June 1, 2009
Green energy development finds a home in Eastern Ontario
The wind turbines on Wolfe Island, just off the shores of Kingston, have slowly started to turn this month as Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. started testing the 86 structures to make sure they work.
Come June 30, they should all be spinning and generating enough electricity to power every home in Kingston. Once operational, the $475-million project will be the country’s second-largest wind farm.
But in eastern Ontario, the Wolfe Island wind farm is not the only green energy project.
Head west on the highway from Kingston to Prince Edward County, near Belleville, and that community will see 43 turbines running by next year, under a provincially-approved plan from developer Skypower Corp.
The small community of Amherst Island, just to Kingston’s west in Loyalist Township, is also considering a proposal to allow the construction of another wind farm.
Late last year, the Town of Greater Napanee gave approval to two solar power developments from Canadian Hydro that combined will take up almost 350 acres and produce 20-megawatts of electricity.
The town of Stone Mills, northwest of Kingston, will be home to a 300-acre solar farm known as “First Light,” that will power up to 2,000 homes.
The projects are not all big: A developer building a Shoppers Drug Mart in Kingston’s west-end recently flipped the switch on 60 solar panels that will generate 10 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power four homes.
Many of the province’s solar panels could soon be built in Kingston. Toronto-based Everbrite Solar announced in March that it plans to build a $500-million solar panel factory in Kingston that would create 1,200 jobs. The proposed plant would also include a research facility for experts from Queen’s University.
So far, all the green energy construction work hasn’t resulted in a significant change to the local industry, but local officials believe companies will soon see a new breed of worker proliferating within their ranks, ones that have newer skills and post-secondary degrees.
“It’s starting to. We’re on the cusp of that,” said Mark Emmons, president of the Kingston Construction Association. “It hasn’t changed yet, but it’s going to.”
“Times are moving quickly,” he said.
Emmons said the Kingston Construction Association has already started talking to high school students in the area about the need to go on to college or university if they want to be in the green-energy construction business.
St. Lawrence College in Kingston will have a wind turbine built on its property, a training tool the college will use as part of its green energy program. The college already has solar panels that generate electricity and that students work on as part of their studies to train them for renewable energy construction and design jobs.
Local firms, Emmons said, weren’t prepared at first for taking on renewable energy projects and had to retrain workers for the jobs. The retraining wasn’t too tough, Emmons said, because the work of building a wind turbine is not that much different than building an ICI (industrial, commercial or institutional) building.
However, with the experience gained from taking part in the construction of renewable energy projects in the region, Emmons said local firms aren’t likely to be caught off guard if more projects get the green light.
“We’re prepared for it,” he said.
Emmons said the range of eastern Ontario green energy projects will allow local companies to take their experience and work in other areas of the province.
“It will help a lot of our local firms that have had experience in these projects,” Emmons said.
The plethora of green energy projects has been helpful to the local construction industry during tough economic times, Emmons said, but right now the projects are “all a bonus.”
“If more come...it will be advantageous,” he said.
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