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Invenergy readies next step in unwelcome Elgin wind farm

The Chicago-based energy company planning to build a controversial wind farm in Dutton-Dunwich hopes to be able to start construction by 2018.

Invenergy, the sixth largest renewable energy company in North America, was awarded a contract in March this year to build its $150-million Strong Breeze wind project, a 57.5 megawatt wind farm southwest of St. Thomas in Elgin County.

It plans to erect between 20 and 25 industrial wind turbines.

James Murphy, Invenergy’s vice-president of business development, said the company has started the initial study work in preparation for seeking the required Renewable Energy Approval (REA) in the next several weeks.

The REA process includes consultation and approvals from several government agencies and takes 12 to 18 months to complete, Murphy said in an email.

The company also is required to consult with the public and municipality, as well as post its REA application for comments.

Murphy said the company is engaged with Dutton-Dunwich on items such as a road user agreement and community benefit agreement.

The Strong Breeze project was one of 16 approved under a new process in which companies competed on price and were required to show they had consulted with the local community.

Extra points in the competition were awarded to companies that could demonstrate First Nations participation.

For the Strong Breeze project, Invenergy has teamed with a NCC Development LP, a company representing six remote First Nations in northwestern Ontario. NCC Development has a 10 per cent equity in the wind farm.

The participation of the First Nations 1,000 kilometres from the wind farm drew sharp criticism from Dutton-Dunwich officials. Residents of the municipality were the first to participate in an online referendum that showed 84 per cent of those who voted opposed wind farm development within their boundaries.

NCC Development chief executive Geordi Kakepetum has defended their part in the Dutton-Dunwich project, saying the decision was based on how it fit with the company’s business plan and the returns that could be used to support their local needs and goals.

“Regardless of whether a southern company works in the north, or a northern company works in the south, we should support businesses with a proven track record of delivering results for their communities and the people of Ontario,” Kakepetum said in a letter.