Wellington Times: MPP Leona Dombrowsky already knew opposition was growing to industrial wind turbines in Prince Edward County. But as she gazed upon the packed, standing-room-only community centre in Picton last week, the scene likely reinforced how difficult wind energy will be to sell in this community— particularly to those who earn their livelihood from the natural beauty of the rural, island landscape.
Certainly since Wolfe Island has been transformed by 86 40-storey turbines, there has been a spike of concern in this community about the impact a similar alteration of the landscape might have on the health and prosperity of County residents.
It was against this backdrop of unease that Mayor Leo Finnegan initiated a special council meeting to hear concerns on all sides of the issue from residents in the community. But even before the meeting began there were concerns that it was all too little, too late. The province has removed the municipality’s ability to govern where, when of even if industrial wind turbines are to be placed in the County. The Green Energy Act passed earlier this year seized the municipality’s planning powers over wind energy, rendering local councils powerless as their communities are forever altered. The regulations, or the “teeth” of the bill, were released a week ago.
Finnegan said there were still levers Council could pull. “We have raised concerns about the Byran wind project,” said Finnegan before the large crowd. “We’ve asked for an escalation of the environmental review of the Byran project if those questions aren’t answered to our satisfaction.”
Clear and articulate voices spoke on all sides of the issue. Most in the room saw industrial wind turbines as a threat to the “quality of place” that has provided their livelihood and/or drawn them here. But others made the case that climate change and global warming represents a more ominous threat to the planet and that other electricity sources, such as coal and nuclear, pose greater risks to human health. Landowners said industrial wind turbines provide a revenue stream that would “help ensure the survival of the family farm”.
THE CASE AGAINST
Gary Mooney, an actuary, calculates that the County will suffer massive and permanent losses in property values, economic activity and in the municipal tax base. According to his numbers the County will lose $5.50 for every dollar it gains from wind energy through leaseholder payments and taxes.
He contends that there will be a net loss in jobs as few wind energy jobs will be filled by County people, and the corresponding decline in economic activity he predicts will follow the arrival of 40-storey steel towers looming over the landscape, driving employers away.
Carlyn Moulton, a gallery owner and curator, says the McGuinty government has refused to listen to the appeals the County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy (CCSAGE) has made and continues to make.
She says the provincial government through the GEA is insulating itself from public input and laying low regulations and public safeguards to expedite its goal of thousands of wind turbines spinning over Ontario.
“The Green Energy Act is Draconian and inept legislation,” said Moulton. “It gives the impression of green while robbing rural Ontario of basic rights.”
Henri Garand said worries that Skypower’s plan for nine turbines on Big Island will turn his pastoral view into a semiindustrial landscape—a scheme he says feeds on fear and ignorance. He lashed out at fellow landowners for impairing his enjoyment of his property in exchange for financial gain.
“I hope they (landowners) tell you how much they are earning from the industrial wind turbines,” said Garand. “It is like saying I can shoot my neighbour as long as I fire my gun on my own land.”
To councillors he issued this plea: “Please have the confidence and courage to speak for the electorate.”
Norah Rogers, physician and tourism business operator, says citizens have been left powerless as a result of the Green Energy Act.
“It disregards rural Ontario,” said Rogers. “It is a sellout to big business.”
Bob McMurtry, also a physician and policymaker with senior levels of government, urged the province to halt the development of more wind energy projects until the health impacts of wind energy are better understood and safeguards put in place. He suggests that current setbacks of 550 metres are not nearly enough to protect nearby residents and are among the lowest in the world.
“National regulations on wind energy don’t exist,” noted McMurtry. “Opportunities for research have been lost and sidestepped.
“Proceed with the cautionary principle,” urged McMurtry. “Prove safety. Why hasn’t the requisite research been done?”
One of the more moving moments in the marathon meeting came in the form of a video in which Barbara Ashbee described her experience with industrial wind turbines.
Initially she, like most people, was in favour of the idea of wind energy. Even when the plans for wind turbines emerged showing two large turbines near her home she remained generally positive. But as the turbines were being constructed, the sheer size of towers alarmed her. Then the noise started. Sometimes it was just a constant electrical buzz but other times she described sleepless nights in which her bedroom sounded as though it were a washing machine.
“The worst part is that I realize that as long as we live in this house I will never hear the natural breeze again,” said Ashbee in the video recorded earlier this year.
The Ashbees are now out of their home. The wind energy developer has purchased it and it sits empty. The Ashbee’s are no longer able to talk about their experience, prohibited by a non-disclosure agreement signed as part of their settlement with the developer.
John Harrison, a physicist, says noise regulations are woefully inadequate in Ontario—that this is the only jurisdiction in the world that permits allowable wind turbine noise to rise as the wind speed increases. Most jurisdictions set absolute limits on permissible noise and most are lower than Ontario’s, according to Harrison.
He concludes through his own research and peer-reviewed data that no wind turbine should be located within 1,400 metres of a residence.
Colette McLean, a fruit grower, travelled from Essex County to warn Prince Edward County landowners that the options and contracts they are signing with developers are stacked in the developers’ favour and there are many pitfalls and traps that could limit the landowners’ rights and opportunities.
She noted that option agreements limit what other developments or buildings a farmer may choose to put on that land. She said many contracts give the developer a first right of refusal on any future sale or disposal of the land.
“Roadways and access to the turbines go where the developer wants them,” noted McLean, “not where the farmer or landowner might want them.”
Jim Law, a commercial builder, pointed out that while Council while may not have a say over where and how many wind turbines will be located in their community, they will not sidestep their liability should a wind turbine installation fail or someone is hurt by a collapse or structural breakdown.
“What standards will the County set?” asked Law. “With whom will the site agreement be secured?”
He noted as well that Hydro One intends to increase rates by nine percent next year in part to pay for the province’s wind energy policy, according to Law.
“The County will become an industrial wasteland,” predicted Law.
Carmen Krogh, a retired pharmacist, travelled from Bancroft to advise residents of the County that she has established a victims’ group to support those suffering from sleep deprivation and other health effects related to the proximity of wind turbines.
Speaking in careful and measured tones, Krogh described her experience.
“I can’t be near them,” said Krogh. “I experience an array of symptoms.
Currently 98 victims have come forward to seek advice and counsel from Krogh and her group, Victims of Wind. She says many suffer silently fearing ridicule.
“This is serious,” said Krogh. “And these are serious issues. If wind turbines were a new drug being tested, it would have been off the market a long time ago.” Read the rest of the article here