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Canada

Ontario community changes its mind -- Vision Quest project victory

After spending more than a year working through the municipal permitting process, Calgary's Vision Quest Windelectric has approval to build its first Ontario wind project. Councillors for Prince Edward County in the province's southeast voted in August to rezone rural lands in the south of the county for the 22 MW Royal Road Windfarm.

Vision Quest expects to install a single Vestas 660 kW exploratory unit on the site early next year to confirm the wind resource, says the company's Jason Edworthy. A number of provincial and federal approvals are still required and Vision Quest wants to conduct additional environmental studies to ensure compatibility with migrating birds, before the full project is installed. "We could be building next fall," says Edworthy, adding that Vision Quest has yet to decide whether to stay with the V47 turbine for the full wind farm or move to the Vestas V80 1.8 MW machine.

The Royal Road site is the second Vision Quest has proposed to the county council. The first, near the community of Hillier, was rejected in February in a tie vote and in the face of local opposition. Vision Quest went back to council in June with the Royal Road application -- and with some solid community support.

A no-brainer

"One of the amazing things that happened after the Hillier application was that after it reached this tie conclusion, all kinds of people who just assumed this was a no-brainer came out of the woodwork," says Edworthy. "They called and they wrote their councillors to ask what the heck they were doing." A group calling itself Citizens Advocating Renewable Energy gathered more than 1500 names on a petition in favour of the Royal Road application.

Despite the support, says Edworthy, the project has some vocal opponents who are concerned about issues like noise, visibility, property values and the impact on birds. He hopes the exploratory turbine will help allay some of their fears.

In Alberta, where Vision Quest has installed 67 wind turbines with a total capacity of 43.5 MW, people are "very, very familiar" with the technology. "They can easily go see them and stand under them and talk to people about them. There is a very high comfort level. This is brand new in Prince Edward County, and there isn't a comfort level, there isn't a familiarity," he says.

Free market interest

In fact, wind power is relatively new to the entire province, which is Canada's largest power market. Ontario has only 3 MW of wind, with another 10 MW under construction. The province, however, opened its electricity market to competition this year and wind power producers are starting to show an interest.

In fact, Ontario leads the country in letters of interest filed by companies applying for Canada's new wind power production incentive -- a price subsidy -- registering 12 projects with a combined capacity of 635.4 MW. As of early September, 61 applications outlining plans to develop more than 2400 MW of wind power across Canada had been filed with Natural Resources Canada. No finalised contribution agreements had been announced.

Vision Quest's Ontario plans do not end with the Royal Road wind farm. The company has applied for municipal approval to build the Pine River Windfarm near Kincardine on Lake Huron. The project will consist of at least eight Vestas 1.8 MW units, says Edworthy, with an exploratory machine to be installed next year.

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