The Northland Power Industrial Wind Power Plant
The Northland Power Industrial Wind Power Plant has been a proposal in a constant state of flux. When first announced, it was a very different proposal with an installed capacity of a 54 MW on a few hundred acres of land. The McLean’s Mountain Wind Power Project is now a 60 MW, 24x 2.5 MW turbine project which has now received MOE approval to construct. If completed it will span a 20,000 acre section of Manitoulin highland from McLeans Mountain to the Cup and Saucer Bluff known locally as “The Green Bush”. A 20-year Power Purchase Agreement for the project has been signed through the Ontario Power Authorities Feed In Tariff (FIT) Program. If approved, onsite work is anticipated to begin in the late summer of 2012 with the construction of roads. The main body of work – foundations, turbine erection and the electrical infrastructure – will be carried out in 2013 by the engineer and balance-of-plant contractor. Commercial operations are set to begin in December 2014?. The REA has been submitted and despite its many errors, inconsistancies and ommissions it has been approved and is available in its entirety or in parts through their webpage. Below is a map of the area proposed for industrial development.
UPDATE: Dec 1, 2011
The project has been changed many times over the course of the past few years. Almost every turbine has changed location and the number of turbines changes with each proposal. In the last 2 iterations the size of the turbines has been increased by 50%. Here is the latest edition as it appears in the REA FOR THE FIRST TIME:
The major components of the project are as follows: The new turbines are proposed to be the GE 2.5 MW wind turbine generators with a total
Twenty-four (24) GE 2.5 MW wind turbines; installed nameplate capacity of 60 MW. The turbine towers will be 98.3 metres in heightand the blade diameter will be 103 metres across.
690V /34.5 kV step up transformers (located in the base of each turbine)
34 kV collection system to link the wind turbines to the substation;
Transformer/substation (34 kV to 115 kV);
A 10.3 km, 115 kV single circuit transmission line;
A connection station at the point of connection with the provincial grid;
Wind turbine access roads;
Four (4) meteorological towers (which are already installed and operating); and
Staging areas for assembly and erection of the wind turbines
One thing readers just learning about wind power should realize is that the installed capacity of a wind power plant does not represent its actual output over time. The actual “uptime” or capacity factor of this plant would at best be 34%. This means the installed capacity of 77 MW would actually only mean about 25 MW added to the provincial grid capacity. The peak demand in Ontario during the summer of 2005 was 26,160 MW.
Scale of the Project
Many people don’t realize how big these proposed turbines are. Notice on the image to the left how the industrial turbine on the left dwarfs the scale of the Canadian parliament buildings.
The blades are each 51.5 meters (160 ft.) long in themselves, making the effective diameter of the blade rotation 103 (0ver 320 ft.) meters. The total height of mast and blade will be over 600 ft!
Is our community the right area for a large-scale commercial wind power generation facility?
The Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives certainly understands that the Northland Power corporate strategy is about profit maximization. This is particularly the case when federal and provincial government grants, tax breaks and other incentives available to corporate wind power developers are taken into account.
The Coalition also recognizes the business and profit maximization rationale for the installation of this large scale wind power generation facility within our community. We have a good wind resource, we have a good road network (which facilitates tower installations), and we are as close as you can get on Manitoulin to an 115 kV transmission line by way of which the generated power can be exported from the local community and transmitted by Ontario’s high voltage transmission system to where it is ultimately used. Those three components ( i.e. , wind, roads and export transmission capabilities) are the key building blocks which a wind power developer seeks when selecting a site for possible wind power development.
All of that being said, however, the Coalition simply doesn’t accept that the presence of those three building blocks means that a project of the nature and scope proposed by Northland should proceed within our community. Does Ontario needs new power supplies? Have we done everything we can to save power through conservation? Yes, wind power may present emissions-reduction-related benefits for Ontarians. However this does not mean that a particular corporate strategy of large-scale, commercial development at the lowest-cost sites will necessarily be compatible with the character of a local community, the values of its residents, and the ecosystems and environmental sensitivities present within the community.
Before applying the Northland corporate strategy to our community, therefore, it’s important to ask an important question: Is our community the right area for a large-scale commercial wind power generation facility? We believe that the answer is no. This does not mean that no wind power development should be permitted in our community. However, the reasons for not supporting a large-scale commercial wind power generation facility in our community are numerous, including:
- The lack of adequate setbacks to protect local residents from adverse health effects.
- The lack of adequate setbacks to protect the right of local landowners to the rightful enjoyment of their lands
- Degradation of our area’s unique scenic resources. Northeastern Manitoulin and Islands is the gateway to Manitoulin, a world renowned tourist area
- Widespread public and private use (horseback riding, hiking, mountain-biking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hunting etc.) of much of the land within (or in immediate proximity to) the area proposed by Northland Power Wind for large-scale commercial wind power development.
- Significant effects on wetland and headwaters areas, and a unique watershed, with several adjacent provincially-identified ANSIs ( i.e. , areas of natural and scientific interest) and deer-wintering areas.
- Further infringements on areas of significance to First Nations people as the site of a 10,000 plus year old culture proven by significant archeological sites.
- The fact that most of the area is privately owned by outdoorsmen who value the peace and natural beauty of the area.
- Turbines are known to cause a drying effect which could significantly increase the fire hazard in our area.
The Coalition feels that an appropriate balance has not been struck between responsible wind energy development within our community and the special sensitivities and unique resources of our community. In our view, the large-scale commercial development strategy which Northland Power Inc. is pursuing does not represent the type of balanced approach which is necessary in order to ensure adequate protection for the best interests of our community, its residents, and its local environment.
Ontario appears to be blessed with strong wind power resources. So long as those wind power resources, or a good portion of them, can be developed in a cost-effective and competitive fashion, there appears to be potential for wind power to make at least some contribution to Ontario ‘s power generation requirements.
Given that there would appear to be such significant wind resources in Ontario, and given that the Ontario wind power generation industry is in its infancy (Ontario currently has 1300MW of installed wind power capacity), the Manitoulin Coalition believes that an appropriate degree of caution needs to be exercised in the face of a profit-maximizing developer’s proposal to install a large wind power generation facilities on top of one of Ontario’s most treasured landscapes and in the midst of not only a relatively undeveloped area which supports a diverse and sensitive ecosystem but also in the midst of a cherished and idyllic rural residential community which we call home.
This is not to say that the Manitoulin Coalition believes that the wind resource on top of McLeans Mountain and in surrounding areas should not be developed at all. As is clear from other pages on this website, we are enthusiastic supporters of the appropriately-sited installation of “small wind” systems by individual landowners and community-based cooperatives and other ventures. However, we seriously question the wisdom behind a project of the size and scope proposed by Northland for our community when it would appear that Ontario likely has many other sites which are suitable for large-scale wind power development and which do not involve the risk of adverse impact on a community, its residents and its local environment which is presented by the proposed “McLeans Mountain” project.