Ontario has had more than its share of teething issues with its efforts to introduce industrial-scale wind power into Southern Ontario.
Growing vocal resistance and organized media and municipal campaigns on the part of wind farm opponents have managed to delay or cancel at least three projects in the province this year. This has served to pit Ontario Energy Minister Dwight Duncan against the naysayers as the province's impending energy crunch becomes critical.
In early September, the minister came out swinging, telling major news media the problem is no longer a NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) issue. According to Duncan, it's now a matter of NOPE (not on planet Earth) and BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anybody).
The bottom line, he says, is that if the projects approved by the province don't get sited and built, and soon, there won't be enough power available to the province. Wind turbines, he added, are green and clean, and likely the least offensive from an environmental perspective.
In the meantime, Brookfield Power pulled the plug on its 49.5 MW, 30-turbine Blue Highlands project on the Niagara Escarpment near Collingwood at the end of July, citing delays encountered with the municipality's development process. At the end of August, Enbridge cancelled its plans for 11 wind turbines in the community of Saugeen Shores on Lake Huron, with the community insisting on 250-meter setbacks from property lines, more than double the 121 meters the company has proposed.
And Canadian Hydro Developers' 132 MW Melancthon II, the second phase of its 67.5 MW Melancthon project, has had to delay its in-service date by a full year, to June 30, 2008, as a result of missing the 2006 summer construction season.
‘As part of the provincial Environmental Screening Process, Canadian Hydro received several letters requesting the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) elevate the review to a higher level,’ says John Keating, chief executive of Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. ‘Depending on the MOE decision [expected in September], there are additional time allowances for appeal of any decision, such that it is quite difficult to provide conclusive guidance as to when environmental approval will be completed. However, Canadian Hydro is confident that all environmental issues have been fairly addressed.’
Canadian Hydro found its Melancthon I and Melancthon II projects in the news again in August as the subject of a ‘notice of seizure’ by two women on behalf of the greater Six Nations population. Kahentinetha Horn, one of the two claimants, says the wind farms are on Native land, and, therefore, the turbines themselves are also Native property.
Current land claims by the Six Nations focus on the area of Ontario known as The Haldimand Tract. The subject lands date back to a pact made in 1784 with the British Government, when the Six Nations were rewarded almost one million acres of land ‘six miles deep’ on both sides of the Grant River in thanks for their agreement to battle alongside British soldiers in the American War of Independence. About a decade ago, the Six Nations asked the federal Indian Affairs Department to provide a full account of what has happened to that land since then.
‘As is usual for wind power developments, Canadian Hydro, as the project developer and owner, has entered into long-term leases with the registered landowners to pay for rent for the use of all land occupied by the facilities comprising the wind plant,’ Keating says. ‘The company is not aware of any properly registered legal land claims or potential other infringements filed by any recognized First Nations within the Townships of Amaranth or Melancthon.’
Keating is not prepared to play ‘what if’ concerning the notice of seizure, either.
‘As the Six Nations issues are between the government and the Six Nations, it would be improper for our company to involve itself or to speculate as to the outcome of the discussions that are currently ongoing between those parties,’ he says.