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City Councillors say no, no, no, but illustrations on City publications say yes, yes, yes

That’s a turbine, right? [Ottawa Climate Action newsletter]

December 9, 2021

After emails and telephone calls to their offices during the development of the new Official Plan this fall, which allowed wind turbines on prime agricultural land, Ottawa City Councillors claimed that the City has “no plans” for wind turbines.

Ward 21 Councillor Scott Moffatt, also the Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, wrote in his constituent column in the Manotick Messenger that:

“A big part of that [the city’s climate action plan] will be renewable energy One of our Modelling documents shows what that looks like and includes mention of 700 industrial wind turbines. This has led some to believe that the City is planning on developing that many wind turbines in rural Ottawa. That could not be farther from the truth.”

But then, there is this: an illustration from the City’s Climate Action newsletter, which clearly depicts a wind turbine.

And, the City’s Planning department has this illustration on slide 10 of a recent public presentation, designed to show its various functions. It includes wind turbines as an example of land use planning.

Mr. Moffatt also said that the City was not “finding locations where wind development could occur.”

An email from staff, however, says this:

“Staff are currently undertaking a preliminary assessment of renewable energy generation potential within the rural areas identified in the new Official Plan to better understand how the potential compares to the Energy Evolution model requirements.  This study is expected to be complete this summer …”

It is also worth noting that an illustration of the site plan for the Tewin development also features a depiction of wind turbines. (Apologies for the size of the image.)

The debut of Official Plan discussions shocked more than a few people back in July when Manager of Planning Policy Alain Miguelez revealed in an online public meeting that wind turbines were coming to Ottawa’s rural area—being “directed” there, he said. Because, he said, Ottawa was estimating an increase in population and as power demand rose, “that energy has to come from somewhere.” In other words, the rural communities.

In subsequent presentations staff tried to assure residents that they would “get it right” by developing protective zoning bylaws for wind turbines.

But councillors still say that’s not happening, and anyone who says it is, is fear mongering. The City did revise the renewable energy part of the Official Plan so that it now says “large-scale” wind turbines will not be permitted on “agricultural resource areas,” but that does not prevent applications for Official Plan amendments.

Councillors also say that while Ottawa is not actively planning wind turbines (in spite of Planning staff public comments and various illustrations that indicate the City is open to wind power), if proposals were to come along, Ottawa cannot say “No.” This is not correct, but more on that later.

Why the concern? Wind turbines are a highly invasive form of power generation, using a significant amount of land , creating noise pollution, and posing a serious risk to wildlife including birds and bats. Ottawa’s Energy Evolution plan does not include any mention of developing new nuclear, despite the fact that the federal government has spent millions on new nuclear, and Canada is a global leader in clean, reliable, emissions-free nuclear energy.

So, which is it, Ottawa?