By Vanessa Brown, Clinton News Record
Recent criticism of the Liberals’ announcement to postpone offshore wind development while asking for more research on land-based turbines is conflicting, according to Huron Bruce MPP Carol Mitchell.
Both Central Huron Against Turbines (CHAT) and Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) have said the move to temporarily shelve offshore wind is purely political given that it is a provincial election year. CHAT continues its argument that research is still needed for onshore wind turbines.
“When we said we need more science for offshore, they (opponents) then accused us of applying political science while in the same breath asking for more health studies on onshore,” Mitchell said. “Those are conflicting comments.”
Mitchell added she’s confident her government already has an adequate body of science on land turbines.
There are currently no offshore wind farms running in North America. The world’s only turbines operating in a freshwater lake are in Sweden. Minister of Environment John Wilkinson on Feb. 11 said the province will work with the U.S. and Sweden to build a more comprehensive framework for offshore wind energy.
Robert Budd, a member of CHAT, is adamant the decision appeases urban residents while ignoring rural communities. Toronto Hydro has proposed a 70-turbine development in Lake Ontario that would stretch from Toronto to Ajax.
“By cancelling the offshore, they’re speaking to a largely urban audience, whereas the rural people who will have to live amongst them (land-based turbines) are being ignored,” Budd said. “When people see that they need to pursue more science on the offshore, yet have no interest in pursuing more science onshore, it’s very disrespectful to rural communities, I think.”
Budd also suspects offshore wind applications were suspended because they cost too much. He said nuclear electricity costs three to four cents per kilowatt-hour compared to 19 cents for offshore wind energy. He added Ontario’s demand for electricity doesn’t warrant the move to more expensive energy.
“When you look at how we’re hemorrhaging financially with the cost of wind that we have online now, imagine what the impact would be when we put more on at the offshore price,” Budd said. “I don’t think anybody would stand for that, regardless of where you fit on the environmental aspect.”
In 2008, eight offshore wind applications were submitted for Lake Huron’s waters, stretching from Goderich to Kincardine.
Bluewater Coun. Geordie Palmer (Bayfield) said a wind farm in the lake could hurt Bayfield’s economy. He fears the tourism industry would be hit hardest, but also commercial fishing.
“I don’t profess to be an expert, and I’m learning everyday, but I’m finding more questions than I am answers,” Coun. Palmer said.
Palmer said offshore turbines could affect the migration of fish due to possible vibrations.
“It’s one of those things that if it affects migratory birds and insects, it certainly must also have some impact on water creatures,” he said.
Mitchell maintains wind development is part of a larger framework to offset the burden on healthcare, which started with a bylaw against smoking indoors. She said a mixture of renewable and nuclear energy is a logical step, while protecting jobs at the Bruce Power nuclear plant, the area’s largest employer.
“We are committed to shutting down coal by 2014, and the energy supply mix that we have coming forward will in fact allow for that,” she said.
“That is the single most important thing we can do to address air pollution.”