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Turbines closer to blowing across region

Guelph Mercury: LAURA THOMPSON - December 11, 2007

Roughly 30 farmers have leased portion of their land as part of wind-farm project

Frosty water pipes and a barn barely above zero is what winter leaves behind when it blows through Cleon Martin's dairy farm.

The Drayton-area farmer has been battling the breeze for years. But a new wind-farm project in the works means he'll soon be able to make use of what has been a headache until now.

"Sometimes wind can be a frustrating thing to deal with here in Mapleton," he said. "To be able to harness that energy has been ideal."

Martin is one of roughly 30 farmers in the area that have leased a portion of their land to Invenergy Canada as part of the Conestogo Highlands Wind Farm Project. The firm, headquartered in Chicago, develops both wind energy and natural gas projects.

It plans to build 14 wind turbines in Mapleton starting next summer. There's room to grow the project to 67 turbines.

The Conestogo project connects the windmills to underground power lines that feed into the local Hydro One distribution system.

Gary Pundsack, senior business development manager for Invenergy, said the green energy produced by wind turbines has benefits close to home.

"In that case, a lot of the energy is used locally. Any surplus would go back into the grid," he said.

Invenergy hopes to conclude the environmental assessment process in the new year and gain the appropriate local and provincial approvals by early summer.

Jim Baker, Mapleton's chief building official, said there has been a mixed reaction in the community about the project. Residents have cited concerns about changing the natural landscape and the noise produced by the turbines.

The large wind-energy project is one of at least two in Wellington County that are poised to move forward in 2008. Both are in partnership with the Ontario Power Authority, which was created by the Ministry of Energy to create a sustainable and reliable electricity system in the province.

The other project, known as the Arthur Wind Farm, will see the construction five wind turbines that will encompass 350 acres in Arthur.

Schneider Power, which specializes in renewable energy development, is spearheading the initiative after completing a similar project on Manitoulin Island. Provided approvals are granted, construction of the wind farm will likely begin toward the end of 2008.

Thomas Schneider, president of firm, said Arthur is surrounded by several areas such as Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo that are earmarked for significant growth.

"It makes a lot of sense to have local power generation for where future demand centres are," he said. "Let's get away from building massive nuclear or coal plants and transmitting (the power) 200 kilometres."

David Timm, Ontario policy manager for the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said the idea has been to develop a sustainable and reliable power system that doesn't rely solely on one resource.

"Wind is a viable, cost-competitive technology that we have an abundance of in the province," he said.

lthompson@guelphmercury.com

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