Chatham-Kent-Essex MPP Rick Nicholls is sounding the alarm over Chatham-Kent’s plan to invest nearly $8 million into the North Kent 1 Wind Turbine project.
“In my opinion, they should not be going ahead with it,” Nicholls told The Chatham Daily News on Saturday, citing the controversy around the project with concerns raised that vibrations from the construction and operation of the turbines will damage area water wells.
A majority of council recently voted in favour of taking $7.74 million from the municipality’s cash reserves for Entegrus, which is 90 per cent owned by Chatham-Kent, to purchase a 15 per cent equity interest in the 100 megawatt project that will see 32 industrial wind turbines erected north of Chatham.
Noting Mayor Randy Hope and council are denying there is a problem, the MPP is concerned the investment could be viewed as a “diversion tactic” to draw attention away from issues that have been raised by the citizen group Water Wells First.
If it is proven this wind farm project is damaging wells, Nicholls said that nearly $8 million investment could be lost if the project is ordered to be shut down.
“$8 million could go a long ways in bringing employment and industry to Chatham-Kent,” he said “That’s like playing the stock market.”
He also questions what will happen to local hydro rates if Entegrus has to eat this kind of loss.
When asked about the potential impact on water wells, Mayor Hopetold The Daily News on Saturday: “Things need to be proven scientifically.”
He said when the wind turbine industry began in Ontario, there were concerns raised about several issues from shadow flicker to birds and bats being impacted.
“Is it a matter of are these scientifically based or are these (complaints) that I just don’t want turbines?” Hope said.
The mayor said the decision to make this kind of investment is to address the continual demand by local residents and businesses for council to not raise property taxes.
“From a municipal point of view, we’ve only got certain things we can do” to generate extra money, Hope said.
A report to council, projects the $7.74 million investment will generate a return of $17 million over 20 years in increased dividends to the municipality.
Hope said the business plan has been reviewed and “we knew by making this investment we’re going to be making a lot more than we’re making on interest rates.”
He added, “this money is returned back into the community.”
He noted the profits from the investment are in addition to the $4 million “community benefit contribution,” the municipality negotiated as part of its agreement to support this project.
The $4 million will be paid directly to Chatham-Kent by developers Samsung and Pattern Energy “upon successful completion of key project milestones,” according to the report to council.
The report also laid out a number of other financial benefits the wind farm will deliver to the municipality, including:
- Approximately $500,000 in building permit fees.
- An annual $300,000 maintenance contract to Entegrus Transmission Inc. for the life of the project.
- A road use agreement to insure that existing and future municipally owned road infrastructure is protected from the impact of the construction and operation of project. This includes a payment of $150,000 per project for staff time to oversee construction and road usage connected to the project, as well as an annual $5,000 administration fee.
- Annual property taxes of approximately $250,000.