WAINFLEET — Mike Pitt is all in favour of green energy, but is worried two proposed wind turbines could devastate his business.
Pitt and his wife, Tara, operate Skydive Burnaby on Burnaby Rd. in Wainfleet. Two turbines proposed by Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc. to be located on Station Rd. are the couple’s main concern.
The turbines would be part of a wind farm owned locally by the Loeffen family, and developed by IPC Energy.
Pitt is concerned about the location of the turbines due to skydivers jumping from planes west of the field and turbines. The distance between the Station Rd. turbines and the skydive business is about 3.5 km in a straight line.
“There are times we’ll jump out five kilometres to the west of the field and we’d be coming back right over those turbines.”
He said skydivers could end up being between 150 and 200 metres above the turbines as they head back to the field. There’s always a possibility they could be lower and become entangled in the blades of a turbine or hit the tower itself, he added.
Turbines spinning in the wind could also create turbulence far above that could play havoc with parachutes, Pitt said.
Pitt isn’t too concerned about his planes as they can fly around the turbines with no problem.
But another issue is possible radio interference from the turbines, he said, adding first-time skydivers are talked down via a radio strapped to their chest.
The Pitts raised all of their concerns at a public meeting in August and also filled out a survey left by IPC.
“I never heard back from them until a couple of weeks ago.”
Pitt received a 480-page copy of IPC’s proposal for the location of turbines for the Loeff en wind farm. It was then he learned of the two for the east side of Station Rd.
The owner of Skydive Burnaby, who has been skydiving since he was 16 and hanging around the field since he was nine, believes the two turbines on Station Rd. could be moved to other locations north of Hwy. 3 in the township.
“Those turbines could be devastating to our operation … they could kill us. It’s a therapeutic place for people to come and enjoy themselves while they’re here. This business puts a roof over our head … and it’s been around since the ’60s.”
Pitt expressed his concerns to IPC and also to Mayor April Jeffs and MPP Peter Kormos.
Jeffs said she plans to meet with Pitt in the new year to talk over the issue and will meet with IPC as well.
“We are taking the concerns of all residents seriously and will protect the public as much as we can,” said the mayor, adding IPC is to hold a public meeting sometime in February.
Tom Lewis, manager of planning and environment at IPC Energy, said the company has listened to Pitt’s concerns and will try and work with the business owner.
“We asked him for more information on how he arrived at his opinion and how we can move forward. We asked him how the turbines will negatively impact his business. We have tried to address some of his concerns,” said Lewis, adding the company does not want to put someone out of business.
He said Pitt requested the two towers on Station Rd. either be moved north of Hwy. 3 or to the west side of Station.
“Due to setbacks and the availability of property, that’s not possible. We’d also take a loss if we had to move towers further north of the lake.”
Moving the turbines to the west side of Station Rd., he said, would only be a matter of 200 metres distance at most. He didn’t see how moving them that short distance would help Pitt.
The company could have put more towers between Station Rd. and Skydive Burnaby and more along the lake.
“We’ve chosen not to use those sites. IPC has no intention of putting any turbines closer to the landing strip,” said Lewis, adding the company gave a “gentleman’s verbal agreement” to Pitt on that and will stand true to it.
IPC has also worked with Transport Canada and NAV Canada from the beginning to deal with issues surrounding the skydive operation and planes in general.
As for possible communication problems, in a release sent to The Tribune, the company said, “We have also consulted with the Radio Advisory Board of Canada, Department of National Defence, Canadian Coast Guard and Industry Canada’s Spectrum Management and Telecommunications division. To date, no radio communication interference concerns have been identified as a result of our consultation activities with these agencies, but we will continue to keep them informed as the project progress.”
Lewis said the Wainfleet Wind Energy Project has not received an approval from Ministry of Environment, nor has it submitted the required supporting documentation/ reports to receive an approval.
“We’re still in the middle … it’s still an ongoing process,” he said, adding there will be future meetings with the public about the project.
For more information on the Wainfleet Wind Energy Project see www.wainfleetwindenergy.ca