By Bill Hallatt, Sault Star
When Ontario’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure was looking for public input last fall on its Long-Term Energy Plan, its website heralded the coming of Ontario’s new energy landscape. Graphics featured a background image of endless fields of wind turbines as a vision of the future. Clearly, Ontario’s landscapes are about to change and those of Lake Superior’s Heritage Coast are no exception.
If you are familiar with the paintings of Canada’s Group of Seven artists, you will recognize many of the vistas along the coast of Lake Superior that can still be viewed as they were nearly a century ago. The work of the Group of Seven gave Canadians a vision of Canada and established a connection from our collective hearts to the land we share.
Now, the coastal highlands surrounding Lake Superior have been targeted for extensive wind turbine development. The proposed DP Energy Bow Lake project at Montreal River is an example and is one of the next projects on the drawing board.
These turbines will be larger and more powerful than the Prince Township turbines built four years ago near Sault Ste. Marie. At 99.5 meters, the towers alone are taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York and 50% taller when you add the rotor. Put them atop headlands rising 300 meters above the lake surface (more than the height of Toronto’s largest skyscraper) and there’s little doubt they will dominate the landscape.
The rotors have a diameter of 101 meters. When they spin at their full generating capacity at 16 rpm, the tip speed of the blades is 290 kilometres per hour. Given that birds are killed each year when they fly into stationary objects, such as the windows of skyscrapers, the outcome of hitting a moving turbine blade at any speed can’t be good. If you can visualize a disc-shaped vertical wall in the air, each single turbine represents a potentially lethal 1.98-acre-sized trap. Multiply that by 36 turbines and you have a vertical wall of more than 71 acres for this one project alone.
Local businesses need to ask how wind turbines will affect the tourist industry once our wilderness landscape becomes an energy landscape. No economic impact study has been done to determine the effect of turbines on the attractiveness of the area for vacationers and tourists, or for that matter, seasonal and permanent residents. No one knows if we will be trading the local tourist economy for a stake in the new green energy economy.
DP Energy will host an open house at the Water Tower Inn in the Sault on Thursday, April 28 from 5 to 8 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend to learn more and to provide feedback on the project.
The grassroots organization Save Ontario’s Algoma Region will also host a concurrent information session to highlight concerns and will include a visual presentation showing how the turbines will look in the landscape.
Bill Hallatt, Batchawana, Ont.