If you have been at Kingston’s waterfront lately, you’ve seen an 86-turbine wind farm on nearby on Wolfe Island. According to TransAlta, the operator, it’s the second largest wind farm in Canada. The non-profit Hearthmakers Energy Co-operative is proud of the spinning blades and their promise of a greener electricity future. It was key in getting the project off the ground as a community based project, but claims it was illegally shut-out of the successful result.
Hearthmakers commissioned Gaia Power Inc. to do a feasibility study for wind power on Wolfe Island. Hearthmakers alleges that Gaia signed up wind energy land options in Hearthmakers’ name, then sold the options (without Hearthmakers’ knowledge) to Canadian Hydro Developers Inc.. Canadian Hydro used the options to build its wind farm. Hearthmakers has sued Gaia: Statement of Claim. But litigation is hard for a community cooperative, which is usually thinly funded, and must typically partner with private sector companies like Gaia. Now Hearthmakers is facing a motion demanding security for Gaia’s legal costs.
Community power development has been a hard slog so far for co-operatives, although recent amendments to various Acts by the Green Energy and Economy Act may help. Other cooperatives across the country will therefore be closely watching the Hearthmakers case. If even successful projects beggar community cooperatives, why bother?