Prowind Canada's Gunn's Hill wind farm in Norwich Township gets Ministry of the Environment approval
The Gunn's Hill wind farm project has received environmental approval and could begin construction as soon as July.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change issued the approval document on Thursday, April 9, clearing the way for Prowind Canada to begin the construction process as soon as a 15-day appeal period is over.
Prowind Vice-President Juan Anderson said the next step is to wait out the appeal period. He said the company is prepared to follow that path if an appeal is launched, but is confident in the process it followed to receive ministry approval, calling it “lengthy and thorough.”
It was in February 2010 when the first public meeting was held to give notice of the proposal to start a renewable energy project on Gunn's Hill.
“Overall, we're quite excited to have this approval,” said Anderson.
The 22-page approval document includes several conditions ranging from items such as noise emissions, natural heritage monitoring for species such as birds and bats, create a community liaison committee, and water management rules. The entire approval document can be found at http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTIxNjA4&statusId=MTg3OTI0&language=en
If there are no appeals, and the appeal period has passed, Prowind will then apply for permits from the Township of Norwich to begin construction. The first projects include building entrances and roads to the turbine locations. The project is an 18 megawatt farm of 10 turbines for the area along Middletown Line from Highway 59 to Oriel Line in Norwich Township.
Anderson said the turbines could start being erected in the late fall.
This news is also welcomed by the Oxford Community Energy Co-operative (OCEC), a group of investors that can own up to 49% of the project.
OCEC President Helmut Schneider said in a press release the group is confident it is offering a long-term, sustainable project for the community.
Another group that is looking at next steps is the East Oxford Community Alliance, opponents of the Gunn's Hill project.
Joan Morris, Alliance spokesperson, said the group will be looking at its next steps for legal action now that the ministry has released its decision.
“The landscape is evolving rapidly regarding legal avenues available to both East Oxford Community Alliance Inc. as a group and individual citizens whose health, property and livestock are at risk,” said Morris, citing a case currently being considered for appeal at the Supreme Court level.
Morris said given the ministry's track record on issuing approvals to wind energy project regardless of the application's merit, accuracy or completeness, it isn't surprising the Gunn's Hill project received approval. She said it's concerning that the ministry has not answered a number of important questions raised by community members throughout the process, and that there are documents obtained through the Freedom of Information process that “reveal many disturbing process issues at the MOE, a lack of follow-up by the ministry in ensuring that the proponent's application is complete and accurate, and failure to disclose information to the public.”
“Even after all public meetings were completed in 2013, and after the proponent declared its application to be complete and accurate, it was allowed to change the project connection point, the project area, model of turbines, noise reports and the identity of the proponent,” Morris said.