Critics slam decision as 74 megawatt project to move toward development
STELLA, Ont.—After more than three years, the divisive public process surrounding bringing a wind energy project to 70-square kilometer Amherst Island seems to be nearing a conclusion. Ultimately, it appears neither the local activist-spearheaded campaign nor the dissenting voice of author Margaret Atwood will prove capable of blocking the Amherst Island Wind Energy Project.
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change issued conditional approval to Windlectric Inc., a subsidiary of Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., on the 74.3 megawatt, 26 turbine project Aug. 24. The approval requires Windelectric to meet a lengthy list of conditions, which include – among many others – meeting noise performance limits, restricting water taking during construction, conducting an acoustic audit, and performing post-construction bird and bat mortality monitoring.
The project will be linked to the mainland’s electrical grid, adding renewable energy under Ontario’s Green Energy Act. Critics, however, say the wind farm will endanger wildlife that inhabit or migrate through the island, which is a known resting place for birds in the spring and fall. In 2014 Heritage Canada’s National Trust named the island one of the most endangered places in the country.
“There are places where wind turbines just shouldn’t go,” Michele Le Lay, spokesperson for Association to Protect Amherst Island, said. “This is one of them.”
“Approval of this power project indicates the hypocrisy of the government’s wind power program,”Le Lay, added. “Constructing and operating wind turbines here will do great harm to the natural environment.”
Opponents of the project now have 15 days to file an appeal with the Environmental Review Tribunal. The appeal process is expected to take approximately six months.
If allowed to move forward, the project must be completed within three years.