Gilead / Ostrander Point

Updated June 25, 2012.  This page is an up-to-date and comprehensive status report on Gilead Power Corporation and its Ostrander Point Wind Park project.  You can read the Executive Summary only or continue on for more detail.  For news items, click on “Gilead / Ostrander Point news” under Categories.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The projects.  Gilead Power Corporation proposes to construct nine 135-metre high industrial wind turbines with a maximum power capacity of 22.5 MW,  plus a 5.4 km heavy-load access road, on Crown Land in the middle of Prince Edward County’s South Shore Important Bird Area (IBA).  Gilead is  in the later stages of the province’s Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process, but has not yet received any final approvals for the project.

The issues. The primary issue is environmental: the project will do serious harm to resident wildlife and to migratory birds and bats, as evidenced by Wolfe Island kill statistics. In order to facilitate construction and operations, Gilead has applied for a permit to “kill, harm and harass” endangered species. The other issue relates to nearby property owners, who are at risk with respect to the health of family members and their property values.

The economics: Gilead 99%, County 1%.  Gilead will generate $8 million of annual revenues from the province’s Feed-In Tariff program in each of the next 20 years.  However, the benefits to the County will be trivial, with Gilead spending only 1% of its annual revenues in the County.  This would include about $16,000 of annual municipal taxes (thereby reducing taxes by $2.00 per household) and maybe one maintenance job for a County resident.

The timeline and current status.  After receiving a 20-year supply contract offer from the Ontario Power Authority, Gilead submitted its REA application on May 16, 2011.  The Department of National Defence (DND) commenced assessment of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in late August, resulting in major disturbances at the site.  MOE listed the project on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry on November 30, 2011, with comments from the public being accepted up to Feb 29, 2012..   Gilead indicates that construction will start in October 2012, with commercial opertion to begin in April, 2013.

Gilead’s communications.   Gilead has been less than praiseworthy in its communications: it advertises its municipal tax contribution over the lifetime of its power purchase contract  to be $1 million, 3 times what the County expects; it is using advertising that is warm and fuzzy rather than informative; and it has set up an email campaign directed at the local MPP that allows each individual to send multiple fake emails expressing support.

The opposition.  There is major opposition to this project from naturalist groups — national and provincial as well as local — and from many individual citizens.  In a recent online poll, 94% of respondents favoured no turbines at Ostrander Point.  In the 2011 provincial election, MPP Leona Dombrowsky (Liberal), who had provided very little assistance to people concerned about wind projects in the County, was replaced by Todd Smth (PC), who is actively opposing these projects.  If the Gilead project is approved, there will an appeal to an Environmental Review Tribunal, and there are rumours of direct action / civil disobedience if and when the trucks start to roll.

Alternatives.  As an alternative to this and other turbine projects proposed for the South Shore, some of the naturalist groups are proposing that the federal government protect the whole South Shore IBA, to include prohibition of wind turbines in that area.  One very interesting proposal calls for the expansion of St. Lawrence Islands National park to include a major part of the County’s South Shore plus a marine conservation area in the adjacent waters.

GILEAD AND ITS PROJECTS

Wind energy developer.  Gilead Power Corporation is a small, privately-held Canadian company founded in 2004, with seven employees, a seven-person Board of Directors, financing by private investors, and no completed wind energy projects.  Gilead outsources virtually all of its technical work to engineering and environmental consulting firms, principally Stantec Consulting.

Gilead’s projects.  In addition to Ostrander Point, Gilead lists four other projects including a new 40- to 80-MW project named Dorland on the north shore of Aldolphus Reach across from North Marysburgh, and three others in northwestern Ontario.   The only project for which significant progress is indicated is Ostrander Point.

Original plans for the area.  Gilead’s original plans for the area included a large number of wind turbines in Lake Ontario, but these plans were disrupted when the McGuinty government announced a 5-km setback from shore and then imposed a moratorium on all offshore wind projects.

OSTRANDER POINT WIND ENERGY PARK

Turbine project.  Gilead proposes to construct nine 2.5 MW industrial wind turbines, for a total of 22.5 MW nameplate capacity, on 324 hectares of Crown Land at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County. Each turbine will be 135 metres tall (440 feet = 44 stories) and will have a concrete base of 18 m in diameter, 3 m deep.  Gilead also proposes to build a transformer station on the site.  This project requires a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) from the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) under the Green Energy Act (GEA), which approval has not yet been granted.

Access road project. Gilead proposes to build a heavy-load access road within the site, 5.4 km long, 6 m wide, 1 m deep.  This project, not governed by the GEA, was approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR); however, many citizens have appealed this decision, requesting that a more comprehensive environmental assessment be done.  There has been no decision announced on the appeals.

Project documents.  Here is a link to Gilead’s documents regarding Ostrander Point: http://www.gileadpower.com/ostrander_documents.htm.

OPA contract.  Gilead has been awarded a contract by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) to supply up to 24 MW of power for 20 years, but also needs approval of its REA application.

Land lease.  Although the OPA contract is for 20 years, Gilead has requested a land lease period of 25 years from MNR, with an option to extend to 40 years.  The longer period makes sense only if Gilead is able to renew its contract with OPA in 20 years, but there is no basis for assuming that such will be granted.

UXO project.  DND is responsible for ensuring safety during construction regarding any unexploded ordnance (UXO) remaining from earlier Canadian Forces use of the site for bombing, grenade and strafing practice.  DND began site assessment work on Aug 29, 2011, resulting in major disturbances of habitat on the site.  A legal opinion obtained by the South Shore Conservancy indicates that MNR violated the Endangered Species Act by allowing DND to do this work in advance of any final approvals of the wind turbine project.

County roads project.  Turbine components, which will be brought in by truck, are heavy and long.  Concrete and gravel will be delivered by truck to the site.  Curves on roads may need to be straightened; some roads may need to be reinforced; other roads may be damaged and need repair later on.  It is expected that this work will be done by the County, to be reimbursed by Gilead.  To date, Gilead has not announced the route.

Transmission line project.  Hydro One is responsible for construction of transmission lines from Ostrander Point to a substation near Milford.  To date, it has provided no information about the route that will be followed, or the timeline for construction.

Ancillary requirements.  Gilead also needs various enabling instruments relating to the land lease for turbine locations, easement for underground power lines, land purchase for the substation and construction of the turbines.  There has been no announcement to date regarding these items.

Next owners.  Gilead will have an unrestricted right to sell this project to any other corporation, domestic or foreign, at any point in the future.

Decommissioning plan.  While there is a required decommissioning plan (removal of turbines and partial restoration of the site), it may be unenforceable if the then current owner of the project decides that it is financially advantageous to walk away from the project near end of life of the turbines.

THE ISSUES

Environmental issues.  The property is in the middle of an internationally-designated Important Bird Area (IBA) and is home to species protected under the province’s Endangered Species Act (ESA), including Blanding’s turtle and whip-poor-will.  In order to facilitate construction and operations, Gilead has applied for a permit under the ESA “to kill, harm and harass” endangered species and “to damage and destroy” habitat.  There has been no decision announced on the permit application.  Once in operation, the turbines are expected to kill birds and bats at rates in excess of those on Wolfe Island, which has one of the highest kill rates in North America.

Property owner issues.  Property owners who live nearby will be exposed to adverse effects. There is particular concern about harm to human health due to audible noise and infrasound, and reductions in property values.

ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS

Revenues to Gilead.  It is estimated that Gilead will generate about $8 million annually from the Feed-In Tariff rate of 13.5 cents per KWH, which is four times the current market rate otherwise being paid by the province.

Temporary benefits to the County.  Gilead estimates that $2.3 million will be spent in the Quinte area during the 5-month construction period, mostly for rental of equipment (e.g. cranes), purchase of materials (e.g. concrete) and payment of wages to unskilled labour.  It’s not clear what percentage of this amount will be spent in the County.

Trivial ongoing benefits to the County.  Ongoing benefits to the community will be trivial, with Gilead spending only 1% of its annual revenues in the County.  Municipal taxes to be paid by Gilead to the County have been estimated by the County Treasurer to be $16,387 per year, less than one-tenth of 1% of the County’s total tax levy and equivalent to a tax reduction of only $2.00 per household.  Gilead will outsource its local operations / maintenance people, with maybe one being a County resident.  As the project is on Crown Land, there will be no lease payments to local landowners.

Impact on tourism.  While it has been suggested that some people may visit the County to see turbines, most think that this is either unlikely or very short-term.  Rather, it is probable that the County will lose a significant number of birder tourists, as suggested by a  Nature Canada survey where 37% of birders said that they would not visit an area where turbines are located.

Losses to the local economy.  By itself, the Gilead project will not do major damage to the local economy.  But it will contribute to the total number of turbines and, as that number climbs, the County will gradually lose its “quality of place” image, to be replaced by an “industrial wind factory” image, similar to that of Wolfe Island.

THE PROJECT TIMELINE AND CURRENT STATUS

May 16, 2011 — REA application submitted.  Gilead submitted its REA application on May 16, 2011.  On November 30, 2011 the application was deemed complete and was posted for public comment on Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) Registry for a period that was extended to February 19, 2012 at the request of local MPP Todd Smith (PC).  During the comment period and continuing beyond, MOE will conduct a technical review of the application.  A decision on approval of the application is expected to be announced by the Director, Approvals Branch, MOE by the end of May, 2012.

Oct 6, 2011 — Liberals lose majority.  It is expected that the opposition parties will force the new minority Liberal government to change some of its policies and practices regarding wind energy development, but to date, only the PC Party has indicated an interest in doing so.

Oct 10, 2011 – Gilead announces delay.  Not yet having received confirmation that its REA application was complete, Gilead announced new dates for the project: commencement of construction in October, 2012 and start of commercial operation in April, 2013.

Nov 30, 2011 — EBR posting for public comment.  MOE has listed the project on Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights registry for public comment during an extended period ending on February 19, 2012.

May 31, 2011 — No decision yet.  MOE has failed to meet its six-month service standard for announcing a decision on Gilead’s REA application.  MPP Todd Smith has been told that a recommendation is being made to the Minister, with the decision to be announced shortly.

Appeal of approval.  If the REA application is approved, citizens will have a period of 15 days to appeal to an Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), which would have to render a decision within six months.   It is certain that some citizens will appeal.  However, the grounds for an appeal are limited and the bar has been set very high: the appellant(s) must prove either serious harm to human health or serious and irreversible harm to the natural environment.  During the appeal period, it will likwly be possible for the developer to proceed with construction of the access road and turbines.

Construction period.  Prior to transport of the turbine components, roads will be straightened and reinforced.  Following approval of the REA, construction of the site’s access road and turbines will be completed over an estimated five-month period.  During that time, there will be a steady stream of trucks transporting heavy and long components and heavy loads of concrete within the County to the site.  The routes to be travelled by these trucks have not yet been finalized.

GILEAD’S COMMUNICATIONS

Advertising campaign.  Gilead initiated an aggressive advertising campaign in July, 2011 to influence public opinion about its project.  Gilead has placed full-page colour ads in local papers, a continuing ad on CountyLife and Google ads on various websites.  Gilead’s first ad was one showing a single turbine surrounded by comforting words such as “hope”, “neighbours”, “protect”, etc.  The second ad shows two children holding hands and gazing at a turbine that appears to be only two metres high.  Neither includes text explaining the project; rather, it appears that the intent is to embed a warm and fuzzy image in the minds of viewers.  The Google ads are being continued.

Email campaign.  Gilead’s ads direct viewers to a web page where visitors are encouraged to send a supportive email to the local MPP.  The company has set up an email form to present one of several standard texts, with no opportunity for senders to comment in their own words.  Each visitor is allowed to send an unlimited number of emails, using fake names and email addresses, to give the impression of widespread support.

Website information.  On its web page labelled Benefits of Ostrander, Gilead states “The Municipality of Prince Edward County will directly benefit from taxes paid by Gilead of approximately $1,000,000 over the life of the power purchase agreement.”  The company’s claimed benefit to the County is three times the amount estimated by the County Treasurer  (Calculation: $16,387 in taxes to the municipality X 20 years = $328,000).

OPPOSITION TO THE PROJECT

Environmental / naturalist groups.  A number of organizations focused on the natural environment are opposed to this project and are actively lobbying the provincial government to disallow it: Nature Canada, Ontario Nature and three County groups: Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN), Point to Point PEC Foundation (PTPPEC) and the South Shore Conservancy (SSC).

Other County organizations.  In addition to CCSAGE, the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC), Concerned Citizens of Prince Edward County (CCPEC) and Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association also oppose this project.

Individual citizens.  Many individuals have expressed their opposition to the project.  In an online poll allowing only one vote per household, respondents strongly favoured no turbines at Ostrander Point (705 votes) vs turbines allowed (46 votes) — 94% opposed to wind turbines at this location.  Hundreds of people appealed to MNR to ask for an upgraded environmental assessment of the application to build the access road.  More than 1400 people complained to MOE about Gilead’s application for a “kill, harm and harass” permit.  Many people have objected to MNR’s failure to defer DND’s UXO work on the site.

Local MPP’s reponse.  Former MPP Leona Dombrowsky (Liberal) was approached by many people and groups looking for help and support in opposing the Gilead project, but did very little in response.  As a result, she was defeated by Todd Smith (PC), who is strongly opposed to the project.  He also sponsored a Private Members’ Bill in the Ontario Legislature to return control of wind turbines to municipalities, but it was defeated by a combination of Liberal and NDP votes.

Appeal of REA approval.  If the REA is approved, it is certain that there will be an appeal by local citizens to an Environmental Review Tribunal, asserting serious and irreversible harm to the natural environment.  Unforrtunately, such an appeal will cost the appellant(s) well over $100,000.

Direct action / civil disobedience.  If the REA is approved, and when the trucks start rolling, it is rumoured that some people — environmentalists, naturalists and nearby property owners —  will mobilize to protest and perhaps disrupt Gilead’s plans and progress, taking a more aggressive approach in order to get the attention of the provincial government.

ALTERNATIVES TO TURBINES

National protected area.  On a more positive note, environmental / naturalist organizations have proposed that the federal government create a protected area covering the entire South Shore Important Bird Area to improve protection of both resident and migratory birds and other wildlife, which protection would include a total prohibition on wind turbines within the area.

National park.  One interesting proposal would extend St. Lawrence Islands National Park to include a major part of the South share along with a marine conservation area encompassing the area of more than 200 shipwrecks offshore.  This would facilitate development of the South Shore and offshore waters as a major tourist destination and increase economic opportunities in the souther County area.

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