| Mar 20, 2008

Feature Article - March 20, 2008

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Feature Article - March 20, 2008 Denbigh wind farm may become realityBy Jule Koch Brison

Since October last year, a company called Renewable Energy Systems Canada (RES) has been monitoring winds in the Denbigh area.

The company set up an 80-ft. meteorological tower on crown land about 2 kms. north of Big Yirkie Lake, and on March 17, Stephen Cookson, an engineer with RES, gave a presentation to Addington Highlands Council on the results of 6 months of data collection. Although the wind speeds aren’t at the very top of the desired range, but more in the middle, “The results are interesting enough that I’m here, and other companies are also exploring wind projects in this area,” Cookson said.

RES to date has developed and installed 55 wind farms across four continents, generating 2600 MW of energy worldwide.

According to Stephen Cookson, Ontario’s power demand will exceed supply in about eight years, and the Government of Ontario is looking to wind power to make up a substantial part of the shortfall. The government’s goal is to have 4600 MW of wind generation in Ontario by 2025 and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) will be releasing a call for tenders in the coming months, seeking submissions before the end of the year.

Cookson said that as the prices of other energy sources have gone up and wind technology has improved, the price of wind power has become more competitive. He showed different graphs, one of which projected the cost of oil to reach $100 per barrel by 2030. “But we’re seeing that now,” he said.

RES has created a timeline to proceed with the Denbigh project. They have started environmental assessments and surveys. “We’re counting the birds and the bats - anything that could be affected by a wind turbine,” said Cookson.

If all goes as planned, the company intends to submit a bid to the OPA as early as Labour Day this year.

It would take another year to obtain project approval. Site preparation would begin in the summer of 2010 and construction would be completed in 2011.

Reeve Henry Hogg asked Stephen Cookson if RES was aware that the crown land they’re looking at lies within the Algonquin Land Claim. Cookson replied yes; he said that the company has been working with the Algonquin Negotiation Representatives (ANR) for a year, and expects to be signing a Memorandum of Understanding with them shortly.

The farm would have between 60 and 80 turbines and would generate enough electricity for 30,000 homes. Access roads and power lines would also have to be built.

Cookson stressed that wind power is clean, renewable and creates no greenhouse gases. It reduces dependence on foreign supplies of oil and gas, as well as providing high-skilled jobs for the community. The project would cost $240 million and RES projects that up to 200 people would be employed during the construction phase. “About 30% of that $240 million would go into the community in providing jobs and opportunities for local suppliers and contractors,” said Cookson. “And that’s not counting the economic spin-offs like increased business for motels and stores.”

During the farm’s 20-year operational phase there would be work for 10 – 12 full-time employees as well as road maintenance and snow plowing contractors.

Cookson also mentioned that the farm could generate considerable tax revenue for the township, as MPAC assesses each turbine at between $3000 to $4000 per year. However, Reeve Hogg said the township might not see that much revenue as the farm would be on crown land.

Cookson referred to one possible impact of wind power – the visibility of the turbines. “In Ontario wind speed is a function of elevation, so we have to use the ridges,” he said.

After 20 to 25 years, the turbines cease to operate economically. At the end of that time the company could decommission the project by removing the turbines and restoring the land to its original condition, or they could re-power the site by installing new technology, something that Stephen Cookson says is being done more frequently now.

One member of the audience asked Cookson if the company had found any private land that would be suitable for wind farms. He replied yes, but that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has opened the window for wind development on crown land so that’s what they are exploring.

Stephen Cookson said RES would keep council apprised of new developments as they happen.

Two of the other companies that have also been interested in wind development in the Denbigh area are Vector Wind Energy and Conestoga Rovers, who approached council with a proposal in February 2006.

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