Owen Sound Sun Times: Good for Murdoch for raising his hand

Bill Murdoch, MPP

Bill Murdoch, MPP

Bill Murdoch has raised his hand at Queen’s Park. His message: “Hang on folks, let’s rethink this wind power business.”

Murdoch wants a moratorium on further big wind power development projects until provincial health and environmental authorities can attest to their safety, for people and for livestock.

This comes late in the game. The Green Energy Act is law. Regulations on wind turbine setbacks have been set. Wind energy companies are buying up rights in Grey- Bruce.

For this wave of big-money development to grind to a halt now will require a significant expression of political will.

Yet that is precisely what is required.

For the massive wind projects that have gone up in communities such as Shelburne have not come without controversy. Some residents who live nearest the turbines are not happy.

There are concerns about serious effects on health. Some who live near the machines report they have trouble sleeping and concentrating. There are reports of similar effects on livestock.

Yet the planning on these massive industrial projects continues apace, driven by political and economic imperatives in Toronto.

Do we need these massive machines on our landscape? Do we want them? What are the tangible and intangible costs of putting them up? What are the benefits to local people?

Ontario derives half its energy from nuclear power. Wind energy currently accounts for just over 1,000 megawatts. That’s enough power, according to the Ontario government, to power a decent-sized city — 300,000 homes.

The big project in Shelburne, 133 wind turbines, produces just shy of 200 megawatts.

Wind power remains a drop in the bucket, in other words. Are rural people being saddled with industrial wind turbines for appearances’ sake? Are there no smarter, smaller, less intrusive ways to “go green?”

Why is the Ontario government not massively subsidizing micro-projects — family-sized solar, wind, geo-thermal and hydro technology? The technology exists. It works.

Wouldn’t it be preferable for individual farmers and landowners to have small windmills to meet their own energy needs and sell what leftover power they have to the grid?

Grey and Bruce counties are an ecological and environmental jewel. The quiet farms and homesteads, the rolling hills, the Escarpment. Is it so easy to set that aside? How do industrial wind projects fit into the imperative of stewardship of the land?

Urban proponents of these projects will argue that it’s all about NIMBY — Not In My Back Yard. That’s absolutely right. Most reasonable people would not want a 90-foot turbine in their back yard, or anywhere close to it.

Why should landowners who wish to profit from the wind industry foist their decisions on neighbouring landowners who may not?

What tangible and intangible values are derived from something so simple as a farmstead’s unimpeded view of Georgian Bay?

Decisions about major wind projects are not simply a matter of private transactions between wind companies and landowners who wish to sell wind rights.

Every nearby landowner has a stake. The community has a stake.

The provincial government has rushed headlong towards big industrial wind power for reasons of its own. The desire to go green is laudable. But there are other ways to skin that cat. Perhaps, better ways.

It’s time for a serious, full and fair discussion about the benefits and pitfalls of Big Wind Power, including possible effects on human health and quality of life. In the meantime development should stop.

Good for Murdoch for raising his hand.