By Andy Comber, Essex Free Press
Rick Vezina and his wife Judy love peace and quiet. They found it 12 years ago, settling with their two children into a dream home on the Graham Sideroad in what is now Kingsville’s Gosfield North.
“We searched hard to find this place – it’s perfect,” Vezina says. “The property is treed in, no neighbours right next door.”
Vezina says they always planned to spend their retirement there. But that was before the start-up of Brookfield’s Gosfield Wind Project – 22 turbines with 80-metre-high towers and 49-metre-long blades. One of the turbines is merely 350 metres from his home, Vezina says.
“Now we have a new neighbour, a big white thing. I’m not so impressed.”
Fully in favour of renewable energy, including wind energy, Vezina had few concerns as the turbines began to rise into the skies around his home. Brookfield had assured neighbours close to the structures they would not experience any problems, he says.
“It was going to be pleasant.”
Things have quickly changed to unpleasant over the last few weeks, ever since the turbines came to life – blades spinning to the wind, as they should, to generate electricity, Vezina says.
“They are noisy. It’s at night. It sounds like a jet plane going over, but it never leaves.”
Brookfield called the Ministry of the Environment to investigate the noise complaints, as required, Vezina says. A provincial officer visited and agreed within minutes of getting out of his vehicle that there was too much noise, he says.
“He couldn’t believe they would put the turbine that close to my house.”
Vezina says the turbine came with additional noise problems. Instead of quieting as its blades slowed with a diminishing wind, a new noise emerged, he says.
“Crunching and crashing. It sounds like a bunch of rocks being tossed inside,” Vezina says.
Calls to Brookfield brought out work crews. Some construction material – cut-outs, it was suspected – were falling inside the blades, he was told. With faster speed, centrifugal force kept the material from falling with each turn.
Even worse, Vezina says there is more than noise coming from his “lousy neighbour.”
Enjoying a sleep-in on a rare day off, Vezina opened his eyes to glance at the clock, but the couple’s bedroom was flashing like a strobe light. They discovered the turbine’s shadow flicker coming through the tiny window facing the rising sun.
Sitting in their yard as the sun sets, the Vezinas watch shadows from the turbines to the west move quickly over the fields, flashing on the woodlands. They have captured the disturbing visual effects, both inside and outside their home, on video.
“We never signed up for this,” Vezina says.
They have talked about selling their home, but now fear their property value has been severely compromised by having the turbine as a neighbour.
“Seriously, who is going to want to buy this place?”
The Vezinas soon found they were not alone. Other residents were discovering their own unexpected surprises living as neighbours to the Gosfield wind turbines.
Phil Barrette and his wife Heather both describe the turbine noise, more noticeable at night, “as a jet that never goes away.”
“We’re not against wind power, but they should never have put the turbines this close to people,” Barrette says. “But now they are up, and we’re going to have to deal with them.”
Barrette says he is surprised to hear that the community did not rally behind veteran Spitfire pilot Jerry Billing, who fought to keep a turbine out of the flight path of his rural landing strip in Lakeshore. He says it appears one person’s tranquility is too easily sacrificed for another person’s profit.
“We’re just the little people. They are not going to unplug them for us.”
A long-time County Road 14 resident, Catherine von Flotow says she no longer enjoys sitting out in her yard due to turbine noise.
“It sounds like a washing machine that never quits,” she says. “It’s obnoxious.”
On Road 10, on the western edge of the Gosfield wind project, Hazel Smith hopes the turbines, the closest one less than a kilometre away, will not pose problems for her beloved Belgian horses.
“It does sound like a jet, but don’t get me wrong, it’s not a high-pitched jet sound,” Smith says.
After one of the noisier nights, her horses were uncharacteristically hesitant to enter a pasture facing a turbine.
It is common for horses to act out of sorts when they encounter something new, she says.
“They usually adapt pretty fast.”
On Oct. 4, Brookfield Renewable Power celebrated the commissioning of its Gosfield project. Company representatives were joined at the base of an operational turbine by busloads of employees, participating landowners, contractors, and government officials from all levels of government, including Ontario’s energy minister Brad Duguid.
“This is a landmark day for Ontario and demonstrates that our clean energy economy is creating jobs and attracting investment into our communities,” announced Duguid, who later attended a groundbreaking for Brookfield’s 72-turbine Comber Wind Project.
At the ceremony, Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos praised Brookfield’s record of working with the community.
Rick Vezina hopes Brookfield continues that record of cooperation.
“If I have problems, I am going to keep on complaining,” says Vezina.