OEB approves two distribution lines for Clearview wind power project, township and airport opposed
Chuck Magwood gives a brief speech in this file photo during a past protest against the proposed Fairview Wind project. MARK WANZEL/ FILE PHOTO
Mississauga-based WPD Canada has been granted the go-ahead by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to locate distribution lines for two wind turbines proposed as part of the Fairview Wind project along a two-kilometre distance underneath Fairgrounds Road in Clearview Township.
Karen Evans, the Director of Corporate Communications for the OEB said that despite Clearview’s preference that OEB hold their review of the distribution plan application until the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process was complete, OEB felt it was better to move things forward in one process.
“It is more efficient and prudent for applications to be reviewed concurrently and so the distribution plant proceeding moved forward,” Evans wrote, adding that other government departments in addition to MECC could also potentially be involved in the project approval process but that the OEB will not be involved in the turbine approval process.
MECC approval of the REA process is required before the project can move ahead, something Clearview officials had posited as one of their reasons that German-owned WPD’s application should not be given the nod at this point.
Eight-turbines proposed for the Fairview project would see the 450-foot-tall power-generating structures set up and serviced through connecting underground distribution power lines in locations to both the north and south of County Road 91.
Councillor Doug Measures, who represents Ward 1, which includes the site of the proposed wind project, said Fairview has not provided Clearview with proper information, nor have the OEB treated the application in a fair way.
“These wind turbines could be quite a significant threat to the Collingwood Regional Airport and so it’s important that the citizens are aware that we could be potentially losing one of our economic engines to our community which is the operations of the Collingwood Regional Airport,” said Measures, who also formerly served on the Collingwood Regional Airport Services Board in a position now held by Clearview Deputy Mayor Barry Burton. “The Province of Ontario has taken away the approval authority of the township, so municipalities are basically at the whim of what the province decides. So, certainly I’m not in favour of the wind turbines coming to Clearview township or specifically around the Collingwood Regional Airport.”
WPD Communications Manager Kevin Surette disputed Measures’ statements.
“We’ve consulted with the federal bodies responsible for aviation safety. They have not had an issue with the location of the turbines,” Surette said, specifying that those consulted have been Transport Canada and Nav Canada Corporation who handles flight approaches. “Nav Canada has said that if the project goes forward the flight approaches would need to be altered in order to accommodate the turbines. We’ve also engaged an aviation safety expert who’s had over 30-years experience with Transport Canada, with Nav Canada and he’s a professional pilot and he has assured us that our project and the airport can safely coexist.”
Clearview Township officials, in addition to saying the REA process should first be completed before approval of any part of the project, has said WPD did not engage with them sufficiently about the Fairview project. Measures said, for example that if there was in-depth engagement and the possibility of the proposed turbine sites being “very significantly relocated” the township might be open to discussing feasible options.
Surette said WPD has engaged Clearview as much as required by law, and would have liked more engagement but is under no requirement to do so.
Chair of the Collingwood Regional Airport Board Charlie Tatham said the wind turbines would pose a real danger to the airport and further that their proposed location is based solely on private interests, rather than any broader rationale.
“There’s no reason for them to be there. It’s not as if there’s some special wind that blows right down there and makes them really good,” Tatham said. “The only reason they’re there is because they found somebody who was willing to host them. It has nothing to do with where they should be, it has to do with that’s the only people they could find who would accommodate it on their property.”
Surette said the location was chosen by a variety of factors and regulation taking into account issues like noise, minimum distances from non-participating dwellings and topography and that the proposed locations have been specifically and necessarily chosen due to that.
Presiding member on the OEB application Emad Elsayed wrote that the lack of communication in the ongoing process has been Clearview’s fault.
“Fairview Wind submits that it has attempted but not been able to engage in discussions with the township in order to reach an agreement with respect to the location of some of the distribution system, namely 2 km of underground collector line to be located under Fairgrounds Road,” Elsayed wrote.
Measures said that is simply not the case.
“They have been in contact with our township staff and our staff have contacted them several times asking for information and they have not provided it,” he said. “I find it disappointing that the board would rule without completely taking into account the comments made by Clearview township with regards to lack of consultation and the fact that it’s an incomplete application,” he added, referencing the incomplete REA process. Surette, however, echoing Evans’ statements, said it makes sense for them to go together.
“The OEB process was set up to run concurrently to an REA process, and the decision in fact is made based on us receiving REA approval,” Surette said. “We wouldn’t be moving forward with any construction for the distribution lines until we received a decision from the Ministry of the Environment (and Climate Change) … We began the work fully knowing that we would not proceed to construction on these things until the Ministry of Environment (and Climate Change) made their decision on our REA.”
Surette said that WPD hopes to break ground on the project in 2015, although he noted it was only speculation as it was all up to MECC.