By RUTH FARQUHAR, Sudbury Star
It’s hard to believe that something that is supposed to be so good for the environment can bring so much divisiveness and anger to Manitoulin Island.
I haven’t written much about the MacLean’s Mountain wind farm because of those very reasons. I have lifelong friends who have been fighting the project since the beginning and very good friends who believe it will be a good thing for the Island.
To be honest, I have gone back and forth on the project. Like many people here, we want to see green energy projects. We know that climate change is real, but at the same time we wonder if an industrial-size wind farm on one of the most pristine tourist destinations is the right way to go.
This project has split the community. Neighbors don’t talk to one another, families have
developed rifts and at times it’s hard to know who to trust. All for 60 megawatts of power that will be going off Manitoulin Island into the big grid.
To be fair, some people will make money leasing their property to Northland Power, selling gravel, equipment, some may get jobs (how many once they are built is up for debate) and now First Nations have made a 50/50 deal with the power company. Each party will contribute 50% of the investment capital, and each will get 50% of the profits.
I can’t say I blame the First Nations; they are attempting to find jobs, revenue and to become a part of new energy technologies. And by partnering with First Nations, it will bring an additional 1.5 cents a kilowatt which will bring the total to 15 cents a kilowatt into the pockets of Northland.
According to the local press, Northland Power has altered its plan for the wind farm, removing or relocating 10 turbines in response to concerns from the community about the project’s impact.
Instead of 43 there will be 33, seven of the proposed 17 scheduled for Honora Bay have been removed and some have been pulled back from the bluff.
Rick Martin, senior project manager for Northland, is quoted as saying the company was not required by the Ministry of Natural Resources to move the turbines, “lots of people don’t think we listen, but we do. We’ve made significant changes.”
Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives (MCSEA) spokes person Raymond Beaudry questions this saying, “the 33, 1.8 megawatt turbines are a reflection of the 60 megawatt Ontario Power Authority contract they applied for to ensure the contract was received.” In other words, if Northland had asked for more they may not have gotten the contract in the first place. Don’t fool yourselves, once this project is finished there will be definite plans for expansion.
Currently, municipalities all over the province are asking the Liberal government to slow down on wind farms, but it seems like the only one they listened to was the Liberal held riding in Scarborough, where the proposed offshore wind farm has been stopped.
Energy Minister Brad Duguid says the effects of offshore turbines on health and the environment has not been studied enough to go ahead. Can anyone say election? I wonder how many votes the Liberals would have lost if the project off the Scarborough bluffs had gone ahead. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Duguid one of the Liberals who holds a part of said riding? (Scarborough Centre.)
Here on the Island, it’s a different story. Not as many people, not as many votes. Our own MPP, Mike Brown (Liberal), is quoted at a meeting last year in the Sault saying he wasn’t aware of any objections raised in the community with regards to wind projects. Where has he been? All you have to do is pick up the local paper and see the opposition and concerns by his constituents.
The Liberals and the power companies have been extremely good at labelling people who are asking questions about wind farms as “anti-green” or proponents of NIMBYism (not in my backyard). But I don’t think concerns about property values, health issues, affect on raptors, other birds and bats, how much land is destroyed to build the turbines, lines being built to take the 60 megawatts off island and wetlands to mention just some, are minor.
It’s so easy to call people anti-green when all they want is to be heard and their concerns addressed. But when you don’t have to worry about a 15-story turbine looming over your property or worry that a home or farm that they have invested their whole lives building up may be worthless, its makes it pretty easy to label someone, doesn’t it?
I’m not sure what angers me most, the fact that the one of the most beautiful spots in the world will be gone or the fact that the provincial Liberals have decided that the concerns of rural voters don’t count.
This project is not about being green — unless that green everyone keeps referring to is money.
Ruth Farquhar is a freelance writer based on Manitoulin Island.