A proposed 150-turbine wind energy project in North Frontenac Township is being called a threat to one of the municipality key economic development tools and tourism attractions.
Opened in the summer of 2013, the North Frontenac Dark Sky preserve was 10 years in the making and is a big part of the municipality’s economic development task force strategy.
North Frontenac was the first municipality in Canada to be designated a dark sky preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
In a letter emailed to Ontario Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli, municipal politicians and area media, Brule Lake resident Chris Albinson wrote that asset could be under threat if the new wind turbines are built.
“Seventy-five wind turbines with associated light pollution would destroy the EDTF objective and the tax base of the township,” Albinson wrote. “This a classic case of one arm of the government undermining the efforts of another arm of the government.”
NextEra Energy Canada, a subsidiary of Florida-based NextEra Energy, is among 42 companies approved to bid for an upcoming large renewable energy contract from the Ontario government.
The company is proposing to build about 150 turbines, with about two-thirds to be built in Addington Highlands Township in Lennox and Addington County, and the rest to be constructed in North Frontenac Township, in the former townships of Claredon and Miller.
In a presentation to Frontenac County council, a company spokesperson said the project would provide North Frontenac with $146,000 in municipal property tax revenue, upgrades to infrastructure, including roads, bridges and culverts, and funding for recreation, sustainability and community projects.
The project also holds the potential for providing between six and 10 full-time jobs and the construction of a 1,525-square-metre operations and maintenance building, the spokesperson said.
NextEra has energy projects in four Canadian provinces and 25 states generating more than 19,500 megawatts. In Ontario, the company has eight wind power projects in 10 municipalities generating more than 600 MW.
In his letter, Albinson called for the Ontario government to reject the NextEra project. He questioned why a U.S. company was being allowed to possibly build a wind energy project in the area.
“Using Ontario taxpayer funds to subsidize a U.S. company that destroys an Ontario nature preserve seems grossly irresponsible, fiscally and environmentally,” he wrote.
When it was established, the dark sky preserve was hailed as an innovative use of something many people would overlook as an asset: a dark sky free of light pollution from urban centres.
About 64% of the North Frontenac is Crown land and low population density and lack of major urban centres makes the area a natural for night sky viewing.
The preserve is being marketed to astronomers from Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Quebec and northern New York, and the township plans to build an economic development strategy to attract tourists eager to view the night in the “Dark Sky Capital for Ontario.”
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