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Regs may blow up wind farms

The provincial government plans to release more information regarding its proposed changes to wind farms under the Green Energy Act, a plan which has municipal officials wor ried about future development in Elgin county. Ontario's Ministry of the Environment received about 1,000 comments during a 45-day consultation period asking whether wind turbines should be set back a minimum of 550 metres from buildings, with different setbacks for roadways and property lines.

The provincial government plans to release more information regarding its proposed changes to wind farms under the Green Energy Act, a plan which has municipal officials wor ried about future development in Elgin county.

Ontario's Ministry of the Environment received about 1,000 comments during a 45-day consultation period asking whether wind turbines should be set back a minimum of 550 metres from buildings, with different setbacks for roadways and property lines.

The government held public sessions regarding the changes in June in Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Chatham, Port Elgin, Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto.

"We tried to get a cross section off the province and areas where there is a strong interest in green energy projects," said Kate Jordan, a ministry spokesperson.

"Staff will review those and decide if changes are appropriate," Jordan explained. "We expect to have more details in the fall."

The proposed regulations would not impact wind turbines currently operating, but would apply to future expansion, including the proposed installation of 34 more turbines at Erie Shores Wind Farm in Port Burwell.

Built in 2006, Erie Shores Wind Farm operates 66 1.5 MW General Electric wind... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The provincial government plans to release more information regarding its proposed changes to wind farms under the Green Energy Act, a plan which has municipal officials wor ried about future development in Elgin county.

Ontario's Ministry of the Environment received about 1,000 comments during a 45-day consultation period asking whether wind turbines should be set back a minimum of 550 metres from buildings, with different setbacks for roadways and property lines.

The government held public sessions regarding the changes in June in Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Chatham, Port Elgin, Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto.

"We tried to get a cross section off the province and areas where there is a strong interest in green energy projects," said Kate Jordan, a ministry spokesperson.

"Staff will review those and decide if changes are appropriate," Jordan explained. "We expect to have more details in the fall."

The proposed regulations would not impact wind turbines currently operating, but would apply to future expansion, including the proposed installation of 34 more turbines at Erie Shores Wind Farm in Port Burwell.

Built in 2006, Erie Shores Wind Farm operates 66 1.5 MW General Electric wind turbines, which provide a capacity of 99 MW of power or enough renewable energy for about 3,500 households a year.

LOCAL CONCERN

Elgin and councils in Bayham and Malahide townships and Norfolk County have voiced their disapproval of the new rules to the Ontario's minster of the environment, John Gerretsen.

Lynn Acre, mayor of Bayham, home to the Port Burwell wind farm, brought the issue to an Elgin county council meeting in late June.

"The setbacks we have now in Bayham are perfectly fine. If he (Gerretsen) goes around and puts in these 550-metre setbacks, it's going to eliminate so many possibilities."

Acre estimates the turbines in Port Burwell are an average 400 metres away from a home or building. She said there are farmers still interested in running a wind turbine but that "their chances would be quashed" if the provisions go through.

"I think we won't have any new development at all in Bayham for sure," Dennis Haggerty, plant manager for Erie Shores Wind Farm, said. "So (the proposed rules are) going to drastically affect where we can install new ones."

Haggerty added that running wind turbines further away from settled land would increase operational costs. And the number of ravines in the area would limit the amount of land available for new wind turbines, according to Acre.

FEWER TURBINES

Jay Wilgar, vice president of AIM PowerGen Corp., which developed Erie Shores Wind Farm, agrees with setting back turbines to reduce noise, but disagrees with the 550-minimum setback.

"It means less turbines per acre for farmers and it means they have to build these huge access roads in the fields (to reach the turbines)," Wilgar said.

In its comments to the ministry regarding the proposed Green Energy Act rules, AIM PowerGen Corp. indicated that had the 550-metre setback been in place when Erie Shores Wind Farm was being constructed, 40 of the 66 current turbines would not have been erected.

Wilgar said if the new regulations go through it would make expansion difficult, and installing all 34 planned turbines unlikely.

"But there are ways to design around the set backs," he explained, adding that different models can be used. AIM PowerGen Corp. already installed 18 different turbines east of the wind farm last year.

The turbines, however, may need more than a minimal setback to ensure its success.

In its letter to the minister, Elgin claimed Erie Shores Wind Farm was among the most successful in Ontario. But performance statistics provided by Sygration reveal that the Port Burwell facility ranks fourth out of eight wind farms.

It had a maximum capacity factor of 29 per cent between July, 2008 and July, 2009. This means that it generated an average of 29 per cent of the 99 MW of energy it is capable of producing. A wind farm in Port Alma ranked the highest over the same period at 32.5 per cent.

Typically, all wind turbines run at a 15 to 40 per cent efficiency, according to Ontario Power Authority.

'IMPORTANT' TO ELGIN

Acre maintains the wind farm is important to Elgin.

"It has made a dramatic improvement to our tourism industry," she said. "The best thing is that it's providing clean, renewable energy into our grid. It's also a great benefit to our local farmers ... it's an extra stream of revenue they're getting (up to $10,000 a year), and still they can plant crops right up to the bases of the turbines, so they're not losing any production."

Acre said recent public concerns regarding the health effects of living near a wind turbine, such as dizziness and headaches due to flickering and low-frequency noise, are "not an issue around here."

"They're not close enough to have a flicker across anyone's house," Acre stated. "And to me it's not loud. The wind and the birds are louder. To me it sounds like the breeze going."

Haggerty agrees. "I've never had anyone coming to my front door about the noise -- zero complaints."


Source: http://www.stthomastimesjou...

AUG 20 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/21821-regs-may-blow-up-wind-farms
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