Wind debate won’t blow away: Opposition over alternative projects is growing across the country
By Randy Richmond The London Free Press
As the province begins to fine-tune its new Green Energy Act, the controversy over wind power is blowing up in Southwestern Ontario again.
In Middlesex County, worried residents have asked the Environment Ministry for a full environmental assessment of a 40-turbine project north west of Strathroy.
In Huron County, the local federation of agriculture is calling for a moratorium on projects pending results of an epidemiological study on wind power’s health effects.
Alternative energy companies, such as the one proposing the Middlesex project, are paying close attention to the rising opposition.
“It has kind of taken off across the country. As an industry we are concerned about any concerns or queries people have,” said Mark Gallagher, development manager for TCI Renewables.
TCI’s’s Adelaide Wind Farm would put 40 turbines, which would generate 72 MW, on about 3,240 hectares of land north and south of Hwy. 402 just west of Strathroy.
Opponents say they have had little chance to express their concerns, which centre on the health effects of the turbines.
“For me, the biggest concern is that there are not enough health studies done,” said Esther Wrightman, a Kerwood resident and a founder of the Middlesex Wind Action Group.
Early studies have shown people living near the turbines suffer a range of health problems, Wrigthman said, citing several U.S. and Canadian studies. According to those studies, the turbines can cause sleep disturbances, headaches, rapid heart beat, panic episodes, vertigo and nausea.
She filed a formal request yesterday to the province to have the project bumped up to a full environmental assessment, saying the initial environmental screening done for the project doesn’t address key health issues, including the proximity of turbines to an elementary school.
Wrightman also claimed TCI tried to sneak its proposal into the area with so-called public meetings made up mainly of farmers who stand to make money off the leases.
“The rest of us didn’t know.”
TCI’s Gallagher disputes claims the company tried to hide its plans, saying all township residents were invited to two public meetings through newspaper advertisements.
The township also provided TCI with a list of people who should get mailed invitations, Gallagher said.
He also cited medical reports, these ones concluding there were no ill effects from wind turbines.
Complicating matters is the province’s new Green Energy Act, passed in May.
Ontario residents have until July 24 to comment on proposed regulations in the act, such as a minimum setback for wind turbines of 550 metres from the nearest dwelling.
“There is no study to back that number up,” Wrightman said. “It is just a number out of a hat.”
Also proposed are requirements for ongoing monitoring to address low frequency noise and vibration.
Any project with 24 or more turbines would require a noise study before getting approval.
The Huron Federation of Agriculture has taken a cautious approach to the issue, said president Wayne Black. The federation represents about 2,000 farmers.
“Some of them have the wind turbines and others want them, and others really don’t care to ever see them again.”
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture passed a resolution at its June board meeting urging local federations to seek a moratorium, Black said.