By Lee Greenberg, Ottawa Citizen
Plans to dot Ontario’s countryside with wind turbines should be shelved, says the province’s largest agricultural organization. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is calling on the government to properly address a range of concerns, including the health effects of turbines, before it issues any more permits for development. “A lot of these issues haven’t been resolved,” says Mark Wales, president of the OFA. “It’s really dividing rural communities and that’s not healthy, that’s not good.” In a statement Friday, the OFA identifies numerous concerns with wind power, including its inefficiency, excessively high prices and inadequate rules on the distance of turbines to the nearest home. They’re also pushing the government to give power back to local municipalities.
The provincial Liberals took siting authority away from municipalities because of concerns over NIMBYISM (“Not In My Back Yard”).
“We elected not to give all 440-plus municipalities in the province of Ontario a veto,” says Energy Minister Chris Bentley. “Because the natural result of that would be that no projects would proceed.”
New wind turbines are massive steel structures that stand as tall as 146 metres – higher than most modern skyscrapers.
The OFA is not targeting solar power, or any other less intrusive form of green energy encouraged by Ontario through 2009 legislation.
Wales denies the new position is a knee-jerk reaction against wind.
“Our members are telling us we need to come out strongly,” he said. “The time is now to slow the process down and get it right. There’s so much divisiveness in the rural community, you can’t have a healthy discussion, you can’t find the right solutions.”
Provincial regulations state all turbines must be 550 metres away from the nearest home.
Wind opponents believe low-frequency noise from the turbines disturbs sleep and causes a range of other conditions, including anxiety, de-pression and even hypertension causing heart disease.
Bentley says the OFA helped the government come to that decision. He also says the health concerns “have been reviewed by Ontario’s medical officer of health, the federal health Canada officer (and) a number of tribunals.”
Bentley added that a current review of the legislation could result in more changes, including ways to ensure “greater local input.”
The OFA represents 37,000 farm families across the province. In a statement, the Canadian Wind Energy Association said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the OFA’s position.
“We will continue to provide fact-based answers to ensure Ontarians have the information they need to make informed choices as Ontario moves toward a cleaner, stronger and affordable energy system,” the lobby said in the statement.
The new OFA position comes just days after a couple in Stayner, Ontario, announced a lawsuit against a nearby farmer who leased some land to a wind company. John and Sylvia Wiggins say they have been unable to sell their $1.15 million 48-acre horse farm since the new project was announced.