No support resolution for South Dundas wind farm

In this Aug. 5, 2015 file photo, an EDP Renewables wind turbine slowly turns in the breeze in a field northeast of Dixons Corners. (Newswatch Group/File)

MORRISBURG – A green energy company will likely still go ahead with a proposed wind farm but it won’t be getting South Dundas council support.

Company reps from Spain-based EDP Renewables lobbied one last time Tuesday night for the council support resolution for the South Branch Wind Farm II project.

After distributing 1,100 letters to area property owners, spokesman Ken Little said they had four written comments following their Aug. 5 open house, one of which was critical of the project.

“This is one of the most positive meetings…when you talk about 1,100 mailers distilled down to one negative comment that really speaks a lot,” EDP spokesman Thomas LoTurco added.

There was also a cautionary note from Little about the financial benefits for the township. “A municipal council support resolution…is a chance for South Dundas to lock in the benefits of this project at an early stage. Without the municipal support resolution…we cannot make the same financial commitments to the township that we offered here,” he said.

Little also urged councillors to put aside the provincial politics surrounding green energy and think of EDP Renewables as a business that wants to grow locally. “We’ve worked very hard to build a reputation here.”

But, in a 3-1 vote, councillors decided Tuesday night against sending a so-called council support resolution to the Independent Electricity System Operator on behalf of EDP Renewables.

The lone supporter was Deputy Mayor Jim Locke, who read a prepared statement.

“It’s particularly hard for me as I presented the motion (in 2013) that South Dundas not support any future green energy projects until there was a demonstrated need. By the way, that motion did not say we were ‘unwilling host.’ That handle was added by others,” Locke stated.

“A lot has changed since that time. Green energy is not a fad and is here to stay and will be growing,” the deputy mayor added, in pointing to IESO data showing a gap in electricity needs when nuclear plants are taken offline in 2018-2019 for refurbishment.

“In my opinion, a wind contract at eight or nine cents per kilowatt hour will not cause an increase in hydro rates,” Locke said, in referring to the open house where he said the main concern he heard was skyrocketing hydro bills.

Locke said voters will ask in three years what council did for economic development and the deputy mayor suggested it was a chance to cash in on over $10 million over 25 years in benefits “not to mention the benefits to local business and individuals who live and spend in South Dundas.”

“If we do not support this project and it wants to go ahead anyway we lose $6.5 million dollars right off the bat and I’m not willing to take that gamble,” Locke said.

Coun. Archie Mellan declared a conflict of interest and was not part of the debate nor the vote.

Coun. Bill Ewing suggested the municipal benefit fund proposal of $6.5 million over 25 years not being on the table without a support resolution was akin to ransom or blackmail.

Coun. Marc St. Pierre couldn’t get past the uncertainly of the future, outlining concerns about what would happen with the windmills if the province abandons its green energy plan.

“I’m not disputing any of the results from the public meeting…I think some people were reluctant to voice their opinion at that meeting and I’ve had several calls since as well as several emails,” Mayor Evonne Delegarde.

“I think the existing project…did divide the community and it put strain on a lot of relationships with friends and families and neighbours and I think a further two to three dozen (wind turbines) to the east or to the west…this will put a further strain on those relationships,” the mayor said.

“We’ve taken a lot of pride in the agricultural sector and I think that’s changed the agricultural landscape and it’s going to be a lot more than what we see now,” Delegarde said in closing.

The resolution would have helped EDP get preferential scoring in its bid to build a 75 megawatt wind farm east of the existing South Branch Wind Farm near Brinston.

The project would be roughly 20-30 turbines spread over 10,000 acres – roughly three times the size in area of the South Branch Wind Farm.

Representatives from EDP Renewables, Ken Little and Thomas LoTurco, appeared dumbstruck at what had happened and declined comment saying they needed time to “collect their thoughts.”

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