By Connor Lynch
NORTH STORMONT — A wind farm opposition group in Eastern Ontario is hoping for a reprieve from Ontario’s energy minister.
The Concerned Citizens of North Stormont have been duking it out with the Nation Rise Wind Farm, a 33-turbine project due to be up and running in March of 2020. With 31 of the 33 turbines to land on the area’s highly-vulnerable aquifer, so designated by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, residents are concerned about an impact on their drinking water, among other things.
The group filed an appeal with the Environmental Review Board during the summer in a last-ditch effort to stop the project, though spokesperson Margaret Benke knew the appeal had a questionable chance at success.
Benke had been hoping that the project would be among the 758 renewable energy contracts cancelled by the Ford government earlier this year. It was not, and was, in fact, only one of two wind projects not cancelled, the other being a 60 MW, 17-turbine project due to start operating at Chatham-Kent in 2020.
But there may be a point of light. Closing arguments for the board took place Nov. 23, and a meeting with Energy Minister Greg Rickford was tentatively scheduled for Nov. 22. “We’re hoping to plead our case for the local citizens. We have significant concerns regarding human health and safety,” she said.
The group still holds out hope that the government will cancel the project. It wouldn’t be the first wind project nearing completion with a valid contract that the Ford government has cancelled. Earlier this year, the Ford government cancelled the White Pines wind project at Prince Edward County, despite warnings from the company that it could take the province to court.
When the Ford government announced earlier this year that 758 renewable energy contracts were being cancelled, it was front-page news. But wind turbines have taken the brunt of public outrage over renewable energy, and the cancellations were dominated by other renewables.
Only five wind projects were cancelled of Ontario’s then 115. With, on average, one turbine for every three megawatts of power, that means Ontario has about 47 fewer wind turbines than it would have had.
As of August, 2018, Ontario had 2,577 wind turbines, according to Canadian Wind Energy, a wind energy advocacy group. The two wind projects currently slated to go ahead would add an additional 50 turbines, bringing the total to 2,627.
Eastern Ontario is currently home to four wind projects, totalling 127 turbines. Twenty-six turbines turn on Amherst Island just west of Kingston as of this June, 86 are on Wolfe Island just beside it, 5 more turbines are inland just west of Kingston and 10 are at Brinston, just south of Kemptville.
The Ford government is moving towards scrapping the Green Energy Act, which gave rise to the explosion of renewable power in Ontario. The act was unpopular in many rural areas, with neighbours pitted against neighbours over wind turbines and municipalities voicing objections to projects, only to have them come in anyway. Cancelling the Act would have no effect on the projects that already exist, or that are underway, but would raise the bar for any company looking to start a project. The government has said that any new projects would have to demonstrate a need for the electricity they generate; a difficult benchmark to meet considering Ontario’s energy surplus.