Addington Highlands accepts offer from BEARAT to run survey
Addington Highlands Council has unanimously agreed to receive information gleaned from an online survey of residents to be conducted by a group that opposes wind power production in the township, with the reeve saying the results will “be one piece of information we will consider” when deciding whether to endorse wind projects in the township.
Bon Echo Area Residents Against Wind Turbines (BEARAT) will conduct the survey through Survey Monkey, a free service widely used to gather information from the public. Participants will be required to enter their Addington Highlands tax roll number in order to participate, and only one vote per tax number will be permitted.
Addington Highlands residents can access the survey from the township’s website, addingstonhighlands.ca; or from BEARAT.org
The group’s co-chair, Bob Haynes, is the president of the Buckshot Lake Cottagers Association, whose own survey of association members was identified by North Frontenac Council as one of the reasons that they decided to declare itself an “unwilling host” for wind projects last week.
It was standing room only at the Denbigh Hall on Monday night when the proposal by BEARAT was considered by Council, and there were some protestors outside the building as well, waving signs and wearing “No Wind Turbines” buttons. The same image can be seen on some houses and businesses on Hwy. 41 near Denbigh.
In addition to the predominantly anti-wind crowd, representatives from NextEra, the company whose North Point 1 and 2 proposals in North Frontenac and Addington Highlands have sparked all the opposition, were on hand.
Before the decision regarding the survey monkey proposal was made, Stephen Cookson from another company, RES Canada, presented details from his company’s proposal for a wind project. It is to be located entirely in Addington Highlands, mostly on Crown Land north of Denbigh, with a transmission corridor that runs along road 41 and then tracks south and west. It will linki with a Hydro transmission corridor to the west of Flinton at the township’s border with the Municipality of Tweed.
Cookson said that details about the RES project, including maps and other information, will be posted this week at the website Denbighwind.com. The company is sponsoring a public community meeting on July 2, from 6-9 pm, at the Denbigh Hall.
Cookson said his company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of RES-America, is dedicated to ensuring minimal impact on landowners within the vicinity of its projects. He also said that while they are planning to construct “most or all” of their turbines and transmission lines on Crown Land, they have approached a number of property owners seeking easements, mostly for “transmission or road corridors but also as potential locations for a small number of turbines.
The RES proposal includes 57 turbines, and is slated to produce up to 170 MW of power.
In their submission regarding a Community Enhancement Fund, RES has upped the ante from the proposal made by NextEra. They are offering $2,000 per MW per year as well as a scholarship fund and extra money during the construction phase. For the purposes of the fund, Cookson used an estimate of 150 MW for the project, which would yield $300,000 per year for the township.
Cookson said that if the township is able to provide “support in principle” for the project at their meeting in early July, RES would be willing to negotiate the final terms of the compensation agreement over the summer, as long as a vote on final approval could be taken before September, when the project bid must be submitted to the Independent Electircal Service Operator (IESO)
Later this fall, the IESO will be approving 300 MW of renewable power production from one or more of the projects that will be submitted to them from across Ontario.
Council decided it was best to conduct negotiations with RES regarding compensation before they meet on July 6, and will hold a special council meeting on June 29 at 9 am in Denbigh.
Concerns over potential impact of wind on Elks
Reg Genge, a seasonal resident on Ashby Lake and former Ministry of the Environment employee who studied water quality in lakes, has been involved in the fundraising arm of a group that is dedicated to the reintroduction of the Rocky Mountain Elk in Eastern Ontario. He said that he has heard that wind turbines can have an impact on the population of undulates, the general category of mammals that includes Deer, moose, and elk.
“By my calculation these projects will involve the clearing of a total of 540 acres of land, which end up being turned essentially into gravel and concrete. Would the township support clear cutting 540 acres and turning it into a parking lot? I don't think so,” he said. “At the very least the elk habitat will be diminished.”
Staff report on wind turbines
In response to a request made by Council at their meeting on June 1, Patricia Gray presented the results of research she has done into the impact of wind projects on property values, and into the perspective of Ontario municipalities where NextEra and RES-Canada have established or are developing wind projects.
As to the impact on property values, Gray presented a study that was conducted by MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation), which evaluates all properties in Ontario for the use of municipal tax departments.
The MPAC study concludes, “There is no significant impact on sale prices in these market areas resulting from proximity to an IWT [Industrial Wind Turbine], when analyzing sale prices.”
In the detail of the report, however, there is an indication that sales of rural properties within one kilometre of an IWT were impacted. They sold for about 2.5% lower than their assessed value, which fits within the MPAC parameters for accurate assessment, but is a lower figure than those within 2 kilometres, 5 kilometres, or more than 5 kilometres, which tended to sell for 1 or 2% above their assessed value. Of those properties within 1 km, having a full view of the IWT tended to lower the sale price as compared to those having a partial view or no view at all.
None of these impacts have affected the way MPAC does business however.
In a letter to the township, Michel Contant from MPAC said, “So far we have not seen any decrease in assessment due to wind turbines. In fact, we have defended that in court as well. That is not to say that down the road we could see an adjustment ... I can just state that currently we do not make any assessed value adjustments if you are living near a wind turbine.”
Patricia Gray reported that of the nine municipalities she approached regarding NextEra and the three she has approached regarding RES-Canada, she has received four preliminary responses from staff, three over the phone and one via email. All of the four responses have been related to NextEra projects. Of those, two were wholly favourable, one was favourable with some reservations, and one was negative.
The negative response, from Grey West Township, was delivered by a staff member who said the NextEra project in their municipality was completed when there was no municipal input into the decision to approve the project. The municipality spent $100,000 fighting the project in court, but lost. NextEra had initially offered a community vibrancy agreement, but the offer was pulled after the legal proceedings were initiated. The township has been able to obtain some more money from NextEra for security but remains reluctant to deal with the company, An attempt by NextEra to sponsor local projects has been rebuffed by Council “because they do not want NexEra's name on a rink or soccer field because there was so much controversy.”
Another municipality said the relationship with NextEra was difficult at the start because the company did not bring forward enough information, but that things have improved and they are working well together now. Two others said they would not be reluctant to enter into any future enterprises with NextEra.
Finally, Gray reported that in terms of construction permitting, turbines are valued at about $950,000 each, meaning the fees would be approximately $7,000 per turbine.
When Councilor Cox asked if the township’s permit fee holiday for commercial construction would apply, Reeve Hogg quickly responded, “This is industrial, the holiday does not apply.”
In terms of scale, a 50-turbine project would be a $47.5 million project. The average value of construction in Addington Highlands between 2011 and 2013 was $6 million.
Although the turbines may cost almost $1 million to build, the MPAC report said they are assessed at $40,000 per megawatt. If that is the case, a 150 MW project would generate $6 million in assessment, netting the township about $36,000 per year in additional tax revenue.
Scientific studies that have been published in recent years about the effect of wind turbines on ungulates (moose, deer and elk) have not shown any significant impact on behaviour, health or migratory patterns.
A study published in the American Midland Naturalist in 2006 concluded - “Although disturbance and loss of some grassland habitat was apparent, elk were not adversely affected by wind-power development as determined by home range and dietary quality.”
A controlled study was conducted using reindeer in an enclosed area with wind turbines in Sweden. It concluded that “The reindeer showed no systematic differences in the measured behaviour patterns ... that could indicate fright or stress as a consequence of the wind turbine or rotor movement.”
A study published in Ecology Letter analyzing the literature on the impact of wind turbines on wildlife concluded “Ungulates in these studies have shown no behavioural responses to wind energy.”
One article, however, published in 2013 in the journal Applied Energy said that not enough study has been done into the potential impacts of industrial wind turbines on terrestrial animals to draw any conclusions - “We conclude that more empirical data are currently needed to fully assess the impact of utility-scale wind energy development and operation on non-volant [flightless] wildlife.”
There are a number of large studies into the acknowledged impacts of turbines on bat and bird populations, including some that consider possible means of limiting mortality rates.