A wind farm with 20 to 25 turbines being proposed for Essex and Tecumseh has two Essex council members saying enough already.
“We are saturated down here,” Essex Coun. Sherry Bondy said Tuesday.
Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said Essex has enough at 32 turbines.
“I would have no problem putting up pockets of five (turbines) scattered throughout the community but for us to have them from one end of the community to the other totally covering the entire community, I have a problem with that,” Meloche said.
GDF SUEZ Canada Inc. is proposing a 40- to 60-megawatt project called the Blue Sky Wind Project, west of downtown Essex. The project is for a large area in Tecumseh and Essex stretching from Walker Road to west of downtown Essex and north of Highway 3 down to County Road 18.
Last year the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator announced it was seeking bids on large renewable energy projects and bids are due by Sept. 1.
The company is holding public meetings Aug. 12 at the Tecumseh Arena and Aug. 13 at the McGregor Community Centre. Both meetings run from 5 to 8 p.m.
In Essex County, farmers who receive money for having wind turbines on their land tend to support the projects but Meloche said there are complaints from Essex residents about noise and concerns over negative impacts on health and property values. He said Essex County is too densely populated to have so many turbines and there’s a big difference between seeing a few turbines in one direction in the distance and being surrounded by them.
The issue of how many turbines is too many will come to council’s Aug. 10 meeting. Meloche will ask council to be clear on whether it supports the project or not. Company officials have been invited to the meeting.
Even if Essex declares it’s not a willing host, the municipality can’t stop wind projects if they are approved by the province, Meloche said.
Still Meloche and Bondy are concerned residents and the province may get the impression that the Blue Sky Wind Project has received support when it hasn’t.
In 2012 the previous council didn’t support a proposed 46.8-megawatt Blue Sky Wind farm with 27 turbines that were to go southwest of downtown Essex.
Bondy said the latest version sounds like a similar project. This time council, which was elected in the fall and has new members, agreed in a four-to-three vote April 20 to receive the information and hold more meetings to keep council apprised of the project. In the recorded vote, Meloche and councillors Bondy and Larry Snively were opposed.
Bondy understood why new members of council wanted more information but she didn’t even want staff hearing more from the company since she thought it might give the wrong impression. She said at the time she asked how many turbines would be in the project and she wasn’t given an answer which seemed odd to her.
“We did not as a council approve the project or sanction the project or give any of our consent to the project,” Bondy said.
GDF SUEZ Canada Inc. is also the owner/operator of other local wind projects including the Harrow Wind Farm, a 40-megawatt project that began operating in 2010 with 24 turbines and a 49-megawatt project at Pointe Aux Roches in Lakeshore.
Bonnie Hiltz, the company’s government relations and regulatory affairs adviser, said officials will attend the Aug. 10 meeting. She said the company was not seeking support at the April meeting.
The electricity generated by the wind turbines goes into the grid but a project with 20 to 25 wind turbines would generate enough electricity to supply 14,000 average households a year, she said.
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