Jul 25 2015

Wolfe Island Wind Farm: Not in my Backyard now…

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On the Eastern Banks of Lake Ontario, Wolfe Island Wind Farm is a 197.2 mWh renewable energy facility in Southern Canada. Made up of 86 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 2.3 kWh, it is the second largest wind farm in Canada (Canadian Copper, 2008). Located in the Frontenac Township on Wolfe Island, it spans across 6,209 acres. The turbines installed on Wolf Island are Siemens model SWT-2.3-101 featuring rotating prop with a diameter of 101m (CREC, 2010). Each turbine rises nearly 80m off the ground and generates 2.3kWh. A series of roads connects each of the turbines on the eastern half of Wolfe Island. The wind farm can sufficiently power approximately sixty percent of metropolitan Kingston, ON located across the St. Lawrence River from Wolfe Island (Laing, 2013).

Location of Wolfe Island, Google Maps

Location of Wolfe Island, Google Maps

A unique feature of the Wolfe Island Wind Farm is its use of the world’s first three core XLPE submarine cable. The cable is able to transmit a voltage of 245kV to a power station across the St. Lawrence River and provide power to the residential power grid in mainland Ontario (Canadian Copper, 2008). The utilization of this three core cable allows a greater flux of energy to be transmitted to a holding station on the mainland, Canada. At 7.8km long the cable was the first of its kind and at the start of production set a world record for voltage transmitted via single wire (Canadian Copper, 2008). The weight of the cable keeps it firmly in place thus avoiding becoming a hazard to navigation

Due to its geographic location on Wolfe Island, the facility is scattered across both public and private lands. Participating land owners receive supplementary income for having a wind turbine installed on their land plus assistance in maintaining the surrounding land for agricultural production. The community as well benefits from having the wind farm. Compensation of $645,000 annually through an amenities agreement are in place to support town projects and spur economic development in the region (Hunt, 2010).  This compensation is also for the town offering planning assistance and county services to the wind farm.

Image provided by Transalta

Image provided by Transalta

The project was funded by efforsts from three companies: Canadian Renewable Energy Corporation (CREC), Gaia Power Inc. an energy development firm out of nearby Kington, ON, and Hearthmakers Energy. All business were Canadian based and operated by native Canadians (Sangster, 2006). Ian Baines, owner and chief executive officer of CREC, was quick to point out that early market reception in part with strong political will also made the project possible. His vision for wind energy to be installed off the coasts of Kingston, ON came to him at a European trade show for clean energy in 1993 and was passion he continued to push for until the mid-2000s.

Wolfe Island Wind Farm began its early planning stages during the mid-1990s; long before the Canadian government was interested in wind energy (Sangster, 2006). At the time the Ontario government was focused on nuclear energy and burning traditional fossil fuels, mainly coal. Lobbyist, along with owners from clean, renewable energy ventures, pushed for the government to monopolize power in the form of hydroelectric and renewable energy. The government initially resisted this change in energy generation but recognized a need for alternative power sources once resident in southern Ontario were forced to purchase electricity from energy companies in the United States.

Toronto Star - Wolfe Island Wind Farm behind Frontenac Township

Toronto Star – Wolfe Island Wind Farm behind Frontenac Township

With a change in political office, finally arose the chance for Wolfe Island Wind Farm to come to fruition.  In 2004, the liberal government that seized majority control passed Bill 100, which committed the government to buying a proportion of all power provided by clean energy ventures. In 2004 this amount was 300mW but quickly rose to became 1000 mW by 2015 (Sangster, 2006). With the government’s agreement to buy up to 200 mW annually from each clean energy operations for the first twenty years, GAIA energy and CREC were quick to get their bid to the government and become one of the first wind farms in Canada. This promise by the government also gave energy providers some stability because rates they received from the government were fixed and not subjected to fluctuate with market prices.

As Baines pushed forward with his vision, he held bi-annual meetings on Wolfe Island and the Frontenac Township to hear public comments and gauge support for the project. His initial notes were that public support was strong and that the residents of the island were receptive to the wind farm being built. The initial Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) showed minimal effects from the wind farm being built in its current location including limited effects on the islands agricultural industry (CREC, 2010). The most significant concern noted in the EIA was the wind farm’s location in critical bird migratory corridors and the possibility for increased deaths of birds and bats.

Dead White Tailed Eagle - Ontario Wind Resistance

Dead White Tailed Eagle – Ontario Wind Resistance

Since its construction, Wolfe Island Wind Far has come under scrutiny for a variety of reasons. Due to its location in area important for avian migration, increased bird and bat strikes have been observed around the wind farm. Residents are calling for the spinning of the turbines to be more strictly regulated and disallowed during times sensitive to avian migrations through the region (Blackwell, 2012). Transalta Energy argues that bird deaths due to turbine strike is less detrimental to the area avian population than deaths that occur do to automobile and building strikes.


Decline in real estate property has been another reason of contention amongst of locals towards the wind farm. Average prices of homes across Wolfe Island have decreased since the installation of the wind farm creating a NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) sentiment amongst residents further driving the negativity against the wind farm (Smith, 2009). Many of the residents claim they weren’t informed of the wind farm during the planning process and didn’t become aware until the wind farm was already being built (Hunt, 2010). This sentiment tends to be a reoccurring theme amongst residents in Ontario after the governments push for wind energy over the past ten years.

Works Cited

Blackwell, Richard. September, 2012. TransAlta urged to Shut Down Farm during Migration Season. The Globe and Mail, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/transalta-urged-to-shut-down-wind-farm-during-migration-season/article556613/ (July 23, 2015).

Canadian Renewable Energy Corporation. February, 2010. Post Construction Follow-Up Plain for Bird and Bat Resources for the Wolfe Island EcoPower Centre. Candian Wildlife Services, http://www.transalta.com/sites/default/files/Wolfe-Island-Post-Construction-Follow-up-Plan-FINAL-Updated-2010-02.pdf (July 21, 2015).

Cheskey, Ted. February, 2011. Wolfe Island Wind Plant Still Harming Birds in an Important Area. Ontario Wind Resistance, http://ontario-wind-resistance.org/2011/02/26/wolfe-island-wind-plant-still-harming-birds-in-important-bird-area/ (July 23, 2015).

Hunt, Tyler. 2010. Residents Opinions and Perceptions of the Wolfe Island wind Farm, Frontenac County: Masters Thesis. Universty of Toronto: Department of Geography, https://thereevesreport.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/tyler-hunt-community-opinion-of-the-wolfe-island-wind-farm.pdf (July 22, 2015).

Laing, David. Energy from the Wind: The Example of the Wolfe Island Wind Farm, Ontario. March, 2013. David Suzuki Foundation, http://www.suzukielders.org/energy-from-the-wind-the-example-of-wolfe-island-wind-farm-ontario/ (July 23, 2015).

Sangster, Emily. January, 2006. Winds of Change Blowing at Wolfe Island. Queens University Journal, http://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2006-01-24/features/winds-change-blowing-wolfe-island/ (July 21, 2015).

Wolfe Island Wind Project. 2008. The Canadian Copper and Brass Development Association, Issue 156, http://en.coppercanada.ca/pdfs/CCMagazinePDFs/E156a.pdf (July 23, 2015)

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