A group against a proposed Neebing wind farm is gaining momentum, and is now asking citizens to sign a petition to help fight the Horizon Energy Inc. plan.
More than 200 people packed the large meeting room at the Nor’Wester Resort Hotel Tuesday evening. The crowd was led to the meeting by the newly formed group called the Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee.
“Our main goal was to try to learn what was happening and to get people to know what the ramifications of what is being proposed are,” said Irene Bond, member of the Escarpment Protection Committee. “We found very few people knew.”
Bond said the Protection Committee wants to approach city council to discuss the possibility of reconsidering a lease signing with Horizon Wind Inc. The group has sent a letter to the city clerk and hopes to hit council’s agenda as early as this coming Monday.
“We are concerned that the city is going to sign a lease that is hard to get out of,” Bond said. “We want to slow the process down so we can evaluate if this is what the community wants.”
At the meeting, residents heard from presentations that outlined issues presenters said residents would face if plans to erect 18 turbines for the Big Thunder Wind Park went ahead.
Dr. Margaret McGillivray told the crowd about numerous potential health risks that could be attributed to wind turbines. McGillivray admits that she isn’t an expert in the field of wind-energy in relation to personal health, and said she only began research on the issue about 10 days ago.
She said her research showed that there is evidence to support claims that noise from the turbines can lead to sleep disorders, chronic headaches and inner ear problems. She added that turbine flicker, which is a strobe-affect that occurs when a turbine blade crosses the sun’s path, can be especially annoying to nearby residence.
“Wind turbines need to be placed far away from people,” McGillivray concluded, adding that there is a need for more studies examining the potential health hazards of wind turbines.
The presenters that followed McGillivray warned about the potential harm the project could have on tourism and the environment – a destruction of forestland and an increased fatality rate of certain animal species.
Nhung Nguyen, the project co-ordinator with Horizon Wind Inc., spoke with Dougall Media reporters on the phone before the Protection Committee’s meeting. She said the company will be releasing a 400-page environmental study for the $75-million Neebing project.
That, she added, should mitigate some of the concerns critics are now raising.
“I don’t think they should have those concerns,” she said about fears of noise pollution and flicker. “The province of Ontario has put out very strict regulations regarding the development of wind farms. We are bound by those regulations and they are consistent with regulations that were done in other jurisdictions like Denmark, Germany, the UK or the United States.”
Nguyen said the strictness of Ontario’s regulations is equal to or greater than the jurisdictions she used as examples.
City council has also faced heat from wind-farm critics. Some have accused the councillors of signing deals with Horizon Wind during closed-to-the-public meetings.
Coun. Linda Rydholm, who was one of at least two councillors attending the Tuesday night meeting, said the city agreed in 2007 to allow Horizon to put together test sites on city property in the Nor’Wester mountain range with intent to lease if the wind tests were strong enough and appropriate.
Coun. Rydholm said council agreed because they were looking at green energy and a revenue stream for the city from a company. She added that the city also agreed because the sites being looked at were farther away from the Neebing ward.
The company has since chosen sites closer to the Neebing Ward and the Loch Lomand Ski Resort, Coun. Rydholm said.
“I don’t like the location,” she said. “It’s too close to where people live and by a school.”
The Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee will now work on its deputation to council. The group has no specific date set for its next public meeting.
By Scott Paradis