GRAND BEND – Those interested and concerned about the several large-scale wind turbine projects planned for the region packed the Grand Bend Public School gym last Thursday for an information meeting presented by the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group (MLWAG). Guest speakers presented information on the health concerns of humans living near wind turbines, the impact on the environment, real estate values and electrical pollution.
MLWAG is appealing the Zephyr Wind Development in the Watford area and member Muriel Allingham kicked off the meeting by noting that 422 industrial wind turbines are planned for Huron County, with 250 in Lambton Shores, including 48 in the Grand Bend area. She said the turbines are taller than a 50-storey building.
“These things are quite big monstrosities.”
Of the concerns some members of the public have about large wind farms is the potential of the harm the turbines will do to their health. On that note, the Michaud family of Thamesville spoke about how their health has been affected since turbines were erected near their hobby farm.
The family built their home in 2006, discovering in 2009 that turbines were planned for the area. Within two days of the new turbines going online, Lisa Michaud was in the emergency room with vertigo. She has experienced sleep deprivation from the constant sound of the turbines and has a constant ringing in her ears, along with pain.
She said the turbines have affected her day-to-day life and she was very sick for four months.
Eventually the whole family got sick.
Lisa’s son Josh said he and his dad Michel built the family home and they don’t want to move.
He said the turbines, which are 1.14 kilometres from the Michaud home, can be heard inside the house.
“They’re quite loud,” Josh said, adding the family can hear the “whoosh” sound of the blades turning, and they can “feel” it when they are lying in bed at night. Josh said he started suffering from vertigo a couple of months after the turbines went up and he had never had those problems before. He said his ears also bother him and he hears a ringing sound in his ears similar to the feeling one can have after leaving a loud rock concert.
Lisa said the family’s goats have also been acting strangely since the turbines have been online and the animals have not been thriving.
The family is suing Suncor and the Kent Breeze Wind Farm for $1.5 million.
Lisa said a number of homes in the area have been for sale for over a year and have not sold. She said when she and her family built their home they had dreams of having a bed and breakfast and hobby farm on the property.
Josh said the family starts to feel a bit better during days when the turbines are turned off.
“Other days, it’s awful,” he said.
Doug Pedlar of Re/Max Bluewater Realty spoke about the impact industrial wind turbines can have on property values. Pedlar described himself as a conservationist and said we live in a special part of the world and we need to appreciate that.
In compiling his information on land values, Pedlar consulted with realtors with experience selling property in areas where wind farms are found.
Pedlar cited a number of examples. He said one realtor told him that some buyers don’t care if there are wind turbines in the area, while others will avoid the area entirely.
A Simcoe realtor told Pedlar of a 25-acre parcel of vacant land that probably could have been turned into a hobby farm. The property had a view of Lake Erie, but there were also turbines near the property. The price of the property was initially listed at $149,000. After six months on the market and several reductions in the price, a verbal offer was eventually made for $65,000, less than half what the realtor thought the property was worth. He told Pedlar he felt the turbines directly affected the value of the land.
Another realtor told Pedlar that potential buyers won’t purchase land if there are any turbines in the area, while others “love them.”
Pedlar said a couple from Toronto was house shopping in the Zurich area and refused to buy any property if they were able to see the Zurich wind turbine from the property.
Pedlar cited Orangeville realtor Chris Luxemberger, who has presented a study, “Living with the Impact of Windmills.” In it, Luxemberger says he is not against wind energy, but says the placement of turbines is critical. In looking at land values and how they are affected by wind turbines, Luxemberger looked at properties within a three nautical mile radius of a turbine and those outside the radius.
Based on more than 600 properties that sold in the windmill areas over a period of three years, Luxemberger found the following:
• The days on the market more than doubled for properties inside the three-mile radius;
• The selling price for properties inside the radius was on average $48,000 less than those that sold outside the radius;
• The number of properties that didn’t sell within the radius was 11 per cent, while it was three per cent for properties outside the zone.
Among Luxemberger’s conclusions is that neighbours of wind turbines should be compensated to take into account the impact turbines have on property values.
Pedlar also spoke of a study out of Wisconsin that showed land values on properties near wind farms decrease.
Dr. Scott Petrie, an adjunct professor at the University of Western Ontario and executive director of the Long Point Waterfowl group, spoke of the importance of the Great Lakes to migratory birds and the possible impact turbines could have on birds.
Petrie said millions of birds come through the Great Lakes every year and we have an obligation to protect them.
He spoke of some myths surrounding Ontario’s electricity and the government’s push for wind turbines. Petrie said one of the “lies” is that Ontario needs to increase its electrical capacity. He said in fact the province’s electrical demand had decreased significantly in the last 10 years and there has been a huge decline in coal use.
He added there are concerns wind energy will be bad for the economy and that turbines will be left on the land when they are no longer being used. He agreed with Pedlar that property values do decrease in areas where there are wind farms.
Concerning the health effects on humans, Petrie said not everybody gets sick, but those who do get really sick.
Regarding wildlife, Petrie said there are fishing issues regarding habitat loss and fragmentation. He added he is very concerned about the monarch butterfly, as well as the impact the sound of the turbines will have on animals.
The mortality of bats is another concern, Petrie said, explaining that the turbine blades alter the air pressure and can affect bats. He’s also worried about tundra swans and Sandhill Cranes.
Petrie said there are only about 1,000 turbines in the province now, but in five or six years there could be 5,000 or 6,000. He said 720 turbines are proposed between Grand Bend and Southampton.
Petrie said guidelines set out by the province’s Green Energy Act and the Ministry of Natural Resources are inadequate. He added there will be lots of animal mortality if the moratorium on offshore wind turbines is lifted.
Ending his presentation, Petrie said Denmark has 20,000 turbines and the most expensive power in Europe. He added as a small country it is more efficient to run turbines in that country than it is in Canada. He said no coal plants have closed in Denmark and if wind turbines aren’t working there, they won’t work here.
Dave Colling of Ripley, a farmer and electrical engineer, assesses electrical pollution in homes, farms and businesses that are near wind turbines. Colling spoke of “stray voltage” and “dirty electricity.”
He said there are sound waves, infrasound and electromagnetic waves associated with turbines and even if people can’t hear the turbines, the waves can still affect the human body. He said he’s seen people experience dizziness, tinnitus, headaches, allergies and fatigue.
Colling spoke of a property he tested an area before turbines were erected and after. After they were erected there was lots of dirty electricity and stray voltage.
He said when power lines are buried in the ground the amount of dirty electricity improves.
Colling spoke of families living in the vicinity of wind turbines going “through hell,” experiencing sickness.
He said there are thousands of abandoned wind turbines in the U.S. and cautioned farmers not to sign a lease with any wind turbine company before having a corporate lawyer look at it.
He encouraged those in the audience to visit http://www.electricalpollution.com. Additional information can be found at windaction.wordpress.com and ontario-wind-resistance.org