by Laura Wikston, Dunnville Chronicle
As the number of wind farms increases in Ontario, so does the controversy that surrounds them. It seems people either love them or hate them. If all goes to plan for Samsung CT, the company will build and operate a wind and solar cluster in South Cayuga. The Grand Renewable Energy Park is one of 184 planned renewable energy projects for Ontario. It will include a wind facility with 63 wind turbines and a 700 acre facility.
William Colterman, a South Cayuga resident, is a vocal opponent of wind farms. He said he believes more research is needed into the effects of wind turbines on human health. Colterman said the main problem is the setback distance from turbine to receptor (the people living near a turbine). In Ontario, the setback is 550 metres.
“There are three things going on with the environmental health issues. There’s audible noise, infrasound -the noises that come across as vibrations that you can’t hear -and stray voltage.”
He criticizes a report published in May by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Arlene King that concludes there is no scientific evidence to date supporting claims that wind turbines have a direct causal link to adverse health effects.
The report states similar conclusions were drawn in a study prepared for the American Wind Energy Association and Canadian Wind Energy Association.
Colterman cites an article by Queen’s University Professor John P. Harrison entitled Disconnect Between Turbine Noise Guidelines and Health Authority Recommendations, which claims the Ontario government is using erroneous formulas to determine setback. Harrison’s formula suggests setback should be 1 km to 1.5 km.
“I’m all for wind generated power,” Colterman insists, “but not at the expense of people’s health. If it’s done right, it’s a good thing. That’s not the case here, the big error is the setback.”
Dunnville area farmer Franz Seitz supports wind energy, and said it’s not because his Lowbanks property has a turbine on it that is part of the Mohawk Point Wind Farm.
“I’m for wind turbines because we have to go with the future. The future means we have to go with different energies. Some are saying people get sick with wind turbines, but this is not proven yet. What is proven is that people who live close to nuclear power stations have gotten cancer.
“I don’t like to think about if we had nuclear power at Nanticoke and there was an accident. It would run into Lake Erie where we have all our drinking water.
“Wind turbines do not pollute. They might kill the odd bird, but most birds get used to them and fly around them. We’re also killing birds with our cars, but no one is saying we should quit driving our cars.”
Seitz said people shouldn’t just focus on the negatives of wind turbines. “We have to see what’s positive too. Positive is that wind is from nature, we don’t pollute with wind turbines.”
Seitz said every house should have its own solar panel to produce hydro.
“But on the roofs, not in the fields. We need every square foot in the field for food. By 2020, we’ll have 8 billion people on earth and all these people will need food. Don’t make less acreage for where you can grow food.”
Seitz said some neighbours have said the swooshing noise the turbine blades make can be bothersome. He believes people will get used to the noise, just as they get used to other noises, such as traffic.
He points out that countries in Europe have used wind turbines for the last 20 years. He suggests if people there were getting ill from them, we would be hearing much more about the adverse effects of turbines that are too close to people.
Colterman calls the Mohawk Point turbines “toys” compared to the planned turbines for South Cayuga.
“The ones coming this way are going to be 400 feet from blade tip to ground.”
Toby Barrett, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP and Opposition Environment Critic believes wind turbines are pitting neighbours against one another. He admits both opponents and proponents have approached him with concerns.
“I think the most important thing in making decisions on where these towers will be located is that the municipal level has been neutered.”
The Ontario Liberals’ Green Energy Bill, passed in May 2009, allows the province to approve green energy projects without approval from local councils.
“The Ontario government through the Ontario Power Authority has arbitrarily overridden our representatives on the ground who normally deal with planning and zoning issues.”
Barrett’s constituency office plans to hold an Environmental Symposium in November at the Jarvis Community Centre.
Representatives from Samsung and other wind farm developers will be invited to give short presentations that will be followed by a question and answer period. A date has not yet been set. Samsung is expected to hold a second information meeting about the proposed energy park in December. A draft of the proposed project can be found at www.samsungrenewableenergy.ca