By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today
ROSENEATH — The security was high at an open house at the Alnwick Civic Centre held for a proposed local wind farm Friday night.
Not only was there a police cruiser sitting outside -but there were at least three OPP officers on duty but out of uniform, about a half dozen uniformed security guards and another security man in plain clothes, as well as video surveillance. A sign warned about the latter and suggested people leave if they didn’t want to be videotaped.
This is overkill, said several meeting attendees from the local, anti-wind turbine group, Alliance for the Protection of the Northumberland Hills.
“It’s threatening,” agreed Debbie Lynch, a woman who is also protesting another proposed industrial wind turbine development in Central Ontario where she lives near Norwood.
There were other concerned citizens from the Clarington, Pontypool and Millbrook areas, where wind farms are also being pursued under the rules set by the Ontario’s Green Energy Act . The resulting green power will be subsidized in the form of a high per kilowatt hour “feed in” rate into the Hydro One electrical grid over the term of a 20-year contract for proponents who meet all the government-imposed criteria.
The government policy is to increase green energy and bring manufacturing jobs to Ontario as it imposes increasing Ontario content rules on the infrastructure installed for wind, solar and other energy-producing alternatives.
OPP Sgt. Jeff Lavalley, who identified himself as head of the OPP Aboriginal Policing Bureau, said officers were there to “be informed about what’s going on” in relationship to the series of meetings in the area about different proposed wind farms. While not in uniform, he stressed they were not “plain-clothed” police officers.
“There have been incidents at other venues,” he said. These “incidents” included intimidation and threats, particularly at the Millbrook wind turbine meeting, the Sgt. added.
Among those groups being consulted as part of the approvals process to install turbines under the Ontario Green Energy Act are First Nation peoples, said wind turbine company spokesperson Larissa Murray in an interview. There was one man escorting her everywhere she went in the Alnwick Civic Centre during the meeting.
Murray identified herself as vice president of Tantenco LLC of Delaware whose parent company is in Germany where she has lived for a number of years before beginning her career in the wind power business. Tantenco and Sunbeam LLC of the U.S. each have 50% ownership of Clean Breeze Wind Park LP (Limited Partnership), identified as the proponent for the development that was subject of Friday night’s meeting. The two U.S. firms are the financial backers, she also said.
If local ownership can be increased to a minimum of 50% in the windpark, the payback on power produced through the Ontario government backed plan will rise to 14.5 cents per killowatt hour from 13.5, she said. Local investors will be sought in the future, Murray said. Studies are being conducted ranging from noise and wind assessments to the proximity to wetlands, woodlands and residences, she said. This information will be made public at least 60 days before the second public meeting, Murray added.
If there is no lease with a landholder, however “I can’t put up a turbine,” she said.
The local project area is bordered by County Road 22 on the north, County Road 23 on the west, just east of County Road 45 on the east, and south along Norble Road and Scots Line. A FITT contract for up to 10 megawatts of power production would be met by up to five turbines and cost about $20 million to put in the ground and wire into the grid, Murray said.
Energy Farming Ontario is a consulting firm on the local project and “some of its staff own equity” in Clean Breeze Wind Park, Murray explained. M.K. Ince & Associates Ltd. is the consulting firm overseeing the studies that are underway, holding the required public meetings and undertaking the renewable energy approvals process, she said.
A common factor in all of the 10 proposed wind turbine farms in Ontario is that M.K. Ince & Associates is undertaking the approvals process confirmed local project manager for the firm, Andrea McDowell. Half of those are in Central Ontario.
The field work for Clean Breeze Wind Park has been completed, said M.K. Ince & Associates spokesperson Jane Zednik but not all the studies. She said that they would be completed and made public in time for the second required public meeting which she expected to be held April, 2011. They will be available on the web site energyfarmingontario. com and at public libraries, Zednik said.
At this stage in the process the design has not be completed, where the lines will be buried or on poles, the location of the turbines, access roads, etc., Zednik said. One company representative said there would be a total of five turbines and another said that wasn’t decided yet.
Morely Nelson has already told Northumberland Today that he has an agreement with Clean Wind Park to allow the company to put up wind turbines on his property, and that of his brother Ken. He said he lives on the property and has done his own research at other wind farms and is satisfied with what he found.
The Alliance for the Protection of the Northumberland Hills, however, is not of the same mindset.
They have warned potential landowners contemplating entering into long-term leases for wind turbines that there are downsides. They have issued newsletters and visited their neighbours. At the meeting they distributed a bulletin entitled: “What you should know about wind turbines.”
The document stated that property values could be devalued by “at least 25%” and that those selling properties could wait twice as long to find a buyer if their land is in the vicinity of wind turbines.
“Concerns over noise, health affects, value loss and destruction of rural views stigmatize areas, chasing away buyers,” the Alliance’s statement warns.
Property reassessments are supporting this claim and it cites an appeal board decision in Amaranth Township where the assessment was cut in half by an appeal board.
Alliance member Tyne Bonebakker lives within the study area of the proposed local windfarm and he says the provincially mandated 550 meter setback from wind turbines is inadequate.
Another person who would be directly affected if the project went ahead is Denise Little who told Murray she is concerned that her retirement home will be ruined because of the project. In an interview Little said she is the type of person who gets migraines and will likely be susceptible to the ill affects that other people say they have suffered by living close to wind turbines.
These include a low-frequency noise and shadow flicker, to a strobe effect, according to the Alliance’s bulletin. It claims nausea and dizziness as side effects.
“Our group is one of more than 40 citizens’ groups throughout Ontario. More than 60 municipalities in Ontario have challenged the Green Energy Act and are asking for a halt to industrial wind turbine developments,” the bulletin also states. The group believes more health studies need to be undertaken and that what has been done so far is inadequate.
Opposition is world wide, the anti-wind turbine group’s literature also stresses.
But Murray says she has grown up with wind turbines and isn’t negatively impacted by them. Europe has had them for over 30 years, she said.
Alnwick/Halidmand Mayor Elect Dalton McDonald says he lives next door to the proposed site and neither he nor his wife have concerns, even though he believes they’ll be able to see them when they take walks on their property.
He noted, however, that the Green Energy Act passed by the provincial government takes away any regulating power from municipal governments.
“I can have no more impact (on any decisions) than anyone else,” McDonald said.