By Cheryl Heath. Clinton News Record
Recent provincial government issued press release with regard the first of its kind wind project moving forward in Central Huron proved to be premature.
The landowners mentioned in the release, Alex Westerhout, who was recently elected as an East Ward representative for Central Huron Council, reports he pulled the plug on the plan after much heart-felt consideration.
While he understands why the press release was issued given the project made it through the approval process, the truth is he cancelled the project with the wind company at some expense to himself.
Though Westerhout acknowledges some area residents think politics is the reason for the change of heart, the fact is he cancelled the project even before deciding to vie for a seat on the local council. The decision to cancel, he says, came after a great deal of research.
“At first it sounded like a great idea,” he says, noting the idea of green energy appealed to him, as did having an on-site energy source for his successful poultry operation. The original project called for a $250,000 investment, of which a deposit has since been forfeited, for 16 kilowatt, 80-foot tall turbines with a net metering provision that spelled out that if the turbines produced more energy than the farm used, that energy could be used as credit.
However, Westerhout soon learned wind turbines produce the least amount of energy during the summer months when he needs it most to cool down his chicken barns. Plus, the fine print on the deal began to change so that it no longer seemed like the windfall it once did.
“The rules have changed,” notes Westerhout.
That reality helped lead to his cancellation of the project, which required a financial commitment.
It was also the research that cemented Westerhout’s decision to put a kibosh on the project.
“I started doing research on industrial wind projects and that just turned me off so much,” he says.
Westerhout notes his extensive research left him wondering why the province is committing itself to the idea of wind energy to this extent.
“It’s not good for the province to go down this road,” he says, noting the number of provincial dollars being invested do not make sense given the bulk of profits leave the province and, in some cases, the country.
“If these things are so great, the province should take ownership and build them themselves,” he says, noting while those costs might prove “astronomical,” it nonetheless seems that the province can’t prove this is a good idea in the first place.
Westerhout adds it seems the province is ignoring the fact wind projects require gas plants to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Plus, says Westerhout, there is the real question of turbines’ health impacts. Westerhout finds it strange that the World Health Organization suggests a minimum two-kilometre setback.
“Why are they saying it? ” he says. “They (the WHO) has experience all around the world. Why would we scatter (turbines) randomly around the countryside?”
Westerhout adds the province pointing to the success of overseas wind farms is questionable given that Europe’s wind farms are sited in unpopulated areas or on farms that are not lived on.
“I have talked to relatives in Holland and no one lives this close to wind turbines. They all think it’s crazy,” he says, noting noise and flicker are among their concerns.
In noting the government’s press release was published in the area’s Focus magazine and The Goderich Signal-Star, Westerhout reports receiving about 20 calls and comments. The prevailing view, he says, was people thought he was “anti wind.”
Westerhout says that is not the case. While he sometimes sees the merits in using small commercial turbines, the problem he has lies with the large-scale industrial wind turbines proposed for two projects in Central Huron. He says the only plan that makes sense is erecting turbines near hydroelectric dams so that transmission lines and gas plants are not required.
Westerhout adds the province’s argument about the need to eliminate coal-burning plants doesn’t wash either given that even the Suzuki Foundation says it is better to install scrubbers on coal burning plants than to build new gas plants.
One good thing that has come from the entire situation, says Westerhout, is the topic has “generated a lot of talk.”