Port Huron, MI Times Herald, www.thetimesherald.com
An Ontario company’s quest to erect 715 wind turbines in the shallows of Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie has many people asking questions — and rightly so.
SouthPoint Wind announced plans last week for a 1,400-megawatt project that would dwarf other Canadian efforts to generate electricity from the wind. It would draw power from 165 turbines off the south shore of Lake St. Clair and 550 turbines near the north shore of Lake Erie.
We are talking about mammoth turbines, with blades rising 410 feet above the surface of the lakes. That’s nearly twice the height of the Blue Water Bridge and not quite five times taller than the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse. It is the equivalent of a 40-story building.
Last spring, Ontario lawmakers approved the Green Energy Act, part of an ambitious plan to make the province a world leader in generating power from renewable sources such as wind, water and sun.
That’s a laudable goal, but it cannot possibly succeed without public support. This particular project raises serious questions that could jeopardize that goodwill.
# How would these industrial wind farms affect property values? On Lake St. Clair, for instance, the turbines would be erected offshore from Belle River, Deerbrook and Lighthouse Cove at the mouth of the Thames River. Turbines would be visible from the Grosse Pointes and other communities where homebuyers pay top dollar for water views.
# What would be the effect on waterfowl and other migratory birds? Hundreds of turbines would stand in sight of Point Pelee, the southernmost point of the Canadian mainland and a funnel in one of North America’s busiest migration flyways.
# What are the potential costs to tourism, recreational boating and sports fishing? Will the wind farms and surrounding waters be placed off-limits to boaters and anglers?
# Will the safety of drinking water be jeopardized? Pilings for the massive turbines will disturb tons of sediment and could stir up long-buried toxins.
# Why wasn’t the public given proper notice? Elected officials in communities such as Amherstburg and Essex have expressed outrage at being surprised by a project of such size and scope.
“Why should we be the guinea pigs?” asked Rob Schmidt, the deputy mayor of Leamington, suggesting industrial wind farms might be tested in less developed and less environmentally sensitive regions.
SouthPoint Wind is owned by Leamington’s Liovas family, which is well known in the construction industry. Public hearings are planned, including one from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. March 27 at the Puce Sports and Leisure Centre on Old Tecumseh Road in Lakeshore, Ontario.
An hour won’t be long enough if the public is to be reassured about the merits and wisdom of this proposal.