Dozens of wind turbines are coming to a stretch of Lake Huron shoreline boasting some of the most beautiful sunsets in the province.
The Ontario Environment Ministry is giving the green light to a $380-million wind farm that will add 40 turbines in a 16-kilometre corridor along Lake Huron starting near Grand Bend and running north. Most of the turbines will be about a kilometre inland from the beaches.
The wind farm is opposed by some local residents who say turbines will be built too close to homes and cottages.
“We hate it. We don’t want it,” said Ray Vlemmix, who owns a home near Grand Bend.
The Grand Bend wind farm will place its turbines much closer to residences than Next Era Energy, another wind energy company that has several wind farm projects operating or planned for the area.
Vlemmix said he expects the turbines will make the area less attractive for tourism.
Bill Dowson, mayor of the Municipality of Bluewater, said his council has had few direct dealings with Northland Power, the company building the Grand Bend wind farm.
The municipality is already the site of about 40 wind turbines constructed by Next Era.
Dowson said the municipality will gain financially from building permits and tax assessment from the Northland wind farm. Council hasn’t taken an official stand either for or against wind farms, he said.
“It hasn’t been as stormy here at council as it has been in some areas.”
The Renewable Energy Approval published last Friday stipulates Northland Power has to construct and install the facility within three years. The company on its website says it anticipates the wind farm will be operational in 2014.
Headquartered in Toronto, Northland Power is a publicly traded company with wind, solar, biomass and hydro projects across Canada. It also owns projects in United States and Europe.
For the Grand Bend wind farm, Northland has brought on board the Aamjiwnaang First Nation at Sarnia and Bkejwanong First Nation at Walpole that have 25% shares in the project.
By involving First Nations, the company’s president has said Northland will receive a higher price for the energy produced by the wind farm.
A spokesperson for Northland Power couldn’t be reached on the weekend.
In issuing its approval, the Environment Ministry noted people have varying opinions about the changes a wind facility will bring to the landscape.
“This does not constitute an industrial park which is characterized by development of large portions of the land for manufacturing as well as large scale traffic increases during operation,” the ministry decision said.
Though residents can appeal the Environment Ministry approval, the chances of success are not high.
Jane Wilson of Wind Concerns Ontario, the provincial umbrella organization for groups opposed to wind farms, said opponents have only won one case and that is still being challenged in the courts.
The Grand Bend Wind Farm was one of 24 wind farms being considered for approval in Ontario, Wilson said.
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GRAND BEND WIND FARM
40-turbine project in Huron County municipalities of South Huron and Bluewater.
About 2,400 hectares included in the project.
Total capacity of 100 megawatts.
Expected to employ 150 people at peak construction with six to eight full-time employees after it starts operating.
Original plans called for 48 turbines, but scaled back to 40.
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