GUELPH — A second proposed wind farm in part of Wellington County will be met with opposition next month.
Invenergy Canada is seeking approval to build 25-35 wind turbines on approximately 4,000 acres of land a few kilometres northwest of Belwood.
Half the proposed site is in the Township of Centre of Wellington in Wellington County. The other half of the land is in the Township of Garafraxa of Dufferin County.
NextEra Energy, a subsidiary of Florida Power and Light, wants to erect a dozen of the 80-metre-tall towers near Drayton in Mapleton Township on farmland off Highway 6.
Invenergy will host an open house March 9 at the Belwood Town Hall. The company will host another March 10 at the Marsville Community Hall. Both meetings run 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Laura Humphrey plans to attend the first — if not both. She lives directly across the road from the proposed site.
“Anywhere we have an opportunity to participate, we want to,” said the mother of two. “I’m really scared. As far as I can tell, there is no definitive science settled about whether these wind farms are safe to be near residences. So there are lots of concerns.”
Residents are concerned about potential health problems caused by noise, light pollution in the form of “light flicker” and vibration. Residents are also concerned the farm could disrupt wildlife, migratory bird patterns and environmentally sensitive wetlands. They’re also worried the farm could force property values to plummet.
The Province last year made changes to the Green Energy Act and last month Premier Dalton McGuinty made a $7 billion investment in the green energy sector. The focus of the investment is wind and solar electricity to be provided to more than 580,000 Ontario. It all makes it easier — and faster — to approve and build wind farms.
“These large-scale wind farms are being foisted on us by the Ontario government without public consultation thanks to the new Green Energy Act,” said Humphrey’s neighbour, Sonia Day.
The Province’s legislation supercedes municipal bylaws.
“At these two meetings — organized by Invenergy — residents are apparently not allowed to ask questions (but instead) just submit concerns in writing, on cards,” Day said. “In other words, the project is being treated as a fait accompli.”
Not so said James Murphy, Invenergy senior development manager.
“The purpose of the open house is to gather information and we look forward to hearing from individuals. We have to hear from them directly to know what their concerns are,” he said. “These are big undertakings and very complex. We need ensure we’re a good neighbour. And we have a good track record of being a good neighbour.”
Invenergy is currently building a wind farm outside Chatham.
“There may be concerns by folks but we can have reasonable dialogue with people,” Murphy said. “It’s important the concerns of the community are being heard but it has to be a reciprocal conversation. Part of my concern is the tone (of these meetings) hasn’t been a respectful one.”
Murphy doesn’t believe wind farms present potential health problems.
“The health concerns have been raised by the Ministry of Environment and reviewed thoroughly and it’s been concluded universally there are no concerns,” he said. “We’re following everything being requested by the Ministry of Environment. We’re following the rules set out by the Ministry.”
Humphrey said “that’s a fair point,” but that doesn’t make it right.
“I don’t think the rules are appropriate. I don’t think it’s responsible to say, ‘we’re just following the rules and that as long as we check the boxes it’s right for the community,’” Humphrey said.
Humphrey only learned of the proposal three weeks ago when she saw a public notice in the local newspaper. She immediately began researching wind turbines, the effects and their efficiency.
“It’s not even clear wind farms will have an actual impact on climate change,” Humphrey said. “I think we should all stop, take a breath, understand what all the impacts are and then figure out where to go from there.
“I just feel like it’s all happening really fast.”