Aug. 8, 2005. 01:00 AM
Canada's military turning on to wind powerLaunch project at Meaford would supply training facilityDefence department to seek comment at public meeting today
ROBERTA AVERYSPECIAL TO THE STARMEAFORD—In a pilot project that National Defence officials say may be a model for their other facilities across the country, Canada's military will today seek public comment on a proposal to build its first large wind turbine, at the Land Force Central Area Training Centre here.
"The Department of National Defence is committed to the Kyoto Accord and a wind turbine creating `green' electricity is a step in that direction,'' said Capt. David Platt, who is heading up the turbine project at the training centre about 45 kilometres west of Collingwood.
DND staff and representatives of the federal Department of Public Works will hold a public meeting today at the centre, in which an environmental assessment of the project will be reviewed. Comments from the public will also be received for the next 30 days, as required by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
Wind generators are widely seen as a promising form of clean energy for the future. But concerns about aesthetics, noise, and impact on wildlife have accompanied the development of so-called wind farms.
The generating capacity of the military's proposed turbine at Meaford has not been finalized, but available data suggest it will be between 660 and 1,800 kilowatts, which is about the amount of electricity needed for between 700 and 1,900 homes.
Each summer up to 1,000 reserve soldiers train at the 7,650-hectare training centre, which underwent a $100 million upgrade in the early 1990s, adding large barrack buildings and support facilities.
Platt, who was reluctant to discuss further details of the project ahead of today's open house, would not say how much of the training centre's energy needs could be supplied by wind power, or elaborate on how and when the military might expand the program to other facilities.
Today the public will have an opportunity to review the results of the environmental assessment report and then will have 30 days to comment.
The report, released July 23, indicates that the site of the turbines is an open field about two kilometres from Georgian Bay, on the training centre grounds. The tower would rise 82 metres, with the maximum height 121 metres with the blades at their highest sweep.
According to the report, the wind turbine would be visible to boaters on the bay when they pass to the east of the training centre and would be seen from land, but only from a distance of several kilometres. It would be less visible to properties on the shore immediately to the east and to the south because of a slope of the land and the large number of trees in that vicinity. To the north and west is training centre property.
Although much of training centre property is on the Niagara Escarpment, it is not within the Niagara Escarpment Plan, but Lynne Richardson, a planner with the Niagara Escarpment Commission, raised concerns about the visual impact of the "physical presence of structures'' on adjacent land.
In a letter sent to the military as part of the environmental assessment process, Richardson points out the commission's concerns about the preservation of "the natural and scenic resource extends to escarpment lands outside the Niagara Escarpment Plan."
Last year the commission released a policy paper that pans the idea of commercial wind farms on, or near, the escarpment, but Richardson said proposals for single turbines will be evaluated on an individual basis.
Wind speed and direction studies conducted in 2003, 2004 and 2005 have determined that the open field behind one of the site's maintenance complexes is a favourable site. A bird impact study found 161 bird species, including bald eagles and short-eared owls, call the training centre home, but the only birds seen in the field during last winter were crows and they flew well below the path of the blades.
Some European countries and communities in California have banned wind farms within a 3.5-kilometre radius of any residential property because of noise issues. The assessment, noting that the nearest residential property is one kilometre from the proposed site, found noise from similar turbines at 300 metres comparable to wind rustling through leaves on a tree, and concluded noise is not an issue.
Following the 30-day period, concerns expressed about the turbine will be considered as part of the Environmental Assessment process, said Platt.
Although the cost of the turbine probably won't be established until the design is finalized. One DND estimate has the payback taking five to six years.
If all the approvals now being sought are granted, DND expects that there will be a call for tenders to build the turbine next spring, with fall 2006 the tentative completion date.