London Free Press, June 11, 2015
by John Miner
It cost nearly $1 billion, employed up to 500 workers at its peak and provoked repeated legal challenges.
But 18 months after work began on it, the massive K2 Wind Power Project — one of Canada’s largest wind farms — is producing power.
Located north of Goderich, inland from Lake Huron, the project formerly known as Kingsbridge II has 140 giant turbines and covers 190 sq. km. Just to access the site alone, 90 km of new roads had to be built.
The builders and energy giants that operate the farm — Samsung Renewable Energy Inc., Pattern Energy Group Inc. and Capital Power Corp. — say it’ll generate clean power for up to 100,000 homes a year.
“Along with Samsung and Capital Power, we are proud to develop one of the largest wind facilities in Canada, which was built using local workers and materials,” said Pattern Energy CEO Mike Garland.
The partnership has a 20-year deal to supply power to Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator.
K2 estimates it will employ 20 full-time operations and maintenance workers and 10 seasonal employees.
Similar to other wind farm projects in Ontario, K2 faced vocal local opposition. Some of its facilities were damaged in unsolved vandalism attacks last fall.
Several farm families challenged the project in court, arguing K2 and another wind farm violated their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms by exposing them to potential harm.
That challenge hit a legal dead end last month when Ontario’s highest court denied them leave to appeal.
Their lawyer, Julian Falconer said the families remain committed to exploring other legal options to hold the government and wind turbine companies accountable for failing to protect their health.
In a move unique to wind farm projects in the province, K2 earlier responded to opposition with an unconditional offer to pay every household within one km of its new wind turbines $1,500 a year.
There’s been lots of interest in the benefit that could go to as many as 230 people, a spokesperson said.
“We are currently assessing the timing of the first payment,” K2’s Matt Dallas said in an e-mail.
The wind farm also points to an agreement with the local township, Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, to provide $15 million over 20 years to fund community initiatives.
But such moves — in an area of Ontario where many wind farms have sprouted since the Liberal government began pushing green energy, often with deeply polarizing fallout — have failed to satisfy critics.
The massive wind farm stands as an emblem of Ontario’s costly wind power policy, said Jane Wilson, head of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of anti-wind organizations.
“It is a huge power generation project forced on a community, fought by local residents in every way possible at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and about which there are serious environmental concerns,” Wilson said.
K2 will cost Ontario ratepayers millions for intermittent and unreliable power, she said.
K2 says it has no plans for additional wind farm projects in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh.