Red tape halts $300 million wind farm

GODERICH, ONTARIO - A $300-million wind farm planned near Goderich, Ont., has been cancelled three years after the developer, EPCOR Utilities Inc., was selected by the province to build it.

Call it death by delay.

EPCOR, headquartered in Edmonton, said in a statement that the long wait for provincial and municipal approvals and uncertainty around regulatory matters made it "unable to meet the contract's conditions as a result of circumstances beyond its control."

The 160-megawatt wind farm would have had up to 70 turbines capable of generating power for 50,000 homes. It would have been one of the largest in Ontario.

Neil Levine, a spokesperson for the Alberta utility, said it became clear over the past year that the project could not meet its in-service date, which under a 20-year power purchase contract with the Ontario Power Authority was supposed to be Oct. 31.

"The more you have delays the more costs go up and these projects become quite difficult," said Levine, adding that aside from some limited opposition, the community was generally in support. "It's just that we're a very conservative province, so it's difficult to put anything anywhere."

It's the second major wind project in the province to be terminated because of red tape.

Two years ago, Brookfield Power abandoned a 50-megawatt project in Blue Mountain because it couldn't get municipal construction permits in time.

Those in communities who are opposed to wind projects have become skilled at using layers of government and their respective rules to bog down the process, making it difficult for some developers to calculate final costs and keep within the timelines of their contracts.

When equipment orders have been placed and workers are on site and being paid, even a short delay can add millions to a project.

Debbie Boukydis, a spokesperson for Enbridge Inc., which is close to finishing a 189-megawatt wind farm in Kincardine composed of 115 turbines, said the project has been delayed more than a year because of local opposition and what amounted to regulatory ping-pong.

Boukydis said that some locals were concerned about noise and how far the turbines were set back from property lines and houses.

In response, Enbridge agreed to increase the setback but a small minority still argued it wasn't enough and ended up appealing the project to the Ontario Municipal Board. Canadian Hydro Developers' $450-million 198-megawatt farm planned for Wolfe Island near Kingston has also been delayed.

Sean Whittaker, vice-president of policy at the Canadian Wind Energy Association, agreed that overlap of regulation and a lack of co-ordination between governments and provincial ministries have created problems for developers. But the situation, he said, isn't as bad as it seems.

"It's important to keep in mind that out of the 19 (major wind) projects awarded contracts 16 have already been built," he said.

"Ontario has one of the lowest project attrition rates in North America."


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