Several audience members brought up the issue, which had been reported in a wind project near Tuckersmith.
Dunn said he could not speak to the actions of another project, but assured those concerned that he would not be cutting down any trees on any private property that was not under a land lease to the company.
If there was a need to cut down any trees, though not planned, there would certainly be a consultation process prior to any action being taken, he said.
The issue of safety was also raised, specifically what would happen in the event of a fire in one of the turbines.
Hayes said it was important to note that the St. Columban project would be using turbines from Siemens. Siemens turbines, he says, have on-board fire prevention measures. To date, in the history of Siemens, he said, there has never been a fire in one of their turbines.
Audience members referenced a turbine fire that occurred near Goderich last year, but again, Hayes said it was important to note that the turbine was not a Siemens product and didn’t include the safety measures he mentioned.
In addition, he said, local firefighters will not be allowed to scale the turbines and fight any fire, should there be one, on the structure. There will be emergency measures in place and the company will have its own response team and strategy.
Hayes also said that the Siemens turbines being used in the project have an efficiency rating of 99.8 per cent, which make them the most reliable turbines in North America. Hopefully, he said, this translates into very little maintenance associated with the project.
Hayes also extended an invitation to all in attendance to get up close and personal with the turbines. He said that a tour around (and in) the turbines can change someone’s mind.
“Come climb with me. I think you’ll be very impressed,” Hayes said. “I think you’ll find that [the turbines] are not what a lot of people think they are; they’re not monsters.”
Mueller’s final concern was the naming of the St. Columban Wind Project. He said that since Huron East Council declared the municipality an “unwilling host” to wind turbines and many community members are not in favour of the project, the community’s name should not be incorporated into the name of the project. Mueller said he received correspondence from a resident whose family was involved in the naming of the community who felt the move was disrespectful.
Dunn said that once the project was named and received its approval, there is no legal way to change its name.
Following the concerns raised by some of the audience members, Shields suggested that perhaps the next meeting of the CLC should deal with the operations of the turbines.
While Shields couldn’t be specific, he said the meetings are usually held approximately every six months and he will insure that concerned community members receive ample notice.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding