Hard to imagine how a wind power contract handed out by the Ontario Power Authority could have a negative impact on Prince Edward County miles away, but it has! The contract was awarded to a shell company (Windlectric Inc.) owned by Algonquin Power. The approval granted Windlectric is to erect 26 industrial wind turbines (IWT) each soaring over 500 feet high with a capacity of 74.3 MW on Amherst Island. When completed, they would deliver unneeded surplus power intermittently and unreliably.
Needless to say, residents of Amherst Island have been fighting the IWT invasion. Unfortunately, even though the island is considered an Important Bird Area (IBA) and labeled the “Owl Capital of North America” the residents have been unable to stop the project. The power developer recently moved to start construction, first attempting to build a temporary dock enabling them to bring in the heavy equipment and supplies needed to erect the turbines.
The “temporary” dock and the IWT footings require tonnes of aggregate which it now appears they planned to source from Prince Edward County via barges. The first barge brought into Picton Bay on March 23 was badly damaged and sank, releasing what appeared to be oil into the bay. As time marched on, late on March 28 it was reported contaminants entered the Picton water intake zone. Due to overnight wind forecasts the County declared a “water emergency” halting water processing at the Picton-Bloomfield drinking water plant. The emergency continues and a “boil water” advisory was put in place on March 30th for residents of Picton and Bloomfield. The water advisory required utilization of trucked drinking water from other locations in the county.
It is interesting to discover Windlectric’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed initially said nothing about this event, but they posted an apology letter on their site in respect to a power outage they earlier caused to the residents of Amherst Island. It is also interesting the Marine Logistics Plan is dated March 27, 2017, four days after the barge sinking. It suddenly appeared on their website but fails to mention Windlectric’s plan to source aggregate from Prince Edward County or the total tonnage of aggregate required for the dock and the footings for those 26 IWTs. It does say:“The Project estimates peak delivery requirements at up to six main barge round trips per day, six days per week, between the Project’s mainland dock and the Project’s island dock.”
Anyone familiar with the geography of Prince Edward County will recognize the “mainland dock” referenced has nothing to do with the supply of aggregate.
As the week went on, the County’s emergency team did its best to ensure drinkable water is readily available for the residents of both Picton and Bloomfield by opening bulk water stations and shuttling it to the Picton-Bloomfield water system from Wellington and Rossmore. The event has resulted in a massive effort to bring a team together to manage the problem(s). The team consists of not only the marine company McKeil Marine Limited, owning the barge and the County of Prince Edward. Additional involvement includes the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Eastern Canada Response Corporation), Environment Canada and Climate Change and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation.
One is hard-pressed to find a representative of the Ontario government in that list.
As it turns out, the provincial Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has jumped in, but not to help. They issued “an order to McKeil Marine under the Ontario Water Resources Act to retain qualified consultants to investigate the environment impact on the County’s water system and private shoreline wells.” It’s too bad the MOECC didn’t require the same when handing out Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) to the developers who rushed to Ontario to erect IWTs and solar farms due to the high prices being offered on the backs of ratepayers.
One should anticipate the MOECC will find a reason to issue a fine as a penalty to McKeil Marine for the accident, but the ironic (and truthful) issue is, the MOECC is the Ontario Ministry that granted the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) to Windlectric Inc. in the first place. The REA seems to not have required Windlectric to file a “Marine Logistics Plan” until after the accident and the one filed is incomplete. Should a fine be issued, it should be against the MOECC for their disregard for an IBA and the 34 species at risk when granting the original REA to Windlectric.
While issuing the REA was a flagrant disregard for the above reasons the other immediate issue that comes to mind is not recognizing Amherst Island is an “island” meaning supplies and equipment needed will have to travel by water. As just one example the 26 turbines being erected would require around 15,000 tonnes of concrete, slightly less than the foundation supporting the CN Tower and it will require approximately 1,000 concrete trucks to supply that amount! One should expect the local township roads will take a beating from all of that heavy (as in weight) traffic.
Makes you wonder how the MOECC officials issuing the REA, anticipated the concrete would get to Amherst Island if not by barge and cement trucks.
It is clearly time for Energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault to cancel this contract!
April 2, 2017
Thanks to “countylive.ca” for their continuing updates!