Massive protest greets wind turbine developers

by Rob O’Flanagan, Guelph Mercury

FERGUS — A massive protest greeted officials from wpd Canada in Fergus Tuesday evening, and flowed into the renewable energy developer’s open house on the proposed Springwood Wind Project (formerly known as Belwood Wind Farm), a four turbine wind energy system planned for agricultural land in the northwest corner of Centre Wellington.

Upwards of 1,000 people, several horses and a wagon filled with manure occupied the front parking lot of the Centre Wellington Sportsplex on Belsyde Ave E. at around dinner time Tuesday. The manure wagon was used to ridicule premier Dalton McGuinty’s renewable energy policies.

Hardy protesters, many of them agricultural people, defied a downpour and shouted approval for speakers who warned against suspected human health hazards associated with wind turbine noise, and the threat the giant windmills have on birds and bats.

Many worry that property values will plummet if the turbines go up, and protest organizers bemoaned the lack of local control over what are largely Government of Ontario mandated energy projects.

At around 6:30, a horsewoman in a Lady Godiva bodysuit made an appearance. She, along with Centre Wellington Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj, led the protesters into the Sportsplex where wpd Canada, a subsidiary of the German parent company, had set up a series of displays related to the project. Officials were on hand to answer questions, and many of those questions were delivered in angry or anxious tones.

The company, active for just four years in Canada, but established in 21 countries around the world, has two other projects on the go in Ontario, comprising its first ventures into Ontario wind energy generation.

“We have had this imposed on us as a municipality,” Ross-Zuj said in an interview, “and we really want a chance to say that it is not appropriate for this area.”

The lack of local input, she said, has forced residents to make their statement through protest.

The lobby leading into the auditorium was packed with people, many holding signs that read “Wind turbines make bad neighbours,” or “No industrial wind turbines.” Images of bats, and some rubber ones, were also used to symbolize the perceived hazard winged animals face from the blades of turbines.

“I’m thrilled with the number of people who are here, because this is the way we have to make this statement,” Ross-Zuj said, adding that Centre Wellington is a tourism area, and wind turbines “are not conducive to tourism,” but rather detract from the beauty of the local landscape.

She and several others said there is no clear understanding of the possible negative impacts wind turbines may have on human health or things like dairy operations. Centre Wellington called on the province to issue a moratorium on the project pending further research, but heard nothing in return, Ross-Zuj said.

Kelly-Ann McKnight, a farmer and mother of four young children, said there is enough anecdotal evidence to show that people are being harmed by wind turbines. The four proposed turbines will essentially surround the farm owned by her and husband David Mulligan.

“My question is which of my four beautiful children is going to be sick when they put up four monstrosities around my farm? There is no answer to that question,” she said.

Malcolm McCulloch, an area landowner, said his main concern is that local officials are being overridden by the province, and there has been no consideration of local desires. The project is also a bad deal for landowners, he said, adding that the project is widely opposed.

“These windmills are being put where nobody wants them,” he said. “They’re picking on cash-strapped landowners to put these windmills in, but what the landowners don’t realize is that their property is going to be devalued.”

Oppose Belwood Wind Farm Association member Laura Humphrey said there are simply too many unknowns about the wind turbines. She said the only two people who seem to support the project are those landowners being paid to have the turbines on their farms.

“The reason we are totally opposed is that it is very risky for our community and for the people who live around it,” she said, explaining that there is no study to show that the proposed 550 meter set-back of the turbines from homes is safe.

She said Centre Wellington is “absolutely determined” to stop wpd Canada, because if the project goes ahead others will surely follow.

“There are a lot of early studies that show people get really sick at that distance,” she added. “They think it is potentially from the low frequency noise, potentially the infrasound, or potentially the shadow flicker. What often happens with people is they get sleep disturbances.”

Kevin Surette, wpd Canada’s spokesperson, speaking over a din of protest chants, said the four turbines will each have a 2.05 megawatt capacity and will be 100 meters high with a blade length of 45 meters.

He said the exact placement of the turbines has not been determined at this point, pending consideration of various conditions under the Green Energy Act.

“For us, the open house is an opportunity to provide the information to the community about our project, to let them know who we are, and to gain feedback and answer any concerns or questions people may have,” he said.

As part of the renewable energy approval process, all studies related to the project must be submitted to the government before final approval is granted, he explained.

“Certainly there are a number of concerns out there,” he added. “For us it is good that we are here to listen to those concerns. A number of public health officials have looked at the existing information that’s out there and have determined there is no causal link between turbines and the reported health effects.”

He said studies show there is no evidence that the presence of a wind turbine negatively impacts the sale of homes.

9 thoughts on “Massive protest greets wind turbine developers

  1. Way to go, Fergus!

    “…no causal link between turbines and the reported health effects.”

    The lies just keep on coming, and so do we!!

  2. I am familiar with this area of Ontario – having worked for a former Guelph-based machinery manufacturer for ten years. I find the people of this region impressively keen to scientific reality, and skeptical of governmental control – which may be why such vigorous protest is arising there.

    All the best to my friends in the plastics industry up there!

  3. These sessions are just statutory MIS-INFORMATION sessions …They are really quite a farce since none of the WPD reps had a microphone or loudspeaker to hear the Mis-Information that they were providing in a one on one session….

    With over 400 people in the room at the same time and hundreds waiting outside, (due to Fire Regs) it is impossible to hear the mis-information being provided by WPD reps…when they are asked a question by local residents.

    This was another farce….clearly being done by WPD to say that they advised the community and answered questions and concerns…under the phony statutory requirements of the FAKE Green Energy Act…

    There was a lot of outrage but it appears that they WPD reps are only there to ‘take arrows’ because no one wants to hear their lies.

  4. Not that we didn’t already know this….but it is even more clear after the Fergus mis-information session that “Dr.” Arlene King’s report is the cornerstone for the industry’s “no health effects” claims.

    King has done more to harm the health and wellbeing of rural Ontario families than has any other public health leader I can recall.

    Rural Ontarians have lost confidence in King’s ability to safeguard the health and well being of our families….and thus the confidence in the same institutions that are meant to prevent the next Walkerton, SARS, H1N1, etc.

    It is time for rural Ontarians to demand for King’s resignation. We need a public health leader that will stand-up to industry and the government of the day, and speak for the people she is accountable to. A public health leader that will do their JOB!

    As for the Medical Officer of Health for the Fergus/Belwood area…Dr. Nicola Mercer….Shame on you as well for blindly following the lead of your Toronto masters.

    Shame on you Arlene King and Nicola Mercer.

    The truth is coming.

  5. How the hell can you possibly conclude that there is no evidence that wind farms reduce the price of farms and homes??

    Did you not look at the protest sign in the wide hallway documenting just that????

    Don’t you know there is a conference in Picton this weekend with speakers from Europe and the U.S. who will be providing more evidence?

    Europe already makes for a setback from turbines of more than a mile.

    Get informed before insulting everyone with your cover-up conclusions.

    Are you also saying the people there didn’t have seizures?? You can’t make any conclusions because you have not researched the subject HONESTLY!!!

    I will report this in our paper on how the media suppresses the truth on this issue and denies basic FACTS!!

    Victor / Toronto Street News

  6. *** Way to go Fergus!!!
    And our government (MOE) will approve any study on IWTs, because they:
    1. don’t have a clue
    2. believe any crap CanWEA feeds them –
    3. don’t care because they and the developers will be long gone with the tax payer’s moneys by the time the S–T hits the IWT blades.
    4. etc – etc – etc

  7. Well done Toronto Street News………the city folk have to be aware of how this Province is destroying the Rural Lands and eventually will finish off the urban centres just to make sure they have complete control over all the people!…….NOT!

  8. If the WPD people at the open house last night in Fergus did not get the message ——then what WILL it take to get their attention?????

  9. Upon re-reading what O’Flanagan wrote — it appears that he allowed the unproven claim by the wind farm corporate spokesman to stand as the unchallenged and concluding comment of Guelph Mercury piece — namely, that land values are not reduced.

    I might point out here — that immediately across from the hall entrance was the protest group’s rented space and the 4 foot square placard standing in front of their doorway documenting the real estate facts to do with the Amaranth (Shelburne) wind farm community’s real estate history for the last few years.

    It clearly explains the results — reduced values in the tens of thousands, the necessity of extended periods to actually sell real estate and the remaining unsold properties.

    In that way, the concluding sentence of his report = while not “his” opinion — should not have been allowed to stand unchallenged and/or unbalanced whilst 500 farmers and families went to the trouble of showing up in a windy rainstorm to protest the whole wind farm exercise. That should have forewarned that there is more to the story than what the corporate spokespeople tried to tell.

    When I taught high school students about journalism I always asked them to look over the corporate people on a personal basis and to examine the facts before believing some damned public relations handout.

    So, again, in future reporting, I am asking the media to research further on at least the fall in land values reported from 42 community groups across Ontario who are currently fighting wind farms.

    — Victor Fletcher / Toronto Street News

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