Ontario energy: Residents want Dutton Dunwich wind farm project cancelled

By Jennifer Bieman, St. Thomas Times-Journal

 

With Ontario abruptly suspending plans to buy more green power, a Southwestern Ontario MPP and a fired-up group of anti-turbine advocates are pushing the Liberal government to also scrap a hotly contested wind farm imposed on a rural township that voted overwhelmingly against it.

The opposition of 84 per cent of Dutton Dunwich residents wasn’t enough to stop the Strong Breeze Wind Farm — the 57.5 megawatt project by Chicago-based energy giant Invenergy that got the green light from regulators in March.

Now, with the Liberal government’s surprise move Tuesday to back away from signing another $3.8 billion in green energy deals, Elgin-Middlesex-London PC MPP Jeff Yurek and the Dutton Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines (DDOWT) are urging the province to renege on the contentious contract.

“For projects that haven’t started yet, they should take a look, especially with Dutton Dunwich. Cancel the contracts for energy we don’t need and can’t afford,” said Yurek.

“They’re not willing hosts, so to me it makes sense to end the contract for energy that is being over-produced in this province.”

Yurek said the approval process for the Strong Breeze project was unjust and deeply flawed.

After the controversial contract was awarded, Dutton Dunwich residents learned six Ontario First Nations communities — one near Hudson Bay, one close to the Manitoba border and all more than 1,000 kilometres away — helped give the proposal a boost with the Independent Electricity System Operator.

“It was a stretch by the government to make it a check box on the contract. I think they should have looked at the local First Nations groups. It should be a local decision,” he said.

Though the Strong Breeze Wind Farm was rubber stamped during the first phase of Ontario’s Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) process — and the government has only vowed to suspend the second phase — Yurek wants the Liberals to take further action.

“They’re now realizing the province has an energy crisis that they’ve created and they need to do something about it,” he said.

“The green energy contracts they were signing are unaffordable and putting a halt to signing any further ones is a good start.”

For DDOWT’s members, the government’s plan to stop green energy investment only months after losing the fight to keep Invenergy’s wind farm out feels like another blow.

“This would seem to make logical sense to us for our government to put a stop to this project as well and other ones where they weren’t wanted,” said Bonnie Rowe, spokesperson for the DDOWT.

“There’s still very strong community opposition out there.” Rowe said

Invenergy hasn’t broken ground yet and still need a renewable energy approval from the province before they can begin construction. Though the ink is dry on the Strong Breeze Wind Farm contract, Rowe said DDOWT’s fight is far from over.

“We haven’t given up hope at all,” she said.

“We’re going to be committed to continuing to oppose it. It’s not over until they’re up and spinning.”