Niagara Region Wind Corp. said Wednesday it is on track to build its 77-turbine wind farm in Niagara region and Haldimand county, after the Ministry of the Environment issued its Renewable Energy Approval last week.
The turbines being installed – the majority to be located in West Lincoln – are some of the largest available at three megawatts each. The total development has a capacity of 230 MW, enough to power 70,000 homes and make it the fifth-largest wind farm in North America.
“The is confirmation of all the work we’ve done over the past seven and a half years,” said Merv Croghan, CEO of NRWC.
But while the REA is one big hurdle, the private company is still a number of steps away from being able to start construction.
“We’re moving forward with our very detailed construction design plans,” Croghan said. “We’re getting into the real micro detailing of the project.”
NRWC is now in a 15-day holding period during which the public can submit objections on the REA approval. A panel would then decide if the approval should be heard before an environmental review tribunal, similar to an appeals court, to which the company would have to argue its case to move forward with the project.
At least one group, Mothers Against Wind Turbines, confirmed Wednesday it plans to appeal.
“The reason for the appeal is to protect children and families in our communities against the wind turbine emissions,” said Linda Rogers, who sits on the Mothers Against Wind Turbines board.
In an NRWC news release, Croghan said the project would create more than 700 jobs during construction and that more than $130 million would be spent locally.
After the company issued its release Wednesday morning, Niagara West–Glanbrook MPP Tim Hudak, who has publicly opposed the project, said he would continue to fight against the Green Energy Act and the turbine developments it allows.
“I’m going to keep fighting this project,” he said in an e-mail to The Tribune. “It is not in the interest of local residents to have among the tallest wind farms forced into their backyards with no local say, nor does it help seniors, families and businesses who are now paying among the most expensive hydro bills in North America.”
Hudak said he has proposed a moratorium on the development of “any more heavily-subsidized wind energy projects” as part of a bigger affordable energy plan.
West Lincoln Mayor Doug Joyner was also disappointed to hear the project got its REA.
“Regardless of what position you have on wind farms, many West Lincoln residents, and many Ontario residents, still believe that the action of the provincial government to take away the rights of municipalities through the Green Energy Act is very disappointing and fundamentally wrong,” he said, adding that West Lincoln has declared itself an “unwilling host” to industrial wind farms.
“Council and many residents truly believe that (wind) farms should be directed to willing host communities,” he said.
Joyner called the combination of the REA approval and last week’s Health Canada study effectively backing the argument of the wind turbine developers a “double whammy.”
But Croghan said he sees the Health Canada report as confirmation of its own studies.
“It should be more confirmation for the public that a third party did studies. They should feel comfortable knowing that what we’ve said in our REA and what the MOE has approved, is factual,” he said.
Rogers, however, said that study doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The study is not complete. What has been issues are preliminary statements. There is a lot of criticism about those statements,” she said. “The (NRWC) project as currently approved will cause harm. The main mechanism will be noise. These are some of the largest wind turbines that have been sited in Ontario. The government knows there’s a problem. A big problem.”