A group of Elgin county landowners with sky-high aspirations are asking for Central Elgin council members to support their bid to build a small wind project in the municipality.
Fairview Community Wind Park organizers are planning to submit an application to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to build turbines at up to 17 sites between Sparta Line and Dexter Line, east of Sunset Dr.
The group of stakeholders is hoping the proposal will be approved as part of the provincial energy regulator’s Feed-In Tarriff (FIT) program – a small procurement renewable energy portfolio where individual landowners can sell electricity back to the grid.
The Fairview Community Wind Park group is in a hurry to get Central Elgin council approval before the IESO application deadline on Oct. 23. After presenting their proposal at Tuesday’s meeting, council deferred judgement until the Thames Talbot Land Trust could review the project and assess whether it would have a negative effect on migrating birds at nearby Hawk Cliff.
Though landowners can still submit their proposal to the IESO FIT Program without council approval, a vote of confidence from the municipality bodes well for their application.
“Without council approval, there’s a lower priority given to the project,” said Andreas Schneider, landowner and organizer of the Fairview Community Wind Park project.
“I think that if we do not get municipal approval it will probably fall apart as a project.”
The proposed turbines, which will be located on privately-owned land, are much smaller than ones used in industrial wind farms. Schneider said each turbine is only one sixth of the size of the units at the Erie Shores II wind project in Malahide Township and has a maximum electrical output of 500 kilowatts.
Schneider said newly released guidelines for the IESO FIT program have made the possibility of a community-based wind project more financially viable than ever before.
“We’re trying the best we can, given this hasn’t really been done before, these small community wind farms,” he said, adding big wind projects typically lease property from landowners.
“Actually giving landowners a piece of the equity, ownership, is something rather novel.”
Schneider estimates that each turbine could earn landowners anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 each year from the electricity it feeds into the grid. He declined to give the estimated cost to build each unit citing non-disclosure agreements with the manufacturers.
Over and above the financial benefits for individual landowners, Schneider said the small-scale wind project is one way to keep a large renewable procurement from getting a foothold in Central Elgin.
“It makes it a lot harder for the big guys to come in because these small guys block off the airspace,” he said.
Central Elgin council will be meeting again Friday morning to discuss their support for the Fairview Community Wind Park proposal.
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