The Township of Huron-Kinloss has reaffirmed its stance as an unwilling host for wind turbines.
The decision was made during the April 18, 2016 council meeting, following notification of Huron-Kinloss’ designation as a potential site for future projects by Ontario’s electricity market regulator, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).
During the regular council meeting Monday night, Huron-Kinloss was informed that the IESO had designated the municipality, along with all of Bruce and Huron counties, as ‘Low Area Capability’ for large-scale renewable projects.
It had previously been labeled a ‘No Area Capability’ by the IESO. The change in designation was mentioned by the regulator as part of an April 12 webinar concerning the second phase of its competitive process to find locations for a total of 930 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy sources.
The change in designation was brought to the attention of Huron-Kinloss through a motion by the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group (MMWTWG) to support its demand that the IESO necessitate municipal approval and involvement in the selection process.
“We’re low, but we were right out of that,” said Deputy Mayor Wilfred Gamble during discussions on the motion. “… So that’s why [the MMWTWG] is recommending that we start screaming.”
The IESO is looking to contract upwards of 600 MW of wind capacity, or the equivalent of 300 2MW turbines. The Request for Qualification process will launch Aug. 1, according to the IESO website.
Huron-Kinloss has long been an opponent to wind turbines, passing a resolution in May of 2013 blatantly stating it is not a willing host for wind projects. Also, in 2011 it passed a motion prohibiting the municipality from issuing developers building permits, unless they adhere to Huron-Kinloss’ own wind turbine rules.
However, its declarations of being unwelcome to this green energy is of little use, said Mayor Mitch Twolan.
“We can say that we are not a willing host, but what does that mean at the end of the day? Nothing because the contracts are let out by the IESO,” Twolan said, following the council meeting. “We’ve always said we’re not a willing host. We passed that a long, long time ago, but the new map that came out, it changes all the time and we had no input into that. And it doesn’t matter that we passed that we’re a non-willing host, they can still put that in there.”
Generally motions passed by municipalities on the siting of turbines are symbolic, as the IESO is the ultimate arbiter under the Ontario Green Energy Act.
Chuck Farmer, the IESO director of stakeholder and public affairs, said the change in designation was to indicate that there is room on the transmission system for more projects and not a reflection of community or municipal support.
“I do understand their concern and I do want to stress that this is an assessment of transmission capabilities – so an assessment of the system ability and not a statement of any community stance,” Farmer said in a phone interview on April 27.
He said the redesignation occurred because previous projects slated for the area are now no longer moving forward, which freed up space on the system.
“That creates an indication there maybe room on the transmission system to connect some more projects in the area,” he said.
Farmer said he couldn’t elaborate on the disbanded wind projects previously set for the area.
The slide from the IESO presentation also states that the designation is the result of preliminary results and is subject to change.
As part of the second phase of its process, called the Large Renewable Procurement (LRP), to construct large-scale energy projects, the IESO is asking stakeholders, including municipalities, for opinions on how the project can be improved.
“Right now we are in the middle of collecting feedback and comments from people about the first LRP process,” said Mary Bernard, the IESO media relations manager.
With a IESO deadline for feedback of May 3 (which Bernard called a “soft deadline”), the motion was added to the agenda the day of the April 18 council meeting. Many councillors had not seen the motion prior to it being announced as new business during the meeting.
After having several minutes to read the motion and its accompanying powerpoint presentation by anti-wind turbine group Wind Concerns Ontario, council raised concern that only 75 per cent of the 16 projects contracted during the first LRP received municipal support.
The projects that received local support were more likely to be awarded contracts, Bernard said, but municipal backing was not the IESO’s only deciding factor.
Cost, grid capability and renewable energy targets were also taken into account when siting a project.
“So community support was an important consideration, but it wasn’t the only consideration,” she said.
The motion was unanimously passed and Huron-Kinloss submitted a letter to the IESO with seven requests for further municipal control and involvement in the siting process.
Two other wind turbine-related motions were passed at council April 18. One urging municipal staff to lobby the Grey Bruce Health Unit to investigate health-related concerns, and the other to share all resolutions and bylaws the municipality passes related to the green energy with the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group.
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