Wind turbines approved for eastern Ontario despite objections

Ontario's Ministry of Energy has approved large wind turbine projects for St-Isidore and North Stormont even though the municipalities voted not to allow them.

Of 5 turbine projects approved, only 2 have endorsement of host municipalities

North Stormont Mayor Dennis Fife looks out over field behind his house. Thirty to 40 wind turbines will soon rise high above the trees in the distance. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

North Stormont Mayor Dennis Fife loves the view of the fields and trees behind his home in the hamlet of Berwick, Ont., about 60 kilometres southeast of Ottawa. 

But that view is about to change now that Ontario's Ministry of Energy has approved five large wind turbine projects, including one for 30 to 40 turbines near Berwick and another in St-Isidore, a few kilometres away.

'Non-willing host'

Fife says last summer, after hundreds of local residents turned out to show their opposition to the turbines at public consultations, council voted to proclaim their municipality a "non-willing host". 

"I thought the province would listen to the will of the people, but it didn't happen that way," Fife said.

I thought the province would listen to the will of the people, but it didn't happen that way.- Dennis Fife, mayor of North Stormont

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli says wind turbines are an important part of the province's drive to reduce its carbon footprint and develop sustainable, low cost, renewable energy. 

He says that municipalities were never given a veto over electrical infrastructure requirements, whether those were transmission towers, solar panels or wind turbines. 

Of the five approved wind turbine projects, only two had the endorsement of their municipal councils.

Public consultation to continue

Companies that bid on the projects were required to consult with the public early in the bidding process, and according to the successful bidder on the St-Isidore site, will continue to consult now that its project has been approved.

"Where specific things can be accommodated, and concerns can be addressed, we will address those," said Bart Geleynse, a senior manager with Renewable Energy Systems.

The turbine projects approved this week will be built over the next three to four years, and will continue to operate for at least 20 years.
A view of one of the wind turbines, looking straight up from the ground.
Of the five wind turbine projects approved, only two had the blessing of the host municipality. (CBC)