Wind farm blows into Orono

An example of steel lattice towers, part of a wind farm in Costa Rica. (photo supplied)

The hills of Orono will soon be green in more ways than one, and the landscape altered for at least the next 20-30 years, with the impending addition of 14 wind turbines somewhere in the surrounding countryside.

On April 8th, 2010, the province of Ontario announced 184 contracts had been awarded for large Feed-In Tariff (FIT) projects, including a 20,000 kilowatt (kW) on-shore wind farm contract offered to ZEP Wind Farm Ganaraska LP. The announcement was made by Brad Duguid, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, at the Whitby campus of Durham College.

The projects are part of the largest green energy investment of its kind in Canadian history, according to the Ontario Power Authority (OPA). The OPA is responsible for implementing the FIT program, in which qualifying renewable energy sources such as wind, water, solar, and bioenergy are contracted to feed into the existing power grid at a standardized price. Prices are designed to cover project costs and allow for a reasonable return on investment over the contract term, which is generally 20 years.

The ZEP Wind Farm Ganaraska LP is one of eight contracts offered to Wind Works Power Corp. (WWP) as part of the April 8th announcement, which also includes 10 MW wind farms near each of Pontypool, Bethany, Millbrook, and Grafton/Northumberland Hills. The OPA describes the ZEP Wind Farm Ganaraska location as “north of Oshawa.” Further confusing local residents, WWP is listed as the proponent of the wind farm, rather than Energy Farming Ontario (EFO), the company which held a public open house for ZEP Wind Farm Ganaraska on July 30th, 2009.

Kelly Campbell, EFO’s Director of Project Management, said the reference to Oshawa was meant to help people unfamiliar with the area, by naming a well-known city that is close by. She also clarified that EFO, a privately-owned Brighton, ON-based company, is the developer for WWP’s Ontario projects. EFO was formed in 2007 by former engineers and principals of one of the world’s leading wind turbine manufacturers, to put that experience to work here in Canada, according to the company website.

Campbell said she could not say where in the Orono area the wind farm will be, as its exact location is “not yet determined.” She said locals would be notified of the location at a public meeting to be scheduled sometime over the next few months. “We have yet to finalize details of turbine locations as that is still in development,” she said. “There will be a ‘first’ public meeting within the next few months, which will identify the lots and concessions under consideration for the project. There are many considerations we have to take before we have any finalization of those turbine locations.”

While turbine locations may not be decided, it does seem likely that EFO has a particular site in the Orono area already in mind for the wind farm. According to OPA’s FIT program overview, evidence of site access rights is a part of the application requirements. Furthermore, EFO states that two or more meteorological towers equipped with wind sensors must be set up on any potential site for at least a full year, in order to confirm that it is suitable for wind farming. Such studies likely took place prior to EFO’s application to the FIT program, which was made in November, 2009.

When asked if the name of the project offered a clue as to its location, Campbell said that Ganaraska is simply “a road up there, the one main road in the general area. We don’t know the location yet.”  On the OPA’s website, the FIT program graphically presents the locations of projects on a Google-based map, pinpointing the ZEP Wind Farm Ganaraska LP west of Jewel Road between Ganaraska Road and the 7th Concession. However, the site notes that “the project locations displayed on the map are for illustrative purposes only.”

A map provided by EFO at last year’s open house showed the study-area boundaries reach as far north as Regional Road 20 (Boundary Rd.) on the west side of Hwy. 35/115, and as far north as the 8th Concession on the east side of the highway. The western and eastern boundaries of the study area vary, but in places extend as far east as Newtonville Road, and as far west as the Darlington-Clarke Townline Road. The southern boundary of the study area is the 5th Concession Road, stretching from Hwy. 35/115 to Newtonville Road.

Campbell did confirm that the land for the wind farm would be acquired through lease agreements with landowners. EFO states that “the landowner receives annual payments for the leased portion of their land (approximately three-quarters of an acre per turbine) that is used to site turbines, access roads, cabling and other project components.”

EFO states that it compensates landowners for their willingness to commit to a project, whether it is built or not. Once a wind farm is operating, the royalty paid to a landowner is a percent of the value of power produced by a turbine on a monthly basis. While it varies with the wind, it is estimated at between $5,500 and $7,500 per turbine per year, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

Campbell could not predict the size of the wind farm, since it “depends on the type of turbine used.” According to EFO, approximately 30 percent of Energy Farming International’s wind turbines around the world are mounted on SeeBa lattice towers, the majority with hub-heights of more than 100 meters (328 feet).

She said the size of the property needed for the wind farm was also unknown, but when asked for a ballpark figure, she noted that “approximately 100 acres per turbine are required to meet setback regulations.” The EFO website states that wind power projects are “typically sited over a few hundred acres of landscape.”

“We want to keep the information flowing wherever possible, but it takes months to determine the exact location,” she said. After the first public meeting, which should occur over the next few months, Campbell said there would also be a final meeting prior to EFO making its final submission to the Renewable Energy Approval Process (REA).

“We will give 30-days notice for the first meeting. We’ll start collecting questions and comments. With the final REA submission, we will include how those concerns and comments have been addressed,” she said. “There will be a 60-days notice of a final meeting, and the REA submission will be available in draft on our website and at your municipal offices.”

In the meantime, EFO is “working on preparing the documents and studies required under the REA Process.” Documents include a Project Description report, a Construction Plan report, a Design and Operation report, a Decommissioning report, an Avian report, a Bat Monitoring report, and a Radar and Radio Communications report, she said. “There is an extensive list of regulations from the Ministry of the Environment,” she noted. Some of these requirements are also from the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ontario Energy Board, and the Electrical Safety Authority, in addition to municipal building permits.

New regulations under REA also include more planning with the municipality, said Campbell. “It’s rather extensive with regards to any impact on the municipality, such as delivery timelines so that our routes are not interfering with emergency services,” she said.

Domestic content regulations for wind projects over 10 kW increase over time, and are determined by the year a project reaches commercial operation, according to OPA’s FIT program overview. If commercial operation commences between 2009 and 2011, the minimum domestic content requirement is 25 percent; for the year 2012 and later, the minimum is 50 percent.

Indications are that once it is given final approval, construction of the Orono-area wind farm may begin as early as next year. The OPA states that “from the time the contract is executed, commercial operation must be reached within three years” for on-shore wind projects. According to a statement on the WWP website, the company is “targeting to commence construction on a minimum of 70 MW in Ontario in 2011.”

Campbell attended last year’s open house at the Orono Town Hall. “We found that the majority of people actually were not opposed to wind energy, but rather curious about the project,” she said. Most of the concerns raised at the open house had to do with noise and property values, she stated.

At the open house, reactions expressed to the Orono Times included concerns about the size of the turbines, and their impact on the landscape. Some felt strongly that the wind farm should not be located close to residents, citing concerns about noise, property values and possibly-not-yet-known health risks to both people and livestock. Concerns about the impact on migrating birds were also mentioned.

Campbell was joined at the open house by Dr. Ingo Stuckmann, who is now President and CEO of WWP. According to the EFO website, Stuckmann received his Ph.D. in Natural Science in his native Germany, and later conducted research at Harvard University in the U.S. In 2002, he co-founded Energy Farming International, a wind farm financing and construction company based in Germany. “During his management, 230megawatts (MW) of wind farm projects were successfully developed in Spain, and 329 MW were successfully developed in the U.S.,” states the website.

When Energy Farming International merged with SeeBa Energy Farming Group in 2007, Stuckmann served as a principal of the merged entity. In 2008, he co-founded Zero Emission People LLC (ZEP) for wind energy development in North America. In 2009, Stuckmann was named CEO and Director of WWP, and on Jan. 31st, 2010, WWP closed its acquisition of ZEP.

The province also announced that a contract was offered to Leader Energy.ca Corporation for Clarington Wind Farm, a proposed 10,000 kW on-shore wind farm in “Bowmanville.” The OPA map, provided “for illustrative purposes only,” located the wind farm near the southwest corner of 1st Concession Road and Morgans Road, south of Hwy. 401, between Newcastle and Newtonville.

For more information, go to www.windworkspower.com, http://windconcernsontario.wordpress.com.and http://fit.powerauthority.on.ca. The OPA’s FIT maps can be found at http://http://fit.powerauthority.on.ca/sites/default/files/version3/FIT%203%20Area%20Map%20-%20October%203%202013.png

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