NextEra Varna (Bluewater) Wind Project approved by MOE – 40 more turbines

approved-transEnvironmental Registry
A Renewable Energy Approval (REA) has been issued to Varna Wind Inc. to engage in a renewable energy project in respect of a Class 4 wind facility consisting of the construction, installation, operation, use and retiring of up to 40 turbines, rated at 1.6 MW generating output capacity, with a total name plate capacity of 60 MW. The wind facility will be connected to Hydro One’s distribution system.

This Class 4 wind facility, known as the Bluewater Wind Energy Centre, consists of areas required for the wind facility components, as well as for the interconnection route. The wind facility is generally bounded Blackbush/Bronson Line to the west, Mill Road to the north, Concession 5 Road to the east, and Danceland Road/Staffa Road to the south. The interconnection route is generally bounded by Concession 5 Road to the west, Mill Road to the north, Huron Road and Perth 183 Road to the east, and Staffa Road to the south.

The REA requires the proponent to construct, install, operate, use and retire the facility in accordance with specific terms and conditions. The terms and conditions, as summarised below, require the proponent to:

  • construct and install the facility within 3 years of the date of the approval,
  • construct and install the facility in accordance with the documentation considered for the issuance of this approval,
  • receive all required permits under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 prior to construction or installation,
  • properly decommission the facility upon retirement of the facility,
  • comply with the ministry’s noise emission limits at all times,
  • carry out an acoustic immission audit of the sound levels produced by the operation of the equipment,
  • carry out an acoustic emission audit of the acoustic emissions produced by the operation of the wind turbine generators,
  • manage stormwater, and control sediment and erosion during and post construction,
  • prohibit water-taking activities to less than 50,000 litres of water per day
  • design, construct and operate a spill containment system to current and best standards,
  • implement the pre and post construction Natural Heritage monitoring program, which includes bird and bat monitoring,
  • prepare a Traffic Management Plan to be provided to each municipality and enter into Road Users Agreements,
  • create a community liaison committee with members of the public and with the company,
  • properly address any archaeological resources discovered,
  • maintain records of the operation and maintenance of equipment and inspections and complaints related to the facility,
  • notify the ministry of complaints received alleging adverse effect caused by the construction, installation, operation, use or retirement of the facility, and
  • notify the ministry prior to a change of ownership.

This renewable energy project has been approved in accordance with the requirements of Part V.0.1 of the Environmental Protection Act and Ontario Regulation 359/09.

NOTE: Regarding Third Party Hearing Provisions

Third Party Hearing Provisions are listed immediately below. The Leave to Appeal Provisions indicated in the section titled “Leave to Appeal Provisions” at the end of the posting do not apply to Renewable Energy Approvals issued under 47.5 of the EPA.

Any resident of Ontario may require a hearing by the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) within 15 days after the date this Decision was loaded to the Environmental Registry (see top right of decision notice) by written notice served upon all of the following:

Appellate Body:
Secretary
Environmental Review Tribunal
655 Bay Street
Floor 15
Toronto
M5G 1E5
Phone: (416) 212-6349
Fax: (416) 314-4506

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario:
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
1075 Bay Street
Suite 605
Toronto Ontario
M5S 2B1
Phone: (800) 701-6454

Issuing Authority:
Vic Schroter
Director, Section 47.5 Environmental Protection Act
Environmental Approvals Branch
2 St. Clair Avenue West
Floor 12A
Toronto Ontario
M4V 1L5
Phone: 416-314-8573

Proponent:
Varna Wind Inc.
5500 North Service Road
Suite 205
Burlington, Ontario
L7L 6W6

An applicant for a hearing shall state in the notice requiring the hearing, (a) a description of how engaging in the renewable energy project in accordance with the renewable energy approval will cause, (i) serious harm to human health, or (ii) serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment; (b) the portion of the renewable energy approval in respect of which the hearing is required; and (c) the relief sought.

Further information is provided on the ERT’s website at: http://www.ert.gov.on.ca/english/guides/index.htm.

If you have any questions about the hearing process please consult a lawyer or contact the ERT.

Comment(s) Received on the Proposal:   43

Public Consultation on the proposal for this decision was provided for 30 Days, from August 31, 2012 to September 30, 2012.

As a result of public consultation on the proposal, the Ministry received a total of 43 comments: 6 comments were received in writing and 37 were received online.

Additionally, a copy of all comments are available for public viewing by contacting the Contact person listed in this notice.

A selection of these comments are available:
Effect(s) of Consultation on this Decision:

All comments received were reviewed by the ministry and considered during the review of the application. These concerns and comments have been summarized below:

Concerns related to health and safety
The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has built safety requirements into Ontario Renewable Energy Approval Regulation (O. Reg. 359/09). For wind facilities, a proponent must meet section 53 of O. Reg. 359/09, which prohibits a proponent to place a turbine closer than the height of the turbine to a property boundary (unless a Property Line Setback Assessment is completed).

The facility has been sited in accordance will all applicable permitting regulations and requirements. Minimum setback requirements have been met, the noise report meets MOE guidelines and the applicant has committed to implementing appropriate construction and operational health and safety protocols, as well as a complaint resolution process.

Further, a condition has been imposed in the REA to operate and maintain the facility in accordance with good engineering practices and as recommended by the equipment suppliers.

Concerns about setbacks
The range of setback distances for wind facilities with one or more specified turbine is provided in the table in Section 55 of O. Reg. 359/09. The table of noise setbacks is used to illustrate the closest distance the base of any turbine can be from the nearest noise receptor. The minimum setback distance of 550 metres (m) must be met in all cases and greater numbers of turbines may result in higher required setback distances applied to the nearest turbine. Proponents are also given the option of conducting a noise study to prove that siting turbines closer than the setback distances (but no closer than 550 m) in the table to Section 55 of O. Reg. 359/09 will not cause adverse effects. Such a study must be prepared in accordance with MOE’s Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms (2008) and must be submitted as part of the REA application.

For this project, the applicant completed a noise impact assessment that was reviewed by MOE. It was concluded that the applicant has met and is in compliance with all applicable sound level limits as identified in MOE’s Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms (2008).

The setback distances are based on MOE’s conservative sound level limit of 40 dBA at the nearest noise receptor. This stringent 40 dBA sound level limit has been used in Ontario for the approval of industrial facilities built in rural areas for the past 30 years. Furthermore, this sound level limit is consistent with the World Health Organization’s recommendation that the outdoor annual average night sound level should not exceed 40 dBA.

Comment from an Aboriginal community
Consultation on this project has been extensive, given the nature of the project. The applicant initiated discussions on this project with the Aboriginal community in 2010. The applicant is currently in discussions with the community to reach a Memorandum of Understanding.

Concerns related to property values
The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation’s (MPAC) analysis of property sales to date has not indicated that wind turbines that are either abutting or close to a property have either a positive or negative impact on the value.

MPAC is currently undertaking a level of assessment study to determine if the distance from a wind turbine affects the assessed value of a property. To complete this review, MPAC will compare the 2012 assessed values to recent sale prices to determine if the ratio between the assessments and the sale prices differs between homes near wind turbines and those further away. Once complete, a copy of the study will be made available to the public.

Concerns related to noise
MOE staff have reviewed the noise assessment provided by the proponent. MOE’s noise engineers have confirmed that the project will meet MOE’s Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms. Further, the noise assessment and the facility meet the requirements of O. Reg. 359/09.

If the public has any noise concerns, incidents to report, or has any complaints they would like to raise relating to a wind facility operation, they should contact their local District or Area Office. MOE’s first level of field response is provided by environmental officers working out of MOE’s District or Area Offices.

Community input
Opportunity for public comment on this project has been provided since 2010. The applicant held four public open houses on this project: June 28, 2010; December 7, 2011; June 13, 2012; and June 14, 2012.

In addition, the MOE posted the proposal for the project on the Environmental Registry, allowing for a total of 30 days for public comment directly to the ministry.

The applicant also held a telephone town hall in respect of this project on April 11, 2012.

MOE has imposed a condition requiring the proponent to create a Community Liaison Committee for the Bluewater Wind Energy Centre. This Community Liaison Committee will be made up of individuals in the community and company representatives. The aim of the committee will be to act as a liaison, facilitating two way communications between the Company and members of the public with respect to the project. It will provide a forum for the Company to provide regular updates to the community.

Impacts to airports
While the issues of air navigation and obstacles are under federal jurisdiction, the ministry has amended the REA Regulation to require proponents to notify Transport Canada’s Regional Office for Ontario and NAV Canada’s Land Use Office of a proposed wind facility in the preliminary planning stages. This notification ensures these bodies are made aware of the project and allows for engagement with respect to any concerns they may have with the turbine layout, and potential for disturbance to the navigation and radar systems.

The applicant has continued to consult with local airstrip operators to identify and address any concerns.

Concern related to the location of the project
Consideration was given to the distance of the project to the Village of Zurich and allows for future growth of the village.

The applicant initiated individual meetings with landowners along the entire proposed transmission line corridor in October 2011 to discuss potential routes, to share information about the proposed transmission line, answer questions and discuss siting the transmission line. The applicant has also been in discussions with Hydro One Networks (HONI), the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) and the Integrated Electricity System Operator (IESO) regarding the locations of the transmission lines.

HONI is responsible for the operation of the distribution system in the area proposed for the Bluewater Wind Energy Centre. The applicant continues to work with Hydro One, the municipality and the public to arrive at an agreeable location for the transmission line.

The entire Bluewater Wind Energy Centre has been sited to minimize impact to the natural environment. Mitigation for tree removal in the right of way will be established in consultation with the municipalities.

The applicant has contacted Tribute Resources to establish specific locations for the proposed gas storage area facilities. Based on the information received from Tribute Resources, these facilities are located in the vicinity of turbines 15 and 16 at a depth of over 500 m below ground surface. Given that the depth of turbine foundations is only 3 m below ground surface, construction of the turbines in these locations will have no effect on the proposed gas storage facilities. However, discussions with Tribute Resources and the appropriate engineering and design professionals are ongoing and will continue throughout construction and operation.

The project has been reviewed and determined to meet all applicable setback requirements.

Request for a moratorium on wind turbines
When developing the REA regulation, MOE drew upon extensive existing scientific research from around the world. Reviewing a large body of peer-reviewed reports and studies enabled MOE to develop a regulation that was based on the best available science to protect human health and the environment. MOE continues to review emerging scientific and engineering studies to ensure Ontario’s REA egulation remains in line with the latest and best in science.

Impacts on natural environment and wildlife
The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has reviewed the Natural Heritage Assessment and provided a Confirmation Letter as per section 28 (2) of O. Reg 359/09. MNR provided a letter for this project confirming that the applicant used applicable evaluation criteria or procedures accepted by the MNR for the determination of the existence and boundaries of natural features; site investigation and records review; and evaluation of the significance or provincial significance of the natural features.

A bird and bat monitoring plan has been developed in accordance with MNR’s guidelines. This monitoring plan has been reviewed and approved by MNR.

A condition is being imposed in the REA to require the applicant to implement its bird and bat monitoring plan, as submitted in its application.

Impacts on birds
Ontario’s REA process includes clear requirements to ensure consideration and protection for natural heritage features, including 120 m setbacks to significant bird and bat habitats. The process also includes requirements for monitoring and mitigation of potential negative effects to birds, bats and their habitats.

A bird and bat monitoring plan for the project has been completed and reviewed and approved by MNR. Conditions have been included in the approval for the applicant to implement its birds and bat monitoring plan as submitted as part of the application, and to implement mitigation and monitoring as outlined in the plan.

Impact on farmland
The role of the MOE with respect to energy proposals is to ensure that they comply with regulations that have been put in place to protect human health and the environment. The Ministry of Energy takes the lead on the development of renewable energy projects, and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) issues contracts under the province’s Feed In Tariff (FIT) program to purchase power. The FIT contracts awarded to project developers restrict the development of solar facilities on prime agricultural lands, e.g. Class 1 and Class 2 agricultural land, as determined by the OPA in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. However no such restriction exists for wind facilities, and the development of wind turbines on agricultural land is determined by the developer in collaboration with the landowners.

Wind turbines occupy only a small fraction of the land they are sited on, and farming or grazing may continue undisturbed. In general, a turbine in a typical wind facility including foundation and access roads will use 1 to 1.5% of a typical 40 hectare farm parcel.

Concerns related to drainage impacts
All municipal drain crossings will be permitted and constructed in accordance with the provincial Drainage Act.

Alternative solutions
Comments were received that included alternative solutions to the proposed project. MOE staff reviewed and considered the alternatives.

Decommissioning concerns
As part of the REA, there is a decommissioning condition. This condition requires the proponent to comply with all commitments made in the REA documentation. Further, consultation with the local District Manager of MOE will be required in order to meet all the requirements at the time of decommissioning.

MOE has included a condition for the proponent to contact the ministry prior to decommissioning of the facility, to ensure that the lands can be restored to their original use.

Concerns related to the net loss of jobs
Green energy is a key part of the province’s plan to combat climate change and phase out coal. Increasing renewable energy generation and conservation will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create thousands of green jobs in Ontario.

Concerns related to the loss of the democratic process
The applicant has conducted a comprehensive stakeholder and municipal consultation program and has identified the key issues of interest to the local community and incorporated them into the project design where possible. The program involved numerous public meetings and opportunities for stakeholders, agencies and Aboriginal communities to provide comments.

The applicant will continue to discuss the project with the Municipality of Bluewater, Municipality of Huron East and County of Huron Council and staff to address any ongoing concerns they may have regarding the project. This includes discussions related to agreements between the applicant and each municipality with respect to various uses of municipal infrastructure such as local roads.

Concerns related to stray voltage
MOE staff have been advised by the Ministry of Energy that electrical phenomena such as stray voltage occur on all electricity distribution systems, and are not unique to systems located near wind generators. The Ministry of Energy also advises that none of these phenomena have been identified by Health Canada as hazardous to humans.

The applicant will ensure that the project is built and maintained according to the standards in place as prescribed by the Distribution System Code and the Electrical Safety Authority

The project is not proposing to connect to the local distribution system that serves barns and houses in the area, so it will not directly impact that service. However, the applicant will continue to work closely with Hydro One to mitigate any potential impact on local distribution customers should a situation arise.

Concerns related to study methods
MOE staff have reviewed the proponent’s project documentation and it has been determined that all reports comply with O. Reg. 359/09.

Concerns related to errors in the application
The MOE has completed the technical review of this application and assessed that it meets the regulatory requirements of Ontario Regulation 359/09.

Both the MOE and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) have considered and resolved with the applicant any errors (if specifics were provided in the Registry comments) during the technical review stage.

Concerns related to impacts on heritage properties
The applicant completed a Heritage Assessment to determine existing built heritage resources and cultural landscape resources within the project location and to evaluate impacts and determine mitigation measures. No further mitigation was recommended as it was determined that there are no anticipated direct or indirect impacts as a result of the undertaking.

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport has provided a sign-off letter (dated March 22, 2012) for the Heritage Assessment report, indicating that they are satisfied with the recommendations in the report.

Out of scope comments
A number of comments were received that were not project specific. As they did not pertain to the project, MOE staff did not consider these comments in the decision making process.

Note – This is the end of the decision notice. Please disregard the “Leave to Appeal Provisions” section below.

Leave to Appeal Provisions:

Any resident of Ontario may seek leave to appeal this decision, by serving written Notice, within 15 days of April 22, 2013 upon the following:

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario:

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
1075 Bay Street
Suite 605
Toronto Ontario
M5S 2B1
Phone: (416) 325-3377
Toll Free Phone: (800) 701-6454

Issuing Authority:

Vic Schroter
Director, Section 47.5, Environmental Protection Act
Environmental Approvals Branch
2 St. Clair Avenue West
Floor 12A
Toronto Ontario
M4V 1L5
Phone: (416) 314-8573
Toll Free Phone: (800) 461-6290

Proponent:

Varna Wind, Inc.
5500 North Service Road
Suite 205
Burlington Ontario
Canada L7L 6W6

Appellate Body:

Secretary
Environmental Review Tribunal
655 Bay Street
Floor 15
Toronto
M5G 1E5
Phone: (416) 212-6349
Fax: (416) 314-4506

An applicant for a hearing shall state in the notice requiring the hearing, (a) a description of how engaging in the renewable energy project in accordance with the renewable energy approval will cause, (i) serious harm to human health, or (ii) serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment; (b) the portion of the renewable energy approval in respect of which the hearing is required; and (c) the relief sought.

Further information is provided on the ERT’s website at: http://www.ert.gov.on.ca/english/guides/index.htm

If you have any questions about the hearing process please consult a lawyer or contact the ERT.

The attached Certificate document is intended for posting on the Environmental Registry in order to provide the reader with the substantive content of the issued instrument. Please note the official version may be differently formatted or otherwise contain minor variations from this version.

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Posted on April 25, 2013, in Bluewater Project, Ministry of Environment, Next Era. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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