NextEra Energy officials say changes to their planned 10-turbine wind farm will benefit residents and are proof positive that public consultation works.
“It’s lessening the impact of the project, which is a win-win for everybody,” company spokesman Josie Hernandez said of the changes at a public consultation meeting on March 18.
About 30 people attended that open house at the new Alma community centre, which was held at the request of the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to explain changes to the project layout made since the last public meeting in Drayton on Nov. 30.
“Our goal right now is to continue to be as open as we can with the community,” said Hernandez.
The design changes include:
– altering the location of three turbines (those located immediately east of Sideroad 17) after the host landowner requested they be moved farther away from a neighbouring property;
– moving the substation transformer (at the request of a neighbouring landowner) from close to the intersection of the 16th Line and Sideroad 17 to farther southwest along the latter road; and
– changing the collection route (again due to neighbours’ requests) so it no longer travels along County Road 12 between the 14th and 16th Lines.
NextEra project manager Nicole Geneau said the changes are a “net benefit” because they lessen the impact on landowners.
Specifically, pamphlets handed out at the meeting last week indicate moving the transformer will result in “an overall slight decrease in noise levels at non-participating homes.” And changing the turbine layout will increase the distance to the nearest non-participating home from 890 metres to 1,138.
But resident John Krul, whose property borders one host landowner, is not impressed with the changes or the explanations provided by NextEra.
“Lots of questions and concerns, but very few answers,” Krul said when asked to sum up the open house.
“Our concerns were, as in the past, brushed off with their answer of, ‘We are following the governments recommendations so there will be no problems.”
Krul told the Advertiser he remains concerned about shadow flicker and the project’s effects on livestock, not to mention a possible impact on water and human health and other concerns.
“Studies have been done for birds, bats, and trees, and the history of the area has been considered, but nowhere in the application does it indicate how many people live here or how many head of livestock there are,” Krul said.
He questioned the reasoning provided by NextEra for changing the collection route.
“It had nothing to do with visibility,” Krul said, adding he was one of several residents whose main concern was that their hydro quality could be “compromised” due to having the power produced by two turbines run on the same lines providing residents with power.
Krul also refuted claims by NextEra officials that the project has received a lot of support.
“A year ago we canvassed the neighborhood for signatures on a petition against the project and nine out of 10 people were against the turbines – and that sentiment has not changed,” he said.
Regardless, Hernandez said the MOE accepted the NextEra application as complete on Feb. 15. She expects a decision from the MOE within six months of that date, and noted the ministry will offer a 60-day public commenting period. However, she is unsure exactly when that period began.
Anyone wanting to comment can check the MOE environmental registry at www.ebr.gov.on.ca and use the reference number 011-2606. Comments can also be provided by phone at 416-326-6089 or toll free at 800-461-6290 and by fax at 416-314-8452.
According to the EBR website, the MOE is waiting for NextEra to inform residents of the project changes before it will “formally post the REA application for an extended 60-day period to allow ample opportunity for the public to comment on this proposal.”
Hernandez said if the project is approved by the MOE, NextEra plans to have the Mapleton wind farm operational by the end of this year, with construction beginning in late summer or the fall.
For more information on the Conestogo Wind Energy Centre proposal, including various reports filed by NextEra, visit CanadianWindProposals.com.