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Wind turbines not suited to Renfrew County

Renfrew County may not be a suitable place for wind turbines after all.

The county’s development and property committee heard Tuesday from Charles Cheesman, the planning services manager, that based on information staff has obtained, there doesn’t appear to be many places where the electricity generators could be placed for them to function properly.

Referring to a wind energy potential map displayed within the Canadian Wind Energy Atlas for Eastern Ontario, he said only a fragment of the municipality gets sufficient wind to make a turbine work.

“As shown on the map, only a small portion of Renfrew County has a high wind potential suitable for wind turbines,” Cheesman said.

“This, coupled with the limit on the electrical grid capacity, would appear to place additional constraints on future wind turbine development.”

The map shows, through colour coding, the only spot in the county which has the potential for wind energy development is along the Foymount Road, south of Eganville and west of Dacre. This rugged area, coupled with older infrastructure carrying transmission lines through the region, seems to make the area less attractive to those companies thinking of investing in wind turbine farms in the county. In contrast, the entire shoreline of Lake Ontario is more accessible and has more of the steady winds desired by wind turbine developers.

During its August meeting, the development and property committee had instructed staff to bring information on wind turbines, including resolutions from previous county councils, as well as maps that identify potential sites. That followed a discussion about the structures, sparked in part by a letter from the Township of North Frontenac asking any wind turbines be located a minimum of 10 kilometres away from their municipal borders.

Cheesman said there remains little the county, or any Ontario municipality for that matter, can do to prevent wind turbines from being built no matter what council or the public thinks about the energy generators. This is thanks to the Green Energy and Green Economy Act which gives the province the final say on approving renewable energy projects.

“Basically, the Green Energy Act rendered the Planning Act invalid,” Cheesman said, meaning there isn’t a way for a municipality to use its own zoning or planning bylaws to restrict the construction of wind turbines.

He referred the committee to a recent court case against the town of Plympton-Wyoming, located east of Sarnia, which shot down an attempt to keep wind turbines out by passing bylaws which placing setbacks and noise emission standards which far exceeded typical provincial requirements, making it impossible to operate the turbines within municipal boundaries. The court ruled municipalities cannot indirectly block with restrictive bylaws what they cannot directly prohibit.