By Mac Christie, Times-Advocate Staff
VARNA – It will cost close to $1 million apiece to build industrial wind turbines in Bluewater.
Bluewater municipal council made the decision to set new building permit fees and guidelines for industrial wind turbines within the municipality at a public meeting Nov. 5.
Bluewater had been without a building permit fee for the turbines after striking the existing one from the books in May and many concerned citizens filled the gallery to voice concerns over turbine development.
The new fees are based on a $10 charge per kilowatt the turbine outputs.
NextEra Energy, the company behind the Goshen and Bluewater Wind Energy Centres, uses 1.6-megawatt GE turbines.
Based upon that output, each turbine would have a base building permit fee of $16,500. For Northland Power's Grand Bend Wind Farm, which uses larger, 2.3-megawatt Siemens turbines, the building permit cost would be $23,000.
However, the costs didn't stop there.
Council also passed several motions that must be satisfied in order to issue a building permit.
These include a $25,000 per year, per turbine economic development fee, a $220,000 per turbine security to cover decommissioning costs, $100,000 per turbine in surety against possible legal liability and a $100,000 bond per turbine to pay for possible Bluewater legal fees.
Based on the 20 year length of NextEra's Feed-in-Tariff agreement, the cost of a building permit is expected to be $936,500 per turbine. Between their two proposed projects NextEra has 52 turbines in the municipality.
Earlier in the meeting Hal March of the Bluewater Shoreline Residents Association (BSRA) and Dave Griffiths of Bluewater Against Turbines (BAT) both spoke in opposition to the projects and suggested strict guidelines and high fees.
March noted BSRA represents 3,500 residents along the Lake Huron shore. He asked council for a minimum five kilometre setback, but no less than 2.5 km from any receptor. He also asked for a guarantee of no turbines in the lake and a maximum 32 decibel noise protection bylaw. The current sound threshold is 40 db.
"Take a bold step – refuse or delay issuing building permits for turbines. Permits (should) cost no less than $15,000," he told council, adding decommissioning costs should be included in permit fees, "with a requirement for a $5 million bond per turbine or security deposit for property value protection and decommissioning costs."
Griffiths told council Ontario hydro costs will soon be among the highest in the world, adding some people in the municipality will be unable to heat their homes.
"Property values will drop," he said, predicting numerous appeals to MPAC. "Don't kid yourselves."
He added it is the municipality's mandate to protect its citizens from what he called the "white behemoths."
Griffiths called for a substantial building permit, of at least $200,000 each and urged council to take a stand against turbines.
"I know it's a tough decision for you. I know it's going to cost money to do it," he said. "If you feel the majority of your community does not agree then please hold a plebiscite."
"Your citizens will bear the brunt of this fiasco for many years to come and you will have failed in your duty as an elected leader," he finished to applause.
Council also discussed another $100,000 per turbine surety for road damage, but Bluewater chief administrative officer Steve McAuley said any road damage, as well as the burying transmission lines, will be covered by a road user agreement currently being drafted by staff.
"Once council has reviewed the road user agreement we would have the ability to set that part of the security through the road user agreement," McAuley said of the $100,000 road use bond Gillespie suggested.
By way of comparison, South Huron recently passed a $15,000 flat rate building fee for wind turbines greater than one megawatt.
Hay West Coun. John Gillespie said South Huron's rate was a good starting point.
He noted Bayfield Coun. Geordie Palmer originally suggested between $9-10 per kilowatt.
NextEra Energy's Derek Dudek attended the meeting and told council the company doesn't agree with a fee per kilowatt rate. He noted most other municipalities base turbine building permit rates on construction cost.
He noted the fees originally proposed for Bluewater were in line with costs in other municipalities in Ontario.
The proposed fees from Bluewater’s chief building official Tim Masse were based on $5 per kilowatt on projects over 50 kilowatts. Under this metric, a permit for a 1.65 megawatt turbine would cost $8,250.
Mayor Bill Dowson, Deputy Mayor Paul Klopp and Hay East Coun. John Becker declared a pecuniary interest in the issue and Stanley West Coun. George Irvin was absent.
Council passed the motion unanimously. It now goes to staff before coming back to council as a bylaw.