With the wpd Springwood Wind Project set to commence commercial operations this month, less than two dozen local residents attended the fourth, and possibly final, community meeting regarding the operation.
The four-turbine project straddles the 3rd Line of Centre Wellington (formerly West Garafraxa) between Sideroads 20 and 15 near Belwood.
At the meeting at the Elora Legion on Oct. 23, facilitator Herb Shields of Stantec Consulting said his role was to ensure residents had the opportunity to ask questions.
Jonathon Clifford of wpd Canada stated the community liaison committee was created with the intent of providing communication between the developer and the community.
He explained Springwood is a Class 4 wind facility of four turbines with a total capacity of 9.2 megawatts. The project received renewable energy approval of a 20-year contract in October 2012 and construction, which began in 2013, is just about finished, Clifford said.
Recently the company conducted testing and partial operation on all turbines, which included generating power and feeding it to the electrical grid. Full operations are to begin sometime this month.
Clifford said the next step includes post-commission monitoring, to begin in the spring, though he anticipates a fair amount of activity initially to ensure the facility is working the way it should.
Residents at the meeting wondered what would be considered the start of the 20-year contract. Clifford said the 20 years begins when the facility officially goes online.
Clifford explained 20 years is roughly the same life expectancy of the turbines. After two decades he said he expects the project will be decommissioned and taken down – or, he said, it’s possible the turbines could be retrofitted and returned to service for another contract period.
When asked how much money the turbines would generate, Clifford said the contract is for 13.5 cents per kilowatt/hour.
He did not provide an estimate as to how much each turbine would generate, but noted each would annually produce enough power for 300 homes.
Area resident Daina Hunter said considering all the costs involved, including the turbines and the contracts for host landowners, the wind project “has to make a lot of money.”
“We wouldn’t build it if it didn’t,” Clifford replied, adding payback on the multi-million dollar project will take several years.
Hunter also questioned who was really making the money, when projects of this nature are being bought and sold even before turbines are built. Hunter voiced concern that it seemed the grassroots input was being lost on projects such as this.
Clifford stated money is only paid out once the turbines begin producing energy and, “We didn’t get any subsidies to build the project – nor do similar developments.”
Hunter maintained that it seemed wpd “is being cagey about numbers on the project.” She also found it unusual that she could provide numbers regarding the solar micro-fit project on her rooftop but the numbers didn’t seem to be available for a large wind energy project.
Clifford said in general, turbines of this type cost roughly $5 million each to build. Industry wide, the payback on the turbines is seven to 10 years, he added.
Because the project’s only income is the FIT contract price per kilowatt hour, Clifford said, “Up to this point the Springwood project has not brought in any revenue.”
Wpd Canada project electrical engineer Paul Deol explained testing has begun for the turbines with connection to the hydro grid in early October to make certain connections are correct and the turbines are operating properly.
Currently the turbines are being closely monitored via computer and remote sensors on site, which is why they were operating only during daylight hours.
Deol said as of Oct. 23, pending final checks, the turbines are ready to be fully certified. “November is still projected to be the in-service date, but there is still some paperwork to finalize.”
Clifford said post commissioning monitoring includes acoustic tests in addition to bird and bat death monitoring.
He added that the turbine manufacturer Senvion will be responsible for most of the maintenance. He expected in the first year there will be fairly frequent visits, eventually slowing down to every six months – in addition to unscheduled maintenance.
Monitoring begins in 2015
Clifford said a number of monitoring tests will begin in the new year. Those tests do not relate to the lights emitted from the tower nor the effects of wind vortices created by the turbines.
Clifford pointed out the number of lights is due to Transport Canada regulations. When asked if light emission testing would include the flashing light emissions from the towers, his answer was no.
Wind vortices, other tests
Also questioned was the impact of the wind vortices (wind disturbance) created by the turbines. Clifford said he would check into it. But information he had suggested the impact could be within eight to ten blade lengths.
The resident making the query suggested online information indicate the vortices could be up to 13 blade diameters depending on the wind speed.
Emission tests measure the sound produced directly from the source. The first test will take place in the spring and test results are submitted within six months of the commencement of operations.
Immission testing measures sound reception and should represent the location of the greatest predicted noise impact.
When it comes to the impact on wildlife, methods must follow Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry protocols, including bird and bat mortality from May to October and raptor mortality monitoring in November (to catch the end of the raptor migration season).
Nicole Kopysh, terrestrial ecologist and project manager for Stantec Consulting, is in charge of post construction wildlife monitoring at the Belwood site. She noted these programs are to run for a minimum of three years. All turbine areas are searched twice weekly from May to November, and weekly through November for raptor monitoring.
She added trials are conducted in advance to determine efficiency and scavenger removal of carcasses – to provide more accurate numbers of mortality rates.
When it came to numbers of dead animals caused by the wind turbines, the MNR has an acceptable mortality threshold.
One member of the audience asked what is considered an acceptable rate of deaths.
Kopysh said explained contingency measures and/or mitigation measures are required in the case of:
– 10 bats/turbine/year;
– 14 birds/turbine/year;
– 2 raptors at a project in a year;
– 10 or more birds at any one turbine during a single monitoring survey; or
– 33 or more birds at multiple turbines during a single monitoring survey.
Kopysh agreed that if deaths exceeded 20-plus, something needs to change. She added any fatality of a species at risk is to be reported to the MNR within 24 hours of identification. Any occurrence of 10 or more bird deaths at one turbine or 33 or more at multiple turbines during a single check needs to be reported to the MNR within 48 hours.
One resident wondered whether the searchers could simply write down any number acceptable to the company.
“No, we’re professionals and independent,” Kopysh responded.
Others in the crowd contended the numbers are mostly based on found carcasses, “But this area is crawling with coyotes …”
Kopysh said the numbers will be corrected to provide more accurate estimates. She used the example of an area found to have a 50% scavenger rate. Therefore if one bat is found the numbers will be altered to indicate that two bats were found. She noted that if mitigation measures are required, they are for the life of the project. It also triggers three additional years of monitoring to determine whether the measures are effective.
When asked what happens if the mitigation measures don’t work, Clifford said additional mitigation measures could be implemented, but, “I can’t think of any reason to shut down period.” Hypothetically, Clifford agreed such a scenario could occur, but he said such an order would have to come through the Ministry of Environment.
He noted shutting down the project would have other costs, explaining that since Springwood is under contract to provide power for a 20-year period, the contract would still need to be honoured.
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