The Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns group has been formed to help rally the community and address any issues with the Otter Creek Wind Farm project, which is slated to begin construction in the spring of 2018.
The group’s first order of business is to invite the public to a meeting on Thursday, October 26 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the UAW Hall in Wallaceburg.
Mike deBakker, who is one of eight members of their group, told the Sydenham Current they formed in order to get prepared for the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) for the Otter Creek project.
“The permit comes out and then we have a 14-day period to either take it to a tribunal to try and stop it, or get the conditions changed,” deBakker said.
“So a group of us decided to get together and we formed this group to address our issues.”
Denise Shephard, another one of the eight group members, told the Sydenham Current they share many of the same concerns as Water Wells First, but they have further concerns as well.
“Some of us are rural and do have the Kettle Point black shale concern… but the (Otter Creek) turbines are so much larger and the noise levels are unstudied so close to a town of 10,000 people,” Shepherd said.
“Others had an interest just of caring about the community, caring about health, but the common thread for all of us is that we are concerned what this is going to do to our town and our rural people. We really want people to be aware of the issues.”
Community meeting details
The Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns group has three guest speakers lined up for their Thursday meeting:
– Keith Benn, P. Geo, is set to present ‘Climate Evolution is Normal’ and ‘Never Believe a Model when it Contradicts Facts.’
– Warren Howard, Wind Concerns Ontario executive, is set to present ‘Wind Turbines 101’ and share his experiences dealing with communities, the Ministry of Environment, noise and health concerns.
– Monte McNaughton, MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, is set to discuss the topic and outline his community support.
Shephard said they had an opportunity to get some “very gifted” speakers to attend their meeting.
“With Keith Benn and Warren Howard, they are going to learn a lot more information,” she said.
“Some people are thinking ‘well this is just out in the country, it doesn’t affect me’ but it is in their own backyard truly with the size of these and everyone is going to be impacted. Just even driving into Wallaceburg from now on, you are going to be towered by something 643 feet high. Just amazing. So we have concerns and we want to share them with the people.”
deBakker said anyone is welcome to attend the meeting, and anyone with concerns should come out.
“Any Wallaceburg resident, anybody who is part of Otter Creek, anybody who wants to learn more about what is happening with these turbines,” he said.
“We say this because they are tall, but we have schools right close by. We know from health studies in Europe that the sound has caused a lot of sickness and there is a suit that was just settled for $23 million for seven families. These are going to be gigantic… and if you are looking at the new ones (going up in Dover) they are about 450 feet. (The Otter Creek turbines) are going to be 200 feet taller than what you are going to see coming up. They are the biggest on-land ones in Canada.”
Shephard said these type of turbines are only found in Germany and the Netherlands, where they are installed on land.
However, it is the proximity to the Town of Wallaceburg that has her concerned.
“This is just a narrow strip of two concessions wide, across such a heavy population,” she said.
“This is not talking about a wind farm located in a cluster away from civilization, this is right in our face and we have deep concerns. Absolutely anyone (should come to the meeting), we have got people coming from Sarnia that have been following this issue. We are hoping the North Kent 1 people will join in, in support, and also an opportunity to learn more information from these speakers.”
Renewable Energy Systems Canada Inc. (RES) and its partner Boralex Inc. announced in a press release last March that they have been selected by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and awarded a contract for the 50 MW Otter Creek Wind Farm Project.
The companies also obtained the support of Walpole Island First Nation for the project.
The First Nation reserve is slated to have a 10.5% ownership stake in the project.
RES will own 51%, while Boralex will own 38.5%.
The Municipality of Chatham-Kent has been granted an option to participate in the project up to 15% of the limited partnership interests following commercial operation.
The project is to be located all within Chatham-Kent, just north of Wallaceburg.
The project would generally be bounded by Stewart Line and McCreary Line to the south, Whitebread Line and Kent Line west of Mandaumin Road to the north, Mandaumin Road to the east, and Payne Road to the west.
The project would be situated on private lands in Chatham-Kent and is targeted to reach commercial operation by the end of 2019.
Fewer turbines, but taller turbines
Otter Creek Wind Farm officials say they are proposing fewer wind turbines for their project, but the turbines will be taller than any others currently installed in Chatham-Kent.
Otter Creek officials say they are proposing to install the Enercon E-141 turbine, which has a nominal power rating of up to 4.2 MW. The turbines will each have three 66.7 metre (219 feet) blades with a hub height of 129 metres (423 feet) and a rotor diameter of 141 metres (463 feet). The concrete foundation may be up to 30 metres (98 feet) in diameter.
Adam Rosso, director of project development for the Otter Creek Wind Farm project, said in February that they listened to feedback from the public to reduce the visual impact of the turbines.
“The reason why these turbines are a little bit higher and a little bit wider in diameter, is to effectively reduce the number of turbines,” Rosso said.
A total of 17-20 turbines were originally proposed for the project, but now only 12 are being proposed.
“To reduce the visual impacts, reduce all of the impacts,” Rosso said.
“Mitigation impacts, noise impacts. These turbines we are installing are cutting edge. They are the newest turbines out there. Produced by a tier one manufacturer.”
Rosso added: “A good example is the North Kent site. The North Kent site is just south of us. They are using 113 metre rotor turbines, 99.5 metre hub height. So that is a 3.2 MW machine. We are 4.2 MW, so that way we are able to reduce the number of turbines.”
Rosso said the higher the turbine, the more efficient it can be.
“The concept is that the higher you go, the more smooth-flowing wind they get, the more efficient you’re actually be able to produce electricity at that height,” he said, adding that the larger turbines would not be louder either.
“That’s the beautiful part about the turbine. The way that the aerodynamics work with the turbine, I think they also rotate slower as well, so they have got less rotational speed and less noise.”
The larger turbines will require a bigger foundation under the ground with more concrete.
However, the foundation design has yet to be finalized.
“This is something that people that have expressed concerns with the water wells have brought up is the use of pile foundations,” Rosso said.
“We are working with Enercon to try and identify alternates to pile foundations and that is ongoing. So we haven’t finalized the foundation design but… ultimately a bigger machine will necessitate bigger foundations.”
Separate group from Water Wells First
deBakker said while they fully support what Water Wells First is doing, the Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns group is totally separate.
“I know Kevin (Jakubec, the spokesperson for Water Wells First) is very busy, so we decided that just because it’s not working for him, he has his own battles. He was always saying he would be a spokesperson, but we just know that he is tied up,” deBakker said.
The Wallaceburg group have been keeping an eye on the developments in North Kent with the Water Wells First group.
“We know that they have got a big slate to fill right now with what is going on with all of the wells,” deBakker said.
Shephard said the Wallaceburg group is going beyond the water well issue.
“Water Wells First is not anti-wind at all,” she said.
“They are strictly concerned about the water well issue. Our group is beyond that, because we do have wind concerns because of the noise and the health and the density of them. So it is similar because we have similar issues, but we have additional interests as well.”
Petition in the works
Shephard said there is a petition in the works, which is expected to be handed out during the October 26 meeting.
“We will be needing to be on guard for when the permit goes through to Otter Creek and at that point, we will want to appeal that decision,” she said.
“That is going to be a legal decision and we will be looking for support beyond what the eight people on this committee can do. There are people that would like to see this stopped and we are going to work whatever scientific approach and community approach we can to do that.”
deBakker said informing the community about these issues is their priority.
“It doesn’t just affect the rural,” he said.
“If this starts happening and there are wells damaged and say the company or somebody has to put in water lines, I mean everybody’s taxes go up. Everybody is going to end up paying for it. If kids at the schools, because they are in the playground that is just beyond that 1km limit, start getting sick… they are going to start dealing with issues.”
deBakker added: “We don’t know for sure but we are getting down to the bottom of it and these speakers that we have are going to address some of theses issues that are very important for local residents.”
Shephard said the group is in the initial stage.
“After this meeting we will have a feel of the pulse of the community,” she said.
“How much moral support is there after people become aware of how serious these issues are. And based on the feedback, from there we will have to determine our route then. Truly, we are looking for the people to care. It is in your backyard and yes we do need the people to jump on board.”
Contacting the new Wallaceburg group
The Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns group consists of eight members currently, including:
– Diana Cornelis
– Mike deBakker
– Dan Donkers
– Diana Donkers
– Mary Rosseel
– Denise Shephard
– Earl Towell
– Violet Towell
A website is in the works for the group and they have also launched a Facebook group as well.
You can reach the group, through Facebook, by clicking here.
Here is the event poster for Thursday:
Watch for more on this story.
– Background photo credit: Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns
– Left foreground photo (poster) credit: Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns
– Centre and right foreground photo credit: Enercon