AI Proposals

In 2006, two small companies, Gaia and Vector, signed land options on Amherst Island and proposed a wind development. Later, Canadian Hydro Developers (CHD) acquired the Vector interest in Amherst Island. Meanwhile Gaia and CHD were successful in obtaining approval from the Ontario Power Authority to develop an 86-turbine $400M development on nearby Wolfe Island. Having stated in their Environmental Review for the Wolfe Island development that there would be no development on Amherst Island in the foreseeable future (to avoid triggering a federal Cumulative Environmental Impact Assessment), CHD abandoned its interest in Amherst Island.

During 2007 and 2008, Loyalist Township updated its Official Plan with an Amendment for renewable energy. On behalf of Island residents, CPAI (now APAI) made representations to the Township during this process. Of particular concern was the health and well-being of the residents and the fragile nature of the Island geology and ecology (for example: The fractured limestone bedrock, the low tree coverage) as well as the unsuitability of the Island roads. The amendment, when passed, was acceptable to CPAI. However, a key clause on turbine noise regulation was rejected by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. CPAI appealed this decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.

In 2008, Gaia and Algonquin Power formed Windlectric to develop potential wind energy on Amherst Island. Windlectric submitted a proposal in October 2008 to the Ontario Power Authority under the Request for Proposals (RFP) programme. The actual proposal was shrouded in secrecy and so the size of the proposal to the Ontario Power Authority, or the proposed location of the turbines and the transformer sub-station are not known. It is known, however, that permission was sought to add up to 200 MW to the Ontario electricity grid. This would correspond to more than eighty 2.3 MW turbines. Discounting the fraction of the Island designated Environmentally Sensitive, Environmentally Protected, Shoreline Residential and Hamlet, Windlectric would need to pack up to 200 MW into 11,000 acres on Amherst Island. This compares with Algonquin Power’s Manitoba development at St. Leon with 99 MW spread over 23,000 acres. As it turns out, Windlectric was not successful in the competition; the Ontario Power Authority approved 6 of the 38 applicants for a total of 500 MW of nameplate power.

With the passing of the Green Energy Act in May 2009, the rules have changed. Renewable energy projects no longer need municipal approval and are no longer subject to a competitive process. The Province of Ontario has switched to a Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) process which will pay 13.5 cents per kWh to a company providing wind energy for every kWh generated and fed to the grid. This compares unfavourably with the 8 to 10 cents per kWh paid under the competitive bidding process. In September 2009, the Ministry of the Environment released the regulations to accompany the Green Energy Act. Of particular interest to APIA are the setback regulations because these are going to determine the annoyance and health impacts to be suffered by island residents. There is now an absolute minimum turbine setback of 550 metres from all homes, participating and non-participating. There is an additional matrix of setbacks determined by the size of the development and the number of turbines within 3 km of a residence. However, a developer can avoid these additional setback regulations by performing an Environmental Noise Impact Assessment using the October 2008 regulations. These are the regulations that have led to over 100 health impact victims in Ontario. More detail on the GEA regulations and the health impact survey can be found on the Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) website.

APAI believes that Amherst Island is a poor choice for wind energy development. In the early part of this decade, Helimax, under contract to the Ontario Power Authority (?), studied potential sites for wind energy development across Ontario. The ranking factors were, in order: wind speed; megawatt capacity density; road access; social factors. Amherst Island did not make the list of 60 sites, not even the “least favoured” category. The Ontario Wind Atlas shows that the average wind speed at a height of 80 metres (a typical turbine hub height) above Amherst Island is 6.5 metres per second. Based upon the 30% efficiency of wind energy projects that have been operating in Ontario for at least a year and their average wind speeds taken from the same wind atlas, it is estimated that the efficiency of a development on Amherst Island would be a mere 20%. That is, a 200 MW development would in fact generate, on average, 40 MW. Many other areas of Ontario, with considerably lower population densities, have a better wind resource.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: