North Stormont citizens lose wind turbine appeal

A citizen group in the Township of North Stormont, Ont., has lost its appeal to stop a wind farm in the community, located 60 kilometres south of Ottawa.

EDP Renewables says turbines will be up and running this year

The Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal dismissed an appeal brought by a North Stormont, Ont., community group against a proposed wind farm. (Patrick Pleul/dpa via Associated Press)

A citizen group in the Township of North Stormont, Ont., has lost its appeal to stop a wind farm development in the community 60 kilometres south of Ottawa.

The 100-megawatt Nation Rise Wind Farm was approved under the previous Ontario Liberal government in 2016 after the local council had voted to proclaim the community a "non-willing host."

Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, a group that included people who lived around the proposed site, appealed over concerns about noise and the possible environmental impact of the structures on local wildlife and groundwater.

In a decision dated late last week, the Ontario's Environmental Review Tribunal said the group's evidence was not strong enough.

"We were not surprised by the tribunal's ruling, but we were disappointed by the outcome," said Margaret Benke, who lives near the wind farm site and was involved in organizing the appeal.

"The Environmental Review Tribunal rules and regulations are so stringent that it's almost impossible to win."

Margaret Benke, right, lives near the site of the Nation Rise Wind Farm located in the Township of North Stormont. (Radio-Canada)

Benke said the group is considering a lawsuit, though it may be too costly.

"It doesn't seem that's really in our best interest, chances are that we wouldn't win or what we'd win would be more time for the proponent to get to the same stage," she said.

She said the group may make a public interest appeal directly to provincial Energy Minister Greg Rickford.

Construction to start in spring

A representative for EDP Renewables, the Portuguese company which owns and operates Nation Rise, said community concerns are addressed in the rules that first allowed the project. 

"[In the] Renewable Energy Approval, there are conditions that are meant for us to follow and ensure that the environment and human health are protected," said Tom LoTurco, its director of development in Canada and eastern U.S.

LoTurco said the company plans to start construction in the coming months, though major work can't start until spring out of respect for local road restrictions.

Turbine components will be delivered in July, with installation to follow shortly afterward. 

"We plan to have commercial operation by the end of 2019," LoTurco said.

Construction will also include building a substation, transmission facilities, meteorological equipment, private roads and public road improvements, he said.

with files from Brett Throop