By Francis Baker, News Express Staff, Fergus-Elora News Express, www.centrewellington.com
Groups of wind turbines across the province will be devastating to the rural environment, say members of the Oppose Belwood Wind Farm Association.
“It looks like rural Ontario is under threat” thanks to the province’s Green Energy Act that seems to be pushing wind generating technology, the association’s Janet Vallery told Wellington County councillors last week.
“Rural Ontario in the near future may be faced with 4,200 wind turbines,” she said.
And what’s being planned for the Belwood area and other places around the province aren’t the small windmills some farmers have put up in their fields already, which are about 130 feet tall, Dave Hurlburt told councillors.
“These things are massive,” he said. “They’re much bigger than what we’ve seen in Europe, and much bigger that what we’ve seen in Shelburne.”
The turbines planned for Belwood are 500 feet tall – as large as a 40 storey building. And Hurlburt said his group is worried if energy companies are restricted in the numbers of turbines they can put up, they’ll try to erect even taller, 600-foot ones.
Provincial legislation has “stripped municipalities of their rights … and has limited public consultation,” Vallery said, but there are ways municipalities can block companies wanting to build wind farms.
Councils can pass nuisance and noise bylaws, or approve building temporary housing on property lines near the proposed turbine to force greater setbacks, Hurlburt said.
Local governments can use a variety of tactics to make getting approval challenging enough that companies make changes, or even back off from the proposal, he said,
County councillors said they were surprised by some of the information presented.
“The thought of 500-foot wind turbines dotting the landscape of Wellington County is something I’m not happy with,” said Wellington North ward councillor Lynda White.
Mapleton Mayor John Green said his township is looking into the effects of wind turbines on livestock, because of the high animal population.
Dairy cattle and milk production seem to be particularly affected by the kind of low frequency noise that wind turbines produce, he said.
“If you have a high population of farm animals, you might want to consider that as one of your priorities,” he said.
Taking farmland out of production is another avenue to explore. Green said original estimates suggested a turbine project in Mapleton would take 45 acres out of production, but later estimates are closer to 300. One of the issues is building road-width accesses to the turbines, he said.
The association wants county council to declare its opposition to the proposal, become actively engaged in the consultation, provide an opportunity for the association to comment, require setbacks and development charges, and more.
They want the county to legislate based on the municipal ability to create bylaws for the welfare and general good and protection of residents, and get involved with other municipalities looking to challenge the Green Energy Act.