Wind power protested

by Chris Fell, Simcoe.com

International Power Canada (IPC) – the company pursuing a 26 turbine wind park in the northwest part of Sydenham Township – held a special public information centre at the arena on Thursday night.

Paid duty police officers were on hand, outside the building, for the entire evening and a massive crowd packed into the community centre to get information about the proposed project. Dozens of anti-wind power protesters also attended to make their feelings on the matter known.

There was a tense moment in the middle of the meeting when the protesters marched in the community centre and demanded that IPC representatives at the meeting answer direct questions about the project.

“Would somebody be willing to answer some questions,” Wind Concerns Meaford representative Nicholas Schaut shouted, while others chanted: “We want answers.”

IPC representatives declined to enter into a question and answer session and threatened to shut down the meeting if the protesters continued to interrupt.

Wind Concerns Meaford representative Jim Brunow calmed the situation down when he asked the protesters to move to another room in the arena to allow the meeting to continue.

IPC Manager of Field Operations Tim Sullivan told reporters that the company had paid for OPP officers to be at the event to keep the peace. He said the purpose of the meeting was to answer questions and provide information – not engage in a debate.

“The idea is to actually have good and detailed information exchanged. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t,” he said.

Sullivan said IPC began investigating the possibility of a wind farm in Meaford in 2007. He said the company is currently proposing 26 wind towers (the project could have 29 towers, but IPC is currently looking at 26 as the total) in Sydenham Township, north of Highway 26. The project would generate approximately 50 MW of electricity. He said IPC is currently about three quarters of the way through its fieldwork and has applied for a power generation contract from the province.

“We still have more work to do,” he said, noting that the provincial application was submitted in November 2009. “We’re waiting for word from the province,” he added.

The proposal didn’t find a lot of support from the large audience at the meeting.

Schaut told The Express he lived near Shelburne when the wind power project in that area started up.

“I watched a small fledgling complex of eight turbines grew to 130,” he explained. Schaut said he objects to local planning approval processes being eliminated via the Green Energy Act and says current wind turbine technology is not “green” and is not efficient.

“They’re an antiquated system and they require an enormous amount of carbon input. We have a surplus of energy in our province, yet we continue to build wind complexes that are at best 23-24% efficient,” he said.

Rudy Meier is a resident of Sydenham Township and will have turbines close to him if the project gets the go ahead.

“I’ll look out my front window and will see them,” said Meier, an opponent of the project. “Our who area will be spoiled by this. Coffin Hill is one of the best views in Grey County. It will become dead man’s land. These are good farm producing lands. We need to get a group together and do the same thing as they did with the landfill and stop this,” he said.

Meier said it is ironic that a few years ago the owners of the Coffin Hill site tried to get permission to hold a couple rock concerts at the property every summer, but couldn’t get that project off the ground. Yet, industrial wind turbines can be built with virtually no local control.

“Now we’re going to have these humongous things in the sky that nobody wants to look at,” he said.