Lambton County’s largest wind turbine project has begun producing power.
NextEra Energy said Tuesday its 92-turbine Jericho Wind Energy Centre has achieved commercial operation in Lambton Shores and Warwick Township.
Construction of the more than $400-million project began in May, creating some 200 construction jobs as turbines and power lines were erected across the rural community.
The 149-MW project is capable of generating enough electricity to power more than 37,500 homes, the company said in a press release.
“This project is significant not only because of the emissions-free electricity it provides Ontario, but also because of the investment in the local economies of both Lambton and Middlesex counties,” said Ben Greenhouse, director of development for NextEra Energy Canada.
While the turbines are in Lambton County, power lines for the Jericho project travel into neighbouring Middlesex to connect the wind energy centre to Ontario’s electricity grid.
NextEra said more than $6.3 million was spent at local businesses during construction on services including from materials, equipment, utilities, labour, housing and subcontractors.
The company has said eight to 10 full-time workers will be needed to operate the project, and that it expects to pay $360,000 in property taxes annually.
NextEra said it has also committed, to date, more than $60,000 to community initiatives, including the Legacy Youth Hockey Program, Lambton Shores Super Strokers Dragonboat Team, the Lambton Film and Food Festival and Thedford Skating Club.
The company has said the turbines are expected to operate for 25 to 30 years.
NextEra, a Florida-based company, has seven wind projects in Ontario, including Jericho.
“We have appreciated the support and engagement of local businesses, landowners, municipal staff and other community stakeholders over the past year during the construction phase of the project,” Greenhouse said.
“We look forward to continued engagement and partnership with the community as we head into the operations phase.”
NextEra’s 92 turbines join 10 already operating in Lambton Shores, as well as a small four-turbine wind project outside of Watford.
Suncor Energy has taken out building permits for its planned 46-turbine Cedar Point wind project in Lambton Shores, Plympton-Wyoming and Warwick.
An appeal of the provincial approval for that project is currently being heard by Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal.
The Jericho project faced opposition in the community, led by the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group.
Its members were involved in an appeal the provincial tribunal recently dismissed.
“I really don’t see anything for NextEra to be cheering about when it has taken up so much of our farmland,” said Lambton Shores resident Dona Stewardson.
The wind project has also taken a toll on relationships in the rural community, she said.
“We used to be neighbour helping neighbour, and they have taken that away from us.
Marcelle Brooks, a member of the wind action group who also lives in Lambton Shores, said, “We’ve been sitting here watching them test the turbines for the last month, knowing that it was kind of inevitable.”
Brooks said she believes the only thing left now is to wait for the fallout from Ontario’s push to build wind turbines.
“The province has made it clear who the priority is for them . . . and it’s certainly not the well-being of the residents of Ontario.”
Brooks said that while the Jericho project wasn’t stopped, she believes it’s still important for turbine opponents in the community to continue speaking out.
“As soon as we don’t push back, we clear the path for more.”