|Wind farms. (QMI files)
LONDON, Ont. — The companies behind the development of a massive and controversial wind farm near Goderich, Ont., are offering cash to their potential neighbours.
While other wind farms in Ontario pay thousands a year to landowners who actually have a turbine located on their property, developers of the K2 Wind Project have offered to pay everybody else with a home within one kilometre of a turbine, the substation or the transformer station.
The annual payment offered to homeowners is $1,500 a year for the 20-year life of the project — a total of $30,000.
K2 Wind, a joint venture of Capital Power, Pattern Renewable Holdings and Samsung Renewable Energy, estimates more than 230 landowners will be eligible for the annual cheque.
Dwarfing other wind farms already developed in Ontario, the plan for the K2 Wind Farm is to build 138 wind turbines in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Township, located about 230 km west of Toronto.
Construction costs are estimated at more than $900 million.
If the project wins final regulatory approval, construction is expected to start in 2013 and commercial operation in 2014.
K2 said that accepting the money will in no way limit an individual's ability to comment or express opinions on the project.
"We believe the community should receive direct and tangible benefits for the unique role that ACW will play in helping to meet Ontario's targets for renewable energy," project leader Paul Wendelgass said in a statement.
Local opponents of the wind farm didn't welcome the offer.
"Personally I think it is a promise of beads and knives," said Anita Frayne, who farms in the area of the proposed wind farm with her husband Paul.
"Paul and I will not be taking the money," she said.
Other people in the community Frayne has spoken with said the offer is adding insult to injury. One individual said he will take the money and then flip it to the group opposing the project, Frayne said.
Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, said the $1,500 a year payment doesn't cover people for loss of property values and health problems.
"It is not based on reality...It is just a buy-off," Wilson said.
K2 spokeswoman Lori Wilson said the idea for the energy benefit came from residents.
"People were asking us to share additional benefits of the project with the community," Wilson said.
Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley declined to comment on the proposed payments, but said the government is encouraging wind farm developers to work with local municipalities and community members.
After reviewing its renewable energy program earlier this year, the government adopted a point system for approving projects that awards more points if there is community involvement and backing.
"It will mean that by and large renewable energy projects that have local support will be much more likely to get contracts than those that don't," Bentley said.