IRAC to decide whether proposed Eastern Kings wind farm expansion should go ahead
Appeal hearing on now after development denied last fall
After its proposal to build more wind turbines in Eastern Kings last fall was denied, the P.E.I. Energy Corporation is arguing for the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to overturn that decision.
The corporation runs the province's wind farms and wanted to add seven wind turbines to the 10 that already exist in the municipality of Eastern Kings, east of Souris.
"The wind farm, the purpose of it is to provide clean renewable electricity to Islanders and to ensure our energy future," said Kim Horrelt, CEO of the P.E.I. Energy Corporation.
"The government has come out with climate action plans and net-zero plans and certainly renewable energy plays a huge role if we have any hope of meeting those goals."
In his opening remarks at Wednesday's IRAC hearing, the lawyer for the P.E.I. Energy Corporation argued the Eastern Kings council lacked the expertise to make the decision it did.
"They are a small council, a community of 700 people, so it's understandable they wouldn't know how to deal with an application like this," said lawyer Gordon MacKay.
Staff testified the corporation did a full environmental assessment, negotiated compensation for landowners, and even put in purchase orders for the seven new turbines.
Hillary Newman, lawyer for the Municipality of Eastern Kings, said the corporation jumped the gun.
"Council has to independently evaluate development application materials and make a decision based on public feedback, the municipality's own bylaws, the municipality's official plan and the best interests of the residents of the municipality," said Newman.
Wind is our biggest resource here on Prince Edward Island, probably our only resource.— Kim Horrelt, P.E.I. Energy Corporation
Spencer Long, project manager with the energy corporation, said his experience talking to residents in the area of the proposed development was "overwhelmingly favourable."
"There were a few folks who chose not to participate, I mean they were good conversations, they just … did not want to participate, but for the most part, the overwhelming majority were in favour of the project," said Long.
IRAC is also using this three-day virtual hearing to look at how the multi-year approval process in Eastern Kings unfolded.
Before making its final decision, the municipality turned down the energy corporation's request for preliminary approval and easing of set-back guidelines.
The mayor also declared a conflict of interest and turned matters over to the deputy mayor, rather than the municipality's chief administrator.
Best wind in the province
Horrelt said eastern P.E.I. has the best wind in the province, and it wants to put even more turbines there in years to come.
"Wind is our biggest resource here on Prince Edward Island, probably our only resource," Horrelt said.
The 10 turbines currently in operation provide 30 megawatts of electricity, and the corporation wants to add another 30 megawatts.
The corporation is now looking for storage space for the seven turbines it bought.
It might sell them, depending on the outcome of this hearing.
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With files from Brian Higgins