It isn’t a question of whether wind turbines will be coming to Wellington County, it is a question of how it will be done, according to Wellington County’s planning department head Gary Cousins.
He was at Minto town council last week to provide an update on the wind energy generation policies within the county.
Cousins said the issue is topical at the moment and that there are a number of wind turbine projects being proposed throughout the county. He said it seems there are a number of people who wish to benefit from such projects.
The county, he said, is trying to get the expertise to develop such policies.
“We have no choice in allowing them,” he added
Cousins said local municipalities will have to accommodate them, in order for the province to meet its sustainable energy goals.
As a result, Cousins said it is now up to the county to work with local communities to ensure the policies are done correctly.
For the most part, people think about the big wind turbines, he said. While it is true that specific policies are needed for those types of projects, the county is working to develop policies for the whole spectrum – from large scale windfarms to very small home operations.
“Someday, I think a person will be able to buy one of these [small scale turbines] down at the Canadian Tire and have it mounted on their roof. We are trying to develop policies to deal with the whole range,” he said.
Planner Mark Paoli said the objective is to create policies which will allow for compatible development.
He explained that certain sets of criteria will be in place for each type of development.
He described the policies as divided among three categories.
Microenegery projects – 3 kilowatts or less, which could be compatible with in-town use or residential areas.
Small wind turbine projects – between 3 and 100Kw, which could be suitable for farm properties and possible industrial areas in towns – but not residential areas. Paoli noted one area municipality is considering a wind turbine project as a potential promotion of its industrial park.
Large projects – over 100Kw. Essentially that category covers larger wind farms and would be for rural, not residential, areas.
Even with those various categories, projects would have to meet current zoning bylaws and ensure there are no noise related issues.
Setbacks would also be required for safety reasons.
“There’s quite a bit more involved with larger projects, including separation from urban centres and from sensitive lands,” he said.
There would also need to be assurances the projects would not interfere with agriculture.
“These policies also make it clear these structures must meet the Building Code,” he said.
Paoli added the process for larger systems is, by necessity, more complex.
There will be a set of requirements that must be fulfilled, such as various studies and reports regarding factors including the environment, noise, and visual impact.
“It’s a fairly comprehensive package,” he explained.
The policies also include holding provisions that will not let the project proceed until the requirements are met.
Currently the policies are being circulated among local municipalities in Wellington North.
Minto councillor Dave Turton was pleased that the county is moving ahead on this, but he questions if it has considered the implications of solar generation farms now that are now under consideration.
“I understand that solar could be the next big issue.”
Cousins did not expect see the same types of concern raised as a result of solar parks.
However, he believed those regulations should be separate from the ones related to wind energy projects.
Councillor Barb Burrows said it is her understanding the those types of projects require specific access to the electrical grid to sell off energy.
“Is that even possible in towns,” she asked.
Cousins said he suspected that microenergy projects that might be allowed in towns would likely be independent. However, it is those types of projects which raise his concern.
He said he believes these smaller scale projects in urban areas have the potential to create real issues because of noise and visual impact.
Burrows questioned what exactly a micro project could power.
Paoli estimated a 3Kw project could provide more than enough energy for most homes. However, it would likely require a system of battery storage as well, if the home were to remain independent of the hydro grid.
Treasurer Gord Duff asked if there is any contact with the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation to determine if such projects would affect local assessments. If industrial assessments are placed on the properties, Duff said that could well negate any energy savings.
Paoli believes if it did happen, the change would only affect the footprint of the wind turbine structure.
A public open house on Wellington County’s wind energy policies is set for Tuesday, May 20 at the Arthur Community Centre starting at 4:30pm. On May 27, a public meeting on the issue will be held at the Arthur community centre. The meeting will consider growth forecasts at 7pm and turbine policies at 7:30pm.