Suncor Energy says it already has enough land leases signed to host a 75-megawatt wind energy centre in Brooke-Alvinston.
Suncor is the third company to come to the municipality looking for support for a project as they look for a lucrative government energy contract.
While it didn’t get into a lot of specifics Suncor officials say the project – based mostly in Warwick Township, would stretch down into Brooke-Alvinston as far as Petrolia Line. The project would likely have about 35 turbines.
And despite vigourous opposition from some landowners “we have enough landowners for a 75-megawatt project,” says Project Manager Marnie Dawson.
What Suncor officials did want to talk about was the Community Support Document – what the company is willing to offer the municipality because the turbines dot the landscape.
Dawson says the municipality would get $5,000 per turbine in Brooke-Alvinston’s boundaries, $5,000 per year for any substations, a $10,000 per acre used payment for transmission lines on the road allowance, $200 per year for each pole on the road’s right of way and as well as payments for underground collector cables.
“We realize that by us being here there is an effect on the community,” says Dawson. “We want to be in the community we want to help the community…this is our way of support the community.”
And while the company says it is in the early stage of discussions of the agreement and says they want to take a collaborative approach, when asked by Councillor Ken Alderman if there was room to negotiate, Dawson said that was the numbers Suncor “is kind of set on.”
Under the Community Support Plan, people who lived near wind turbines but who didn’t have a lease agreement would also get some cash from Suncor as well.
And Suncor told councillors – that while the council had the final say – it wanted to be able to have a say on where that money is being spent.
“You are offering us $5,000 per turbine and you’re going to tell us how to spend it?” asked Councillor Frank Nemcek. “You’re going to tell us how to spend the money you’re bribing us with?”
Suncor spokesperson Jocelyn Kelln says the money is not a bribe but a recognition of the impact the projects have on a community. “It directly addresses the physical impact to the community,” says Kelln. “We’re not paying to get your permission – that is not the intent; that is not the idea. We do recognize we have an impact, the precedent is there. The government has asked for an agreement and some people are not happy with the idea of a project; this is to offset that.”
Kelln and Dawson also asked Brooke-Alvinston councillors to consider signing some agreements the company needs to advance the project; a letter saying Suncor had met with them – which does not improve the company’s chances of getting project and two others which could.
“Ideally, we’d like those signed by July,” says Dawson, adding Suncor has to submit its project plan to the Independent Electricity System Operator by September.
If municipalities sign letters of support for the project and begin Community Support negotiations the company has a better chance of landing an energy contract.
And for that reason, community activist Steve and Karen Sanders – who have been working to keep farmers from signing wind leases – urged the municipality to step back. “Do not sign anything,” says Steve Sanders “not even that you had this meeting.”