A renewable energy company is finding a willing host in Chatham-Kent and nearby Lakeshore, but the same can’t be said for Leamington.
EDF EN Canada Inc. is proposing to develop 100-megawatt wind energy project, to be called Romney Wind Energy Centre, that would span more than 10,000 acres covering the southwest corner of Chatham-Kent, north of Wheatley, a large section of Leamington, as well as a sliver of the easterly boundary of Lakeshore.
The company hosted an open house at the Tilbury Memorial Arena on Wednesday to provide details of the proposed project to the public.
Mark Gallagher, a senior developer with EDF EN, said the company has attained a willing host agreement with Chatham-Kent, which will generate $8 million in revenues for the 20-year life of the project, including a 15% equity partnership agreement with the municipality.
The deal includes paying Chatham-Kent $2,500 per megawatt installed, which would equal about $150,000 a year, as well as $2.1-million equity deal, $56,250 in annual property taxes and a $180,000 annual maintenance contract for Entegrus, the municipal-owned electrical utility.
Lakeshore, which has only agreed to be a willing host for the connection line, would see a $500,000 benefit over 20 years.
However, Gallagher said Leamington has a non-willing host resolution in place, and is not willing to budge on that position when asked to consider this project.
He said the company is still evaluating its position on Leamington.
He noted the project is still feasible with only Chatham-Kent and Lakeshore involved, generating 60 megawatts of power. This reconfigured design would see about 20 turbines erected in the southwest corner of the municipality.
There are several landowners in Leamington who are willing to host a turbine on their property. A total of 10,000 acres have been secured for the project, with 6,000 acres having been signed in the last six months, Gallagher said.
“It’s pretty good take up,” he said, adding they are still in negotiations with some landowners in the area.
Gallagher said many people who initially balked at having a wind turbine on their property have changed their mind.
“We’re getting a lot of calls from people who . . . missed the opportunity the first time around and now they want to be part of the project,” he said. “They’ve seen them up and running, they realize there’s actually no issues here.”
However, only a fraction of that land will be required, because only a limited number of turbines could be erected in the area due to the various environmental and municipal setbacks in place.
While some municipalities are taking advantage of the economic benefits from wind projects, Gallagher said, “there’s still opposition out there to wind.”
Under Ontario’s Green Energy Act, companies don’t need a municipality to be a willing host, but Gallagher said the new procurement system for renewable energy projects favour those that are welcomed by the community.
David Thornton, associate – stakeholder resolutions for EDF EN, said notices for the meeting were sent out to property owners 550 metres beyond the project area.
“That’s the call for the meeting, come out and ask questions,” he said. “We, obviously, want to hear the feedback.”
Gallagher said a key issue that the company plans to address is the aviation lighting on the turbines, which are the blinking red lights that annoy many people at night.
He said the company has committed to spending $10,000 per turbine to install the latest radar technology that would only activate the aviation lights if a plane is in the vicinity.
“It’s just one more way we’re trying to make it acceptable in the community,” Gallagher said.
The company plans to submit its proposal to the Independent Electricity System Operator by Sept. 1, but doesn’t anticipate finding out if it has been successful until at least Christmas.
If accepted, EDF EN would have up to four years to obtain all the environmental approvals and permits, Gallagher said this is very early in process, noting there would be many more open houses and a lot more notification would take place.