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No means no, Warwick tells wind developers

The municipal council in Warwick Township remains firmly opposed to wind turbine projects, and wary of money wind companies are offering, says Mayor Todd Case.

Suncor held public open houses in June for the Nauvoo Wind Power Project it’s proposing for Warwick, Brooke-Alvinston and Adelaide-Metcalfe townships and NextEra Energy has public meetings set this week for a Hardy Creek wind project it’s proposing for the same communities.

Both companies’ projects are in the running for up to 300 MW of new wind energy generation Ontario is scheduled to award later this year. Warwick has the largest amount of land in both proposals.

But, township council is holding firm to its stand that it is not a willing host for wind turbines, Case said.

“The vast majority of our people don’t want them,” he said.

Warwick is already home to fewer than a dozen turbines, built, or being built, as part of earlier NextEra and Suncor projects.

Both companies have sent representatives to Warwick council to pitch their new Nauvoo and Hardy Creek wind proposals, Case said.

“We have told both of them … that we are not a willing host and will not be signing any paperwork stating that,” Case said.

The Green Energy Act Ontario passed in 2009 took planning powers for renewable energy projects away from municipalities, leading to an outcry among many mayors and municipal councillors in rural communities where wind projects end up.

The Liberal government then promised to involve communities in future wind project decisions, and set up a system that awards points to projects with community support.

Wind companies seeking a contract under the procurement system can earn up to 80 points if they have municipal resolutions supporting their project, as well as municipal agreements clarifying expectations, responsibilities and costs related to wind projects. That’s according to information for municipalities posted on the website of the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the agency running the large renewable procurement process.

There are also points available for agreements reached with neighbouring landowners, and for aboriginal participation in projects.

The IESO information package says the points may increase a project’s likelihood of success in bidding, but lack of points doesn’t mean a project won’t move forward.

Case said he has concerns about the process the province has put in place for community agreements being offered by companies.

“They say, ‘If you sign this, here’s a bunch of money that we will put into your community. If you don’t sign, there’s no money for you.'”

Case said he told representatives of both companies he believes wind projects that are approved and built should pay compensation to the municipality, regardless.

“We won’t be signing anything that even has the remote indication of us being a willing host,” he said.

“You don’t sell yourself down the road, or your community down the road, or your principles, because there’s a bag of money attached at the other end.”

Case said the township’s lawyer is reviewing the proposed community agreements, but added his own “first glance” at the documents makes him believe the companies would receive points in the bidding process, if Warwick signs.

In a recent letter to the township, NextEra said it’s proposed community agreement would see Warwick receive $200,000 to $300,000 a year, depending on the number and size of the turbines built in the community.

Joselen Bird, a spokesperson for NextEra, said the design of Ontario’s large renewable procurement process gives preference to projects that have a support resolution from local governments.

“For this reason, such a resolution has a very specific and measurable value to a project,” Bird said in an e-mail.

“Absent such support, the project economics are less certain and we can’t commit to that level of community funding at this time,” Bird said.

Suncor’s proposed agreement would see Warwick receive annual payments of $5,000 per turbine and substation located in the township, and $200 for each transmission pole located in the municipal road allowance. There would also be one-time payments for use of the road allowance for its transmission lines.

“We’re going to look to work with the community, one way or another,” Suncor spokesperson Jason Vaillant said about what the company’s approach would be, if Warwick doesn’t sign a community agreement.

“We would continue to talk to Warwick about supporting the community,” he said.

Dan Moulton, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Energy Ministry, said in an e-mail the large renewable procurement program was designed to strike a balance between community engagement and achieving value for ratepayers.

The points system is intended to promote relationship-building between developers and municipalities, and provide opportunities for communities to raise local needs and considerations, he said.

Points developers earn for showing support from municipalities “may increase their likelihood of success in the competitive process,” Moulton said.

“We see this as one of the strengths of the system, helping ensure that well-supported projects are developed.”