Sickening: Wellington Times editorial on Ontario’s wasted power

Rick Conway of the Wellington Times in his editorial of August 16th has done a great job at highlighting the way the current government of the province have messed up the electricity sector and how they are trying to increase the mess.

He points out how we are exporting our surplus power, in part due to the unreliability of wind and solar generation.

He has kindly referenced yours truly in the article and it is much appreciated.

Find the “Dots” article here: http://wellingtontimes.ca/dots/

Ministry of the Environment missing in action on Prince Edward County fuel spill

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!

Parker Gallant,

April 2, 2017

Thanks to “countylive.ca” for their continuing updates!

Amherst Island: perfect example of why wind power can be a bad choice

Ontario’s Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault, at the launch of planning for the next Long-Term Energy Plan, said “We have a robust supply of all forms of energy for at least the next 10 years.”  The month prior to the launch he announced the suspension of LRP II  slated to acquire another 1,000 MW of renewable energy.  His claim at that time was, it would save ratepayers $3.8 billion in electricity costs over the projected term of the contracts.

Cancel the contracts 

Why didn’t he go further and cancel contracts that have not broken ground and saved billions more?   Amherst Island’s “Windlectric” project, owned by Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., project is just one. On its own, cancellation could save Ontario ratepayers over $500 million in future costs.  Those contracts, signed years ago, either have not been built or are involved in litigation preventing them from breaking ground.   Their sunk costs are small in comparison to their full costs over 20 years and canceling them outright would represent a nominal cost to ratepayers while saving, birds, bats, butterflies and endangered species from harm as well as prevent human health effects, and depreciation to property values.

Cancellation would reduce the amount of surplus energy that is exported at a cost to ratepayers or simply curtailed, but paid for by ratepayers. Savings would be in the billions.

Amherst Island—Owl Capital of North America

 In the July/August 2003 copy of “Wildbird”, Kevin T. Karlson wrote this article “Owl Capital of North America.” and said “An occasional glance at these ‘owls in wonderland’ always brings a smile to my face.” The Owl Woods is the only place where it is possible to see ten species of owls in one day.

Amherst Island, 66 square kilometers in size, is situated west of Kingston along the northeastern shore of Lake Ontario close to the St. Lawrence River and considered a “Hidden Cultural Gem.” The island is the first of the world famous 1,000 islands based on the water flow. The permanent population of about 450 residents swells to over 1,000 during the summer months and attracts visitors from all over the world. People come to see the culture and history of a settlement dating back to the late 1700s by the Empire Loyalists and the Irish immigrants who followed. Many also come to see the birds as the island is on the IBAs (Important Bird Areas) list. Amherst Island is home to “as many as 34 different species at risk known to rely on the Island’s natural environment for survival.” including the threatened Blandings turtle.  

The foregoing paragraph should make the reader wonder exactly why, back in 2011 the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) granted the contract to a shell company (Windlectric) established by Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. Subsequent to the contract award the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), since relabeled the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), granted a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) with some modifications to the original contract.  One wonders why the REA was granted as Amherst Island was already designated as an IBA and known as the Owl Capital of North America.  Was it simply because the OPA (now merged with IESO [Independent Electricity System Operator]) gave them a contract, or was the MOECC unconcerned about the heritage of the island and the many species at risk?  

For over 10 years, residents of Amherst Island and their onshore supporters have battled proposals to blanket the Island with industrial wind turbines. The support received by APAI (Association to Protect Amherst Island) has been overwhelming coming from many different groups and individuals, including those who support wind power as renewable energy. Among them are Nature Canada and Ontario Nature who jointly wrote an 18-page letter to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in March, 2013. Their logical defence of wildlife had no effect on the outcome of the appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal.

In fact, the decision of the Tribunal in August of 2015 was a major failure according to Nature Canada: “The Amherst decision is a reminder that we are missing adequate government policy that both promotes renewables in the right places while recognizing and protecting our key biodiversity areas including Canada’s nearly 600 Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBAs) such as Amherst Island and the South Shore of Prince Edward County.” 

Organizations as diverse as Heritage Canada The National Trust, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Kingston Field Naturalists, the Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland, BirdLife International, the Maryland Ornithological Society, the Hawk Migration Association of North America, Pennsylvania Ornithological Society, and Brereton Field Naturalists’ Club all oppose turbines on Amherst Island.

Economic impact

 The Windlectric project proposes 26 wind turbines with a capacity of 74.3 MW and according to the specifications, would be Siemens turbines each with a total height in excess of 500 feet with a hub height of about 330 feet and a blade radius of almost 180 feet. If they generate electricity at the anticipated norm of 30% of capacity, they will produce about 195,000 megawatts (MWh) intermittently and out of synch with Ontario demand. Windlectric will be paid $135 per/MWh plus cost of living benefits up to 20% more, so as much as $162 per/MWh in the latter years of their contract term. At an average of $140 per/MWh, the gross revenue to Windlectric will be $27.3 million annually, or about $550 million over the life of the contract.

Loyalist Township, where Amherst Island is located, was obligated to allow the Windlectric project to proceed because the Green Energy Act in 2009 stripped all municipalties’ local land use planning powers as regards an energy project. The best the township could do was reach agreement on a “Community Benefit Fund” for an annual payment of approximately $520K. Added to that will be realty taxes of around $240K. Ontario limits the assessed value of wind turbines to only $40K per MW. The assessed value of the 26 turbines will be less than $3 million, but their capital cost is over $200 million.

All-in, the township will get about $760K annually — 2.8% of the revenue to Windlectric. Obviously, the contributions Algonquin Power and other large renewable energy companies gave to the Ontario Liberal Party were worth the money.

So, Ontario has a “robust supply” of electricity, wind turbines will harm the 34 endangered species, and we are exporting surplus generation at pennies on the dollar while curtailing wind, spilling hydro and steaming off nuclear energy.   Ontario doesn’t need the intermittent power from the turbines on Amherst Island. We don’t need them in Prince Edward County either (White Pines) (or Dutton-Dunwich, or La Nation, or North Stormont). The Minister should demonstrate that he means what he said recently in North Bay:  “There are some families in this province that are struggling to meet their energy bills. It’s why I’ve recognized and the premier has recognized that we need to do more …That is why we’re making sure we can find ways to reduce bills. Everything is on the table within reason.”

The Minister has an opportunity to save ratepayers $1 billion dollars in future rate increases by simply canceling the Amherst Island Windlectric project and the Prince Edward County White Pines project, to name two.

He should take it.