By Paul Forsyth Port Colbourne Leader Dec. 13 2013
NIAGARA – After years of work, the Region and Rankin Construction are poised to dissolve their partnership, set up with the goal of building giant wind turbines in Wainfleet to generate electricity.
Way back in late 2006, the Region approved the partnership to build five wind turbine towers soaring more than 30 storeys high, at a cost of $23 million.
Just a month before ago, Rankin chief executive officer Tom Rankin — a steadfast believer in the promise of wind power as a renewable energy — expressed his frustration over the years of studies, debate and changes at the Region he’d had to endure since he started pushing the idea about 12 years ago.
“I shouldn’t be here trying to convince you to go in a project you’re going to make money on,” he said a regional committee. “You haven’t been a good partner.”
Thursday night, regional council approved the extension of the Wind Energy Niagara shareholder between the Region and Rankin Construction until next June 30, to allow time for steps to be towards dissolving Wind Energy Niagara as a corporation.
Regional chief administrative officer Harry Schlange said in a news release that the wind turbine partnership made sense when it was approved because it was a good fit with the Region’s push for environmentally friendly technologies. But he said the landscape for investing in green energy has changed since 2006.
He noted Wind Energy Niagara has been unable to obtain an energy supply contract under the current Feed in Tariff (FIT) program with the Ontario Power Authority. In addition, changes to the FIT competitive process are in the pipeline, but how that will work for large FIT project has yet to be determined, Schlange said.
That, plus Wind Energy Niagara’s dated leases, wind data and environmental studies have greatly hurt the partnership’s chances of landing an electricity supply contract, he said.
The partners have not invested any money into the project since 2011. Rankin joined another, private sector venture — Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc., launched by the Loeffen family in 2009 to build large wind turbines in Wainfleet, in 2012.
That partnership got provincial approval to erect five wind turbines, but a neighbouring business appealed that, and two of the towers are on hold until a tribunal makes a ruling.
Rankin said in the news release that he is still a firm believer in the benefits of wind energy despite the looming dissolving of the partnership with the Region.
“It’s the right decision and the right time to dissolve this partnership with the Region,” said Rankin. “The current business model has made it difficult to move forward with (Wind Energy Niagara).”
The Region said it will be returned its original investment of $577,000, less minor administrative and legal expenses. But the Region’s share of project development costs, applications, environmental assessments, wind resource studies and other expenses was about $420,000. Story here.