Ontario’s first wind community powers almost 7,000 homes
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Miranda Fuller looks over the 10 turbines on Gunn’s Hill Wind Farm in southwestern Ontario’s Oxford County, a lush region of farmland and small cities between London and Kitchener. “They’re magical!” she says.
The project, which started running in late 2016 and now produces enough electricity to power some 6,700 local homes, is Ontario’s first community-sponsored wind farm. If the word “magical” is not wholly accurate — the turbines are no illusion, after all — it does capture some of Gunn’s Hill’s uniqueness. From many points of view, it’s an extraordinary undertaking.
Fuller, 25, grew up in the town of Ingersoll in Oxford County and, after studying environmental ethics at nearby Wilfrid Laurier University, became communications director at the Oxford Community Energy Co-operative, one of the organizations that gave Gunn’s Hill life. Other key partners were the Six Nations of the Grand River and project developer Prowind Canada Inc.
“Too often, people are cut off from their power supply,” Fuller says. “It’s important to see your energy source. Seeing the turbines helps you connect with the energy you’re using.” Living close to the windmills — and in some cases gaining employment from them — gives locals a stake in the system and makes them more likely to support pro-renewable public policy.
Fuller, now executive director at the co-op, doesn’t hesitate to offer advice to other municipalities contemplating local power projects: “Be prepared to be surprised by the community’s passion for renewables. Keep moving forward — the end is worth it. They’re magical, the wind turbines. They bring a lot of hope.”