National Post: Northern Ontario Residents Critical of Process

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Protestor at Enbridge Wind Facility, Kincardine

Drafty reception for wind farm development
Megan O’Toole, National Post  Published: September 03, 2009

A group of Manitoulin Island residents is taking on a Toronto-based energy company, accusing Northland Power Inc. of fast-tracking a wind farm project without proper consultation.

The dispute is the latest sign of a groundswell of unease over wind power projects in the province have been highly critical of the effects of such development on local communities.

Northland’s plan for a segment of northeastern Manitoulin is to build a 43-turbine wind station that would generate 77 megawatts of power, to be fed into the provincial power grid. The turbines would be clustered on the Honora and McLean’s Mountain regions, identified by the Ontario Power Authority as high potential areas for harnessing wind power. Al Ryan, who works at the local newspaper in Manitoulin and is one of the project’s most vocal opponents, says Northland has essentially “bulldozed” its plan over the community with little opportunity for a meaningful public response.

His group believes the company is rushing to avoid a set of guidelines limiting the scope of wind farm development, which the Ontario government plans to incorporate into its newly minted Green Energy Act — a claim Northland disputes.

But with many residents concerned about aesthetics, potential health impacts and property devaluations, Mr. Ryan said, the government should step in to slow the process down, allowing for further study.

“We’re very disturbed with the fact that they can just come into small communities and we can have so little input,” Mr. Ryan said. “It’s just about money, another big money project, when we should be thinking about what the realities of environmental change are.”

Kyla Jansen, who runs horse-riding tours in Honora, says she has suffered adverse effects from windmills in the past — including chest tightness and changes in heart rate. Local artist and handyman Michael Machum says his property adjacent to one of the turbine sites would become “worthless” once the facility is built because of the excessive noise.

Northland held a public meeting in late June to present its plans, leaving citizens a few weeks to formulate a response. The company’s project manager, Rick Martin, says the level of consultation has been sufficient, pointing out that most of the wind farm’s 6,000-acre footprint would be comprised of agricultural land, with few residences directly interspersed.

The negativity surrounding the project is linked to a campaign of misinformation, Mr. Martin said, including claims about health impacts that are not necessarily based in sound science.

Provided the $250-million project meets with government approval, work could begin as early as next year. Landowners who have signed on to the deal would collectively receive more than $7-million over the next two decades in exchange for allowing turbines on their properties, the company said.

In the meantime, the provincial Environment Ministry is continuing to tweak a set of regulations needed to fully implement the Green Energy Act, which was passed in May. Among those regulations are clauses limiting the scope of wind farm projects, including a proposed 550-metre setback zone stipulating the distance turbines must be constructed from anything deemed a “sensitive receptor” — such as a residence, church or school. The sound threshold at that distance would be 40 decibels.

Northland is already in compliance with that regulation, Mr. Martin said.

Some projects may be exempt from the Act’s provisions, depending on how far along they are, a spokeswoman with the Environment Ministry said, but she did not believe Northland fell into that category.

motoole@nationalpost.com

2 thoughts on “National Post: Northern Ontario Residents Critical of Process

  1. How exciting! I’m the Quote Of The Day! I would like to point out that I am not a reporter, I work for the Manitoulin Expositor newspaper as Production Manager, and deal mostly with ad design.

    The photo posted with this story is not Manitoulin, I don’t know who those protesters are or where the event took place. Ironically, the photo that accompanied the story in the National Post is most likely not Manitoulin either, but rather a stock photo of a rural setting.

    When I was interviewed by the Post I encouraged the reporter to contact a number of different communities facing the same dilemma as we are on Manitoulin, in the hopes that she might bring attention to a growing body of Ontario residents opposing the forced and largely ungoverned implementation of wind turbine power stations. Unfortunately, it remained a local story, and a rather benign one at that.

    If the National media was to investigate and report on all these small local groups opposing the wind companies, our politicians might realize that a larger body of voters are rather displeased with them, and more are created each time a project is proposed.

  2. Al: You are on the right track. I question why many anti-wind articles have statements that attempt to justify industrial wind. This article is no exception. Stating that property owners will get 7 million dollars over the next 20 years appears to be a great deal. Where is that money coming from? The company is not giving away money. If the company follows through with promises of riches, someone else is paying for it and that someone will be the taxpayers. It will also mean less money available for other services needed in Ontario. Industrial wind provides no amount of useable electricity to justify the money nor the costs to the environment, risk people’s health, depreciate land values and loss of homes. Anyone who believes the industrial wind’s promotional material should read a few articles not sponsored by wind industry on the limitations of industrial wind. The expected 30% production factor for industrial wind turbines is proving to be a pipedream for most turbines. Due to the intermittent and highly variable outputs not all the industrial wind electricity produced can be delivered to consumers. We will pay for all the output produced since it is metered, but not all the metered electricity will be used and the total industrial wind energy used is a lot less than most would believe. We do not have the technology to improve that situation at the industrial level. Premium dollars are being spend on variable bursts of electricity that will mostly likely not be used by consumers. If transmission lines went down between reliable sources of electricity and Manitoulin Island, the wind turbines would not be able to provide the Island with electricity regardless of nameplate capacity.

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