An aviation safety expert says the location of wind turbines as proposed by WPD Canada would be “unwise.”
Charles Cormier also told an environmental tribunal review hearing on an appeal of the province’s approval of the renewable energy application (REA) for the Fairview Wind project that the eight turbines could have a negative impact on growth at the Collingwood Regional Airport.
Collingwood, Clearview Township, and Simcoe County have joined Kevin Elwood, Preserve Clearview and John Wiggins in appealing the approval by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
“It’s a growing airport, it’s a very busy airport,” Cormier told the tribunal during four hours of testimony.
Cormier has reviewed the turbine issue several times on behalf of the Collingwood Regional Airport, and rebutted the opinion of experts hired by WPD Canada that the turbines would have a negligible impact on aircraft movements.
Under its REA, the company is required to retain an independent aeronautical consultant to recommend mitigation measures to ensure pilot safety at both Collingwood Regional Airport and Stayner Aerodrome.
During his testimony, Cormier reviewed pilot procedures under instrument flight and visual flight approaches and take-offs, and the practice of travelling in an oval circuit around the area for student pilots learning to take-off and land.
To the latter, the circuit currently in place would take students directly over the area where the wind turbines would be located.
Cormier said that planes would typically fly at an altitude of 1,000 feet during the circuit, but weather conditions such as a low cloud ceiling could potentially put the planes at 500 feet – the same level as the top of the turbines – in order to maintain visual contact with the airport.
Cormier panned the suggestion in a witness statement of one of WPD’s experts that the circuit could be reconfigured for pilots to go to the right rather than left – a practice Cormier said was not standard and would require the approval of Transport Canada. He also dismissed the concept of some pilots going left and others right, dependent on aircraft, that is in place at an airport in Alberta.
“That is the only one I’ve seen, and as a professional, I think it’s a high risk and I would not recommend it for Collingwood, with two flight schools and a lot of itinerant traffic,” he told the hearing. “If there is a distraction, a mechanical problem, a deterioration in the weather, flying over these 500-foot obstacles, I believe, is a dangerous situation.”
Two of the Fairview turbines are within 2.1 nautical miles of the airport, or outer surface, while two others are on that radius. While Cormier said as an uncertified airport, the outer surface restriction set by Transport Canada may not apply, the federal agency still “strongly encourages any aerodrome to respect the (obstacle limit surface) for safety.
“I believe it’s too close,” Cormier told the tribunal. “Collingwood is a growing facility … there is significant development being proposed, and with two flight schools, introducing 500-foot obstacles is unwise.”
Cormier also dismissed questions from WPD counsel John Richardson to draw comparisons to airports at Kincardine, where there are wind turbines, and Kelowna.
In the case of Kincardine – to which Cormier was a consultant – mitigation measures were able to be put in place for 41 of 43 turbines that could be considered as obstructions to pilots flying into that airport.
Kelowna, he testified, was in controlled airspace during certain times of the day. At times when there were not air controllers, such as at night, it is recommended that pilots who are not experienced at flying in the region not land.
He was also asked about Pincher Creek Airport in Alberta, which is surrounded by wind turbines. Cormier said those turbines were only 75 metres tall – about half the height of those proposed in the Fairview Project – and the airport saw limited use. It also did not have a flight school.
“It’s not a valid comparison,” he said.
Cormier also testified that Transport Canada only provides ‘guidelines’ for land use around uncertified aerodromes, while the rules are in place for certified airports that have the lands around them adequately zoned.
“We would not even be having this hearing if Transport Canada had a clear policy on this, but they don’t,” he said.
Cormier’s testimony is expected to continue Wednesday morning when he is to testify with regard to the impact of wind turbines on the privately-owned Stayner Aerodrome. The hearing is expected to conclude at the end of this week.
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