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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Georgina Island Wind Farm

A 60-foot metal pole from Denmark will be driven over Lake Simcoe's ice road to Georgina Island in early spring.

The pole will rise on the island's northern tip, where instruments attached to the top will send wind-speed measurements to a three-foot-square box at its base.

This is the next step in the "Island Wind" project, which the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation hope will become a $16-million wind farm of four to seven turbines generating enough electricity for 3,300 homes.

The band's partnership with a local wind energy co-operative is the first of its kind in Canada.

Chief William McCue and his council believe it's a model for other aboriginal communities, Brent Kopperson, executive director of Newmarket's Windfall Ecology Centre told a York Region wind energy summit this week.

Changing provincial regulations could make turbines a common sight in the region, dotting farm fields as they do in some European countries and contributing to a rural revival, Mr. Kopperson and other wind devotees say.

Experts say the last decade greatly improved wind energy's competitive position with bigger, more reliable and more efficient turbines that cost less.

But Mr. Kopperson said whether wind projects fly in York will depend on power prices and the ease with which farmers or co-operatives such as his can connect to the grid and guarantee themselves a profit.

Instead of offering tax credits, the Ontario government should offer potential small producers fixed-price contracts or advanced renewable tariffs for their power, said author Paul Gipe, an expert on wind energy development from California.

A farmer with such a contract could pay off a one-megawatt turbine in 10 years and -- at 10 cents a kilowatt hour -- would be guaranteed $150,000 a year for the next 10, he said.

Another stumbling block in York is the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the proposed provincial Greenbelt legislation, which currently don't permit turbines.

The region last week asked the province to modify both plans, Tracey Forrest, York's energy program manager said.

Ontario is 20 years behind European countries in wind energy but it's not too late for a big leap forward, Mr. Gipe added.


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