Sunday, October 15, 2017

A gathering in Prince Edward County

Today in Picton people will assemble at a rally against what has become a 9 turbine industrial wind development in a ecologically sensitive area near Lake Ontario. I won't be attending as it's a 3-4 hour drive away, but I will contribute by arguing the existence of the contract for the location, at this time, is indicative of negligence at Ontario electricity system operator (IESO).

Details at the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists Facebook page
This rally coincides with a legal action launched by the Association to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC). 
APPEC has commenced legal proceedings naming the Independent Electricity Operator (IESO) and WPD White Pines Wind Inc. (WPD) as respondents. APPEC alleges that the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) contract between the IESO and WPD should have been terminated as soon as it became evident that WPD would be unable or incapable of fulfilling the FIT contract terms. These FIT contract terms have been made publicly available and are well known.
In 2010, a FIT contract for 60MW wind energy project to be operational within three (3) years was offered by the Ontario Power Authority (now the IESO) to WPD. The contract allowed for termination if the project was not able to deliver at least 75% of the contracted power.  -APPEC (on Facebook)
The inability to deliver 75% of contracted capacity is but one of the reasons WPD cannot now fulfill their end of the feed-in tariff contract.

The IESO shows, in its 2017 2nd Quarter Active Generation Contract List, the "White Pines Wind Farm" has a "FIT 1" (feed-in tariff 1) contract from June 15, 2010 (although it was announced on April 8, 2010), with a "Milesone Commercial Operation Date" of January 6, 2015 - which passed 33 months ago. The standard FIT 1 contract for that time (version 1.3.0), found on the IESO site, includes in section 9.1 "Events of Default by the Supplier":
(j)The Commercial Operation Date has not occurred on or before the date which is 18 months after the Milestone Date for Commercial Operation, or otherwise as may be set out in Exhibit A.
Section 2.1 of the contract deals with the capacity:
(c)...the Supplier may, on a single occasion, elect to reduce the contract Capacity to a lower amount by giving notice to the OPA, provided that such lower amount is no less than 75% of the original Contract Capacity....
Note the OPA was since merged into the IESO.

The White Pines facility was planned as a 60 megawatt 27 turbine industrial wind turbine facility. The Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) reduced the project to 9 turbines.  This should be unsurprising as another ERT had quashed the neighbouring Ostrander Point project.

At the height of Ontario's FIT procurement orgy the eastern end of Lake Ontario was targetted as a wind ghetto despite its international reputation as an important bird ares (IBA). 
Nature Canada applauds APPEC, and the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists in particular, for leading the charge to protect the shores and offshore waters of the globally significant Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). The IBA is of great significance to many different groups of species including waterfowl offshore, migratory birds that use the entire south shore as stopover habitat and species at risk including Whippoorwill, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Golden Eagle.  -Nature Canada
The concern that killed Ostrander Point was not for birds, but turtles. I recently drove the stretch of highway 400/69 from around Port Severn to Sudbury, and was amazed how much very short fencing exists to keep amphibians off the highway.

The reason bird concerns don't kill wind turbines in Ontario's important bird areas is because of the province's very strict requirements to prove harm will occur from an energy project legislated as "green".

Concern from real environmental organizations about the impacts of industrial wind generators is not confined to the Canadian side of the lake. The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) wrote to New York's Public Service Commission regarding an industrial wind facility proposed on the American side of the lake, in August 2016:
Industry consultants frequently claim that large, commercial wind projects pose little threat to migratory birds as they fly far above the rotor swept areas of the turbines. However, recent radar studies conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario show this to be patently false. Horton et al (2016) and Rathbun et al. (2016) both found vast numbers of birds and bats moving along the shorelines and over the lakes, and furthermore, that they frequently flew within the rotor swept area of wind turbines, thus placing them at great risk of collision. Moreover, while the FWS currently recommends that no wind turbines be built within three miles of the Great Lakes shorelines, these recent radar studies suggest that setbacks should be extended to 5-10 miles (Miner 2016). Furthermore, these studies essentially invalidate the findings of paid consultants who typically base their conclusions on limited daytime visual observations, while the vast majority of songbird and bat migration occurs at night.
These new FWS studies confirm what ABC and others have been saying all along, that the Great Lakes are not a good place to be building large, commercial wind energy facilities from the perspective of wildlife conservation. Building in this area--one of the world’s greatest confluences of migratory birds and bats--could result in large numbers of migratory bird and bat deaths...   
Not that the IESO is supposed to consider the environmental impacts of the contracts they bestow, but it's a surprise they are disinterested in providing value to end consumers.

The 2010 White Pines contract offers $135/MWh. In March 2016 the IESO announced contracts averaging $86/MWh - contracts with less lucrative payments for curtailed generation that the FIT  program. Even if the IESO was driven to re-contract for an equal amount of supply, it would be almost impossible for them to do so in a manner that didn't provide better value to end consumers.

A question for the relatively new head of the IESO for his underlings: if you were bad at what you do how would the situation with the White Pines contract be different?

Despite the excellent arguments in favour of terminating the contract, I don't expect APPEC to be successful in Ontario's courts - and I suspect that's because the IESO isn't harming them, financially, very much at all. Financial harm is spread across all ratepayers - including many not yet ratepaying.

With the Wynne government's (un)Fair Hydro Plan an enormous stranded debt, from the FIT contracting, was tacitly recognized and foisted upon future ratepayers.

I doubt future ratepayers would have standing in an Ontario court either.

Best to gather, communicate, and pursue political action.


recommended reading at The (Wellington) Times:

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