By WES KELLER, Orangeville Citizen
Ontario Power Authority (OPA) last Thursday awarded four Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) onshore wind turbine contracts, and the Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) has joined in the intensifying fight against them.
The four projects are reported to have a combined installed (nameplate) capacity of 615 megawatts, a reported 230 MW of that at Smithville in the Niagara Region, which would make it the largest wind farm in Canada. The other three are at Pickerel, near Burks Falls, Simcoe and Stella, on Amherst Island, near Kingston.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is heralding the awards as good news for Ontario’s economy, but there’s a growing multipronged opposition to wind farms, no matter how large or small they may be.
“Wind energy’s growing contribution to Ontario’s electricity supply is making Ontario a leader in green energy production, and bringing much-needed jobs and economic opportunities to local communities,” said CanWEA president Robert Hornung.
“The wind energy industry is committed to working closely with municipal leaders and local residents, the Ontario government and the Ontario Power Authority to ensure wind energy developments in communities throughout Ontario are responsible and sustainable.”
But the Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) is describing wind energy projects as “a lot of hot air.”
“Evidence in the United Kingdom and elsewhere shows wind turbines are often unreliable during heat waves and cold snaps – when we need energy the most,” says the OLA as one of “10 reasons” why it believes industrial wind farms are not a good idea.
Although there has always been opposition as well as support for wind farms, it is difficult to know whether the opposition has intensified because of experience or because local government and the public feel left out of the development process for wind farms by virtue of the Green Energy Act (GEA).
CanWEA has said the GEA rules for consultation are a bare minimum. It has urged its members to go beyond the basic GEA requirements in dealing with the public and host municipal councils.
Locally, residents at or near the Mono-Amaranth Townline have expressed dissatisfaction with open houses held by the proponent of the proposed threeturbine, 6.9 MW Whittington installation in Amaranth, just north of 15 Sideroad, and there has been a groundswell of opposition to the proposal.
Also in Amaranth and Melancthon, Paulette Crawley is urging the township councils to petition the province to shut down the (now) TransAlta 200 MW Melancthon Wind Farm, still Canada’s largest. Melancthon Mayor Bill Hill promised to discuss the issue with ministry officials at a ROMA convention. It was an agenda item for today’s township council meeting.
Meantime, the approved 27 MW Plateau Wind Project in the north of Melancthon remains quietly on course for development. It would have nine 1.5 MW towers.
Not everyone opposes turbine development. CanWEA quotes Jim VandenHoek, former mayor of Frontenac Islands near Kingston, as saying the 199 MW Wolfe Island wind farm is “the best rural Ontario good news story that you will find. Annual income from the wind development has allowed this municipality to achieve sustainability and to reduce property taxes.”
Canada currently has 4,155 MW of installed wind energy capacity. Ontario is the provincial leader in installed wind energy capacity with 1,598 MW of wind energy development.
Under the provincial Long-Term Energy Plan, CanWEA estimates that wind energy will deliver a minimum: 800 people per year employed in construction of wind farms through 2018; 2,300 fulltime positions in operations and maintenance by 2018; a significant increase in the 900 fulltime manufacturing jobs that will already be in place to build major components by 2012.
As well, it points to the economic benefits to municipalities through taxation and other charges plus possible amenities payments and income to the farming community through land leases.
Opponents argue that all those things are coming at the costs of health, reduction in property values, and unwanted changes to the landscape.
The issue of widespread adverse health effects is being disputed, and a national U.S. study last year concluded that turbines have little or no effect on property values within a 10-mile (about 18 km) radius, according to a Jan. 11, 2011, article in Energy Business Daily (EBD).
“The Laboratory used eight-point hedonic statistical analysis to analyze home and property sales prices of 7500 real estate transactions entered into from 1996 through 2007 which involved the buying and selling of real estate within a 10 mile radius of an existing wind turbine array. One home was only 800 feet away from a wind turbine facility.
“The conclusion was that while it’s probable that there are some people who would never wish to have to look out on a wind turbine array, leading some small percentage of property values going down, there is no significant negative impact at all on the larger real estate value picture concerning situations where wind turbine arrays are within sight of a property.
“With ever-increasing community interest in the installation of wind turbine arrays, including in some coastal areas, in the United States, this kind of research is vitally important.
“Human beings need beauty as well as practicality which is why you don’t usually see well-off people living close to a factory, even though that factory is doing something very valuable in the practical sense,” concludes the EBD.
Locally, Roger Oliveira of Melancthon says he has spent 20 years building his dream home, and now he’s surrounded by turbines. In a complaint to the council, he says his home “sounds like an airport only worse.”
He says he has some more work to do on his house. Now, he says, he’ll have to finish the work and then “walk away from it for the sake of my health.”