This story is interesting not because the dismissal of the appeal by citizens (real citizens, people who live in the community and will be affected by the utility-scale wind turbines), but because of comments about the nature of the appeal process in Ontario (stacked against citizens and communities) and the so-called “community” investment group backing the East Oxford power project.
London Free Press, October 23, 2015
Construction has started on Oxford County’s first wind farm, a 10-turbine project in the Township of Norwich.
The Gunn’s Hill Wind Farm was given the final green light after appeals against the project were rejected by Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal.
“We are really thrilled, it is great news,” Helmut Schneider, president of the Oxford Community Energy Co-operative, developer of the wind farm, said Thursday.
Designed to produce as much as 18 megawatts of power, it’s developers estimate the wind farm will provide enough electricity for 6,000 homes.
Schneider said work on an access road to the wind farm started this week. Construction of the actual turbines will start in May when road restrictions are lifted.
The wind farm is expected to start producing power in August next year, Schneider said.
The towers and turbine blades will be manufactured in the Welland area. Other components will be imported from Germany.
The wind farm is a joint venture between Prowind Canada Inc., Oxford Community Energy Co-op, and Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corp.
While some Oxford County residents have opposed the project, others have joined the co-operative project, Schneider said.
The co-op has 185 members and 140 investors with about one-third from Oxford County. About $9 million was raised for the project by selling shares and bonds to members of the co-operative.
“There is very good community involvement and a real proof of the confidence the investors have in us to manage their investment,” Schneider said.
Norwich Township declared itself “not a willing host” for wind farm development in 2013 and a citizen’s group, the East Oxford Community Alliance, appealed the Environment Ministry approval of Gunn’s Hill.
The objection was based on both health concerns and its close proximity to Curries Aerodrome.
Schneider said the co-op is committed to working with wind farm opponents.
“We are always open to that. We really want them to know this is a community project and we want to make sure they are informed about what is happening next,” he said.
Joan Morris, spokesperson for East Oxford Community Alliance, the citizens’ group that opposed the Gunn’s Hill Wind Farm, said she wasn’t surprised the appeal was dismissed given the Green Energy Act was written to pave the way for projects.
To succeed the group had to prove the project would cause harm, a legal standard that is unprecedented and only set up to protect the industry and not the public or environment, Morris said in an e-mail.
“How can you ever predict with 100% certainty? Therefore the public never has the opportunity to ‘win’ in the appeal process,” she said.
Morris also disputed the suggestion the project has community backing.
“This was not a cooperative that grew from the community – it was placed here by the developer who recruited Mr. Schneider to find members. Mr. Schneider lives outside the project area and his home will not be surrounded by wind turbines,” Morris said.