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Three in Ontario tied up in red tape -- Troubling bureaucracy

A major wind power development in Ontario, the 160 MW Kingsbridge II project, is on hold because of slow progress in the local and provincial approval processes. The developer, Epcor, expects to book a loss of up to C$20 million as a result. "In the absence of a reasonable level of certainty about a construction commencement date, it is prudent for us to re-examine the project design and schedule," says the company's Paul McMillan. It is "terminating arrangements with certain suppliers," but declines to say more. The Edmonton company had planned to use 69 Siemens 2.3 MW wind turbines.

Kingsbridge II was selected by the Ontario energy ministry as one of the winners in a request for proposals (RFP) for renewable energy completed in November 2005. The contract for the project, says Epcor, remains in effect. It is not the only bid winner facing permitting uncertainties. Enbridge, based in Calgary, had hoped to construct a 182 MW project on the eastern shore of Lake Huron near Kincardine last year and has taken delivery of the Vestas 1.65 MW turbines intended for the project, but is still working at getting approvals on several fronts.

Part of the delay on Kincardine is related to the Ontario's environmental assessment process. Wind projects larger than 2 MW have to produce a detailed environmental screening report (ESR) for public review, but anyone can ask the environment ministry to order a higher-level review. The ministry has yet to respond to the requests it has received. Enbridge's Debbie Boukydis says a decision is not expected until talks with First Nations groups, both in the region and across the province, are complete. Although none of the Enbridge turbines are on reserve land, the site is part of the Saugeen First Nation's traditional territory. "We're hopeful this process will be wrapping up soon, but we don't really have any idea," says Boukydis.

The Enbridge project, which has already been downsized to 110 turbines from 121 because of local objections, is facing obstacles on another front as well. There were 42 appeals filed with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) against the Municipality of Kincardine's decision to give the project the go-ahead. A hearing before the board, scheduled to begin April 23 and run for eight weeks, will focus on concerns with noise, turbine setbacks, and the visual and environmental impacts of the wind farm.

If the approval process drags on, Enbridge will have to "consider our options," says Boukydis. If approvals are through by the end of June, substation construction can start this year. Later than that and it gets pushed to 2008, says Boukydis. The deadline for Enbridge to deliver power under the power purchase contract is October 2008.

Third in a trio

Calgary's Canadian Hydro Developers is also awaiting a decision from the environment ministry after requests were filed against its 132 MW Melancthon II Wind Power Project. In addition, it is going before the OMB over zoning issues, but this time instigated by the developer. Canadian Hydro launched appeals in the Amaranth and Melancthon Townships because planning decisions were not made within the timelines specified by Ontario's Planning Act, says the company's Geoff Carnegie. "Canadian Hydro has an obligation to its shareholders and the community to move the approvals process along. This transparent process ensures that a decision will be made in an informed, timely manner," he says.

Meanwhile, Acciona Wind Energy Canada and Suncor Energy Products have started full-scale construction of their 76 MW Ripley project, another bid winner from the November 2005 tender process. The C$176 million project, consisting of 38 Enercon 2 MW turbines, is located on the eastern shores of Lake Huron, about 220 kilometres west of Toronto. It is to be commissioned before the end of the year.

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