Wind turbines blow an ill wind was the message delivered by panelists at a town hall meeting in Tara.
The 200 or so people who packed the Tara-Arran community centre last week heard that turbines cause serious harm to health, decrease property values, destroy sensitive habitats and are making hydro unaffordable for some people.
Leader Energy Resources of Kincardine is in the process of developing a 46-wind turbine project in an area that reaches across the boundary between Arran-Elderslie and Saugeen Shores and includes the environmentally sensitive Arran Lake area.
Keith Stelling lives on Arran Lake and relishes in being a proponent of NIMBYism — Not in My Back Yard. And it’s for a good reason, he says.
“My backyard is worth protecting. I feel I have a responsibility to protect the heritage of our children and grandchildren. It’s going to be destroyed if we let this go ahead,” said Stelling, who spent three years studying the flora and fauna of the Arran Lake area.
The creatures are not protected simply because they live in the wetlands around the lake. Many of them come on land to lay their eggs or rear their young and those sensitive habitats will be destroyed by access roads and the low level sounds and stray voltage from hydro lines and wind turbines.
With the larger industrial wind turbines even the birds who use the three migration routes across the lake are in danger of being killed by the turbines.
He said Arran Lake is home to 22 endangered or threatened species from bald eagles and the red headed woodpecker to rare snakes and turtles and the red fox.
“This is not an area for industrial wind energy development. It will disrupt habitat . . . because of the size of the turbines collision with birds is reaching into the migratory flight paths and the low frequency sounds will affect reproduction,” Stelling said.
Norma Schmidt, who lives in the midst of 110 turbines in Kincardine, said she’s suffered severe migraines, sleep deprivation, weight loss, dizziness, and nauseousness as well as cognitive impairment and ear pressure in the past 22 months. She says there are 14 wind turbines within a two-mile radius of her home west of Underwood.
” I have three to five migraines a week and those just continue to increase with the introduction of more turbines,” said Schmidt, who is putting her trust in providing information to people about the possible health effects of wind turbines.
“The more informed people are, the more knowledge they have, the better they will be prepared to deal with whatever is coming into their community. . . they should be knowledgeable about the health effects the turbines are causing.”
“It has made me very ill and made my life miserable and affected by family dramatically. And I would hate for this to happen to anyone else,” she added.
When asked if the symptoms could be psychologically induced Schmidt recounted the story of the two-year-old child who was too young to be aware of the effects of wind turbines who became ill and had to be taken to the hospital each time she visited an area with wind turbines.
She also talked about the hypersensitive hearing that develops in blind people who are adversely affected by the low frequency sound that’s emitted by the wind turbines.
David Colling who has done electrical pollution testing for dairy farmers for the past 27 years has more recently begun testing homes located near wind energy farms for what he describes as ‘dirty electricity.’
He said wind energy and solar power installations if properly constructed develop microwave radiation that turn houses into microwave containers adversely affecting the health of the residents.
Bill Palmer said the wind turbines must be backed up by expensive and environmentally unfriendly gas-powered generators that are less efficient than coal-burning generators and they don’t reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions.
“You need a lot of them to back up the wind turbines,” he said.
Dr. Hazel Lynn the medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit was unable to attend due to a sudden death in the family but sent along a presentation that was read by moderator Jim Merriam.
In her notes Lynn says that many animals including mammals can sense low amplitude, low frequency sound and infrasound. And that in nature “infrasound” corresponds to potentially dangerous situations such as earthquakes, landslides, trees falling, or predators approaching.
“All animals studied respond to such sound by becoming more alert. This is a survival mechanism and prepares the animal for “fight or flight”. Blood is diverted from the digestive system to the muscles, adrenaline is released, cortisol levels rise which add to the state of arousal and fear. Sleep initiation is delayed and the pattern of sleep is disrupted,” she wrote.
She goes on to say that since some people are more sensitive to low frequency sounds than others, it’s possible these people would be most affected by prolonged exposure to low frequency, low amplitude sound waves such as those generated by a wind farm.
Port Elgin lawyer John Mann, who was not a panelist, said this project is not a done deal and urged area residents to demand a public meeting with the developer. He said according to section two of the Green Energy Act, the act must be administered in a manner that promotes community consultation. That according to Mann means the community must be consulted and give its approval before wind energy comes to a community.
“If we don’t want wind energy to come to our community we should have a say,” Mann said.
Organizer Tracey MacGregor said one important outcome of Thursday’s meeting is the growing realization that despite the policies of the provincial government and the loss of control over planning through the Green Energy Act, people they should know they are not powerless victims.
“I hope that people will take away a renewed sense of hope that this is not finished; it’s not over. As a community we can stand up; we can vote for our municipal government, we can write letters and we can change the outcome of an energy that is not green,” she said.
“People are getting angry. People are uncertain about what the outcome will be in the long run. We don’t know how it will affect our children and grandchildren. People have the right to be angry,” MacGregor added.