By Laura Wikston Dunnville Chronicle
Some residents living on and around Edgewater Place, a road on the Erie lakeshore southwest of Dunnville, say they are angry to discover what looks to be a “micro renewable electricity generation project” going up in their neighbourhood.
That’s the term Ontario Power Authority (OPA) uses for such projects that are approved through the microFIT Program that gives homeowners, farmers and small businesses the opportunity to develop a very small or “micro” renewable electricity project (10 kilowatts or less in size) on their property.
Under the microFIT Program, a guaranteed price is paid for all the electricity a project produces for at least 20 years.
At issue for residents is, by chance, they found out a residential property on Edgewater Place has four concrete pads for solar panels and footings for one wind turbine. Following heavy winds about two weeks ago part of the fence surrounding the property was blown over, revealing construction.
Neighbours, including Reg Ballard whose property backs on to the property in question, say they should have been informed of, and had input into the plans to erect the green energy structures.
Ballard said through inquiries at the County level he’s learned permits for four 20-foot solar panels and one 33-foot wind turbine have been issued. He says one corner of the base of the turbine will be 17 feet from his bedroom window.
“I’m a neighbour that says ‘Live and let live’, but if you had a look at the property you wouldn’t see a square inch that’s nice about it. It looks industrial. It’s just a bad situation.”
Ballard began to voice his objections to the project and the lack of public input, starting with Haldimand County staff. He learned the County has no input into energy projects that are approved under the Green Energy Act. Under Part II of the act municipal by-laws can’t prevent or restrict designated renewable energy projects.
Craig Manley, General Manager Planning & Economic Development for Haldimand County, said when green energy legislation was being proposed, the County made formal comments to the province through the Environmental Registry process about concerns of turbine location, effective community consultation and decommissioning of turbines at the end of their lifespan.
“The issue has also been raised by our politicians at the ROMA and AMO conferences, which are conferences of associations of municipalities where they get to meet with Cabinet ministers.”
When the County couldn’t address Ballard’s concerns he was given a phone number for Service Ontario to further his inquiries. Ballard called, and was then given a number for the REFO. He spoke to someone there who gave Ballard a phone number for Pat Goodale, who is listed as a Project Analyst on the REFO website.
“I don’t know if it’s his job to do it like that, but he was like a wall of silence, saying ‘Yes, I understand,’ and blah, blah, blah. But, ‘I understand’ doesn’t do me any good. Everybody understands, but nobody’s giving me any answers.”
Ballard said Goodale told him he was the last person Ballard would be able to raise the issue with.
“He said, ‘This is the end of the line. There’s no other numbers you can get.'”
Adding to Ballard’s frustration, he’s since heard that six wind turbines are to be erected on property to the north of his.
“It’s like adding insult to injury. I’m here fighting for the back of my property and now it’s that. They (the government) don’t give you a way to express an opinion. That’s as rude as you can get it. This is ridicules. I don’t think they’re acting as a responsible government.”
Ballard believes the project and the proposed six turbines will depreciate property values in the neighbourhood. He’s lived on his property for 42 years. The owner of the property in question apparently resides elsewhere.
“I don’t even want to live here if they have these windmills,” Ballard stated. “The way it looks like right now in the yard behind me, it’s like the neighbourhood is being raped of a good area. It has that commercial look to it. There’s nothing nice about how it’s laid out. Just what are we allowing people to do?”
Ballard went on to say, “I don’t want the flickering of a turbine, and all the noise and vibration. This is 17 feet from my bedroom.”
Neighbour Carol Turner isn’t happy with the lack of community input either and has concerns about health problems that may be associated with living near wind turbines.
“We’ve had no information about the six huge turbines that are going up on the north side of Lakeshore Road. I appreciate green energy and we need to go this way, but where’s the public input on this?”
With the OPA promoting the microFIT program, more neighborhoods are likely to be caught up in the debate of where solar panels and wind turbines are placed. Neil Kromhout, founder and CEO of Enermin Solutions, a Dunnville-based renewable energy company, said there has been a lot of interest in the microFIT program.
“We’ve had an incredible amount of interest from the agricultural community around the province.”
Kromhout said he believes many people are accepting of panels and turbines because they give reliability to the power supply system.
“By having power generated closer to where it’s being used, it relieves the strain on the delivery system. People should be thankful when their neighbour takes the initiative to doing some green energy work because that means the power they use actually comes from their neighbour.”
To learn more about the microFIT program visit microfit.powerauthority.on.ca.