By Elizabeth Bower, Peterborough Examiner
When Marion Thompson walks out the front door of her cattle farm, just outside of Millbrook, she says the last thing she wants to see is a nearly 480-foot wind turbine.
The proposed Whispering Woods Wind Farm, on privately owned agricultural land in Cavan Monaghan Township, is expected to consist of up to five such turbines, each generating 2 megawatts of energy.
If all goes as planned, construction could start at the end of 2011 or mid-2012, according to Energy Farming Ontario (EFO).
Thompson, who has lived next door to the proposed project site for 25 years, says she worries about reported health effects of living near industrial turbines including dizziness, sleep deprivation and a constant “flicker” effect of the sunlight passing through the moving blades.
Decreased property values are also a concern as well as sullied water systems because of how far down the foundation supports would have to go, she says.
“They call it green energy but I’m not convinced,” says Thompson, a member of Community Wind Concerns of Cavan Monaghan who says she was not speaking on behalf of the group. “Green energy is solar panels or a small wind mill. These are industrial wind turbines.”
In a special report on Page C10 of today’s Examiner, QMI Agency has looked into the ever-growing controversy of industrial wind turbines being proposed in Ontario, which plans to double power from turbines in the next year alone.
The report investigates how some see wind farms as a green saviour — generating more environmentally friendly energy as the province shuts down coal-fired plants.
Others see it as a costly experiment that hurts human health while killing birds, bats and landscapes.
The Examiner looked into the plans and the controversy in the Peterborough area.
EFO has plans to develop four wind farms in local areas: up to five turbines at the Whispering Woods Wind Farm in Cavan Monaghan, up to three wind turbines in Wind Farm Collie Hill near Hastings, up to five turbines at Snowy Ridge Wind Park near Pontypool and another five turbines near Pontypool in Settlers Landing Wind Park.
EFO director Kelly Campbell says wind farms are the way of the future.
Each of the proposed turbines in Cavan Monaghan, for example, would have a 2-megawatt capacity, enough to power 500 to 700 homes, Campbell says.
After public meetings were held last year, Campbell says EFO is now compiling studies and reports–such as on bird-migration patterns in the proposed areas, endangered species and how close the turbines would be to wetlands, for example.
“We want to help the environment, not hinder it,” Campbell says.
Those reports and studies should be finalized and published in a couple of months, she says, and then there will be more public meetings.
According to Campbell, wind power is “green and clean” and allows Ontario to be more energy independent instead of relying on oil from abroad.
Jobs will be created, she says, including in construction, management and technical support.
Biologists and engineers will also be needed for post-monitoring studies, she says.
Campbell says she has heard people’s health concerns but says science doesn’t back up the claims.
Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. Arlene King released a report in May stating that while some living near turbines report dizziness and headaches, evidence doesn’t support a direct causal link.
Sounds created by wind turbines may be “annoying,” the report states, but don’t cause any adverse health effects.
However City of Kawartha Lakes Coun. Heather Stauble says King reached her conclusions by reviewing literature instead of commissioning a health study.
“Ontario should commission an independent health study with a physician/researcher on the team,” Stauble says.
Until the recent municipal election, Stauble was best known for her work with the Manvers Gone With the Wind group, which is protesting the Settlers Landing and Snowy Ridge wind farms as well as one in between those two called Sumac Ridge, being developed by Wpd Canada Corp.
Stauble says she resigned from the group to run for public office and now speaks on the issue as an informed councillor.
The issue is enormous in the small, rural areas of Bethany, Pontypool and Janetville, she says, and has drawn up to 500 people to meetings.
If the turbines are built, they’d be near two public elementary schools — Rolling Hills and Grandview.
She says children would be exposed to the audible noise of wind turbines as well as a low-frequency noise that can’t be heard but can have physiological effects on humans.
Stauble says she reads studies of adverse health effects from groups such as the The Society for Wind Vigilance ( www.wind-vigilance.com).
She says she has read studies linking wind turbines to depression, anxiety, arrhythmias and learning disabilities.
Other environmental concerns include birds dying from flying into the turbine blades as well as bats dying from air-pressure changes, Stauble says.
The area to be cleared would have to be greater than where the turbines sit, she says, meaning trees would be chopped.
“These are very large structures as high as a 45-storey building,” Stauble said. “These are not cute little wind turbines; they’re not benign windmills. These are industrial wind turbines.”
She says the Manvers Gone with the Wind group will likely be at the next round of public meetings to discuss these concerns, although a past public meeting was “intimidating.”
As Stauble walked through the doors of Rolling Hills Public School that night on Sept. 30, she says someone stood at the door videotaping all who entered. Everyone was then asked to sign in.
Stauble says she also counted four OPP officers and three security guards.
“It was intimidating and adversarial,” Stauble says.
Concerned citizens have been calling Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal about wind farm concerns although the only one proposed in Peterborough riding is the Collie Hill Wind Farm, in Asphodel- Norwood Township near Hastings. The others are in Liberal MPP Rick Johnson’s Haliburton- Kawartha Lakes-Brock riding.
Whether it’s wind turbines, nuclear plants, river dams or coal burning, Leal says people will always have concerns.
“No question, for every method of generating electricity, people will raise concerns…. That is the challenge in generating any form of electricity,” Leal says.
On any given day, Ontario uses about 14,000 megawatts of electricity, he says, and the province recently released its plan on how to deliver that energy over the next 20 years.
Leal says all energy producers have to be safe and reliable and he wouldn’t comment on how he feels about wind turbines until the final reports and studies are released for the projects in this area.
While the Ontario medical officer of health report states there’s no link to adverse health effects, he says it doesn’t mean new evidence won’t be released in the future showing adverse health effects.
“You should never close the door,” Leal says.
Meanwhile, Campbell, of the EFO, says the province needs some “vision” for green energy considering people die from complications due to air pollution.
“Ontario has the opportunity here to be one of the leaders in the environmental movement,” Campbell says.
She says her office gets calls every day from property owners interested in leasing their land for wind farms.
“Given some time when it becomes more commonplace, there will be more acceptance and the idea behind it will prove itself,” she says.
NOTES: If the wind-farm proje cts in this area go ahead as planned, they would likely be remotely monitored by a central office, possibly in Peterborough, says Energy Farming Ontario (EFO) director Kelly Campbell. Technicians could monitor wind speed, for example, by thousands of sensors on the turbine, she says. If the wind got too strong, for example, the technicians could shut them down remotely, she says.