He’s saddened to see that once happy community disrupted as wind farms pit neighbour against neighbour, some favouring them for the money they bring in, others opposed for reasons of health, noise and unsightliness.
“This kind of industrial development is ripping communities apart,” Schaut told hundred of people who filled the main hall of Centre Wellington District High School Thursday night.
If they allow Chicago’s Invenergy LLC to construct 25 to 35 wind turbines on 4,000 acres near Belwood, “I believe you will regret it,” he warned.
“Turbines,” Schaut stressed, “do not make good neighbours.”
Audience member Christopher Wilkins of Belwood wanted to know if they can be stopped through class action lawsuits against companies and farmers who allow turbines on their land.
Thursday’s meeting was organized by the community activist group Oppose Belwood Wind Farm, who see the Belwood proposal as premature.
Keynote speaker Carmen Krogh said such lawsuits typically focus on individual developers and “there’s such a variety of them.” Further, she said while such lawsuits are being considered by opponents to wind farms, there’s a general reluctance to go that route because, as Schaut alluded to, it could further divide communities.
Krogh, a retired pharmacist who sits on the Society for Wind Vigilance board of directors, said in these early days of wind farming, the world is only starting to recognize the potential health risks.
“The technology can create negative effects,” Krogh said, pointing to noise, shadow flicker and stress on surrounding residents. She rebuffed conclusions of wind farm associations in Canada and the U.S. that there are no significant health risks beyond some potential discomfort.
“We need a lot more research on this,” said Krogh, from Killaloe, Ont., adding there should be a provincial moratorium on wind farms in the meantime.
What’s known to date, she said, is turbines cause low-frequency noise, an “intermittent swooshing,” that’s particularly disturbing to people.
“It’s very disruptive. The body is not tolerating this type of noise very well.”
Krogh said Ontario and Japan are two jurisdictions about to study the effects of wind farms.
But she stressed issues go beyond health, to what she sees as an effort to discredit and silence critics of find farms.
“This particular emerging issue we may see more (of),” Krogh said.
She added a public inquiry may be called for if critics are indeed being muzzled by confidentiality agreements between developers and farmers accepting turbines on their lands.
Ripley, Ont. dairy farmer David Colling, who has a background in electrical engineering, told the audience there is increasing health concern about “dirty electricity” from the electromagnetic waves produced by turbines. Nearby residents, he said, develop “electrohypersensitivity” and eventually have to move away.
“This is like a peanut allergy — once you get it, you have it for life.”
Colling said that’s what happened to some of the former residents of Ripley, which has a wind farm nearby.
“(We need) to thoroughly evaluate the impact this could have on the community,” spokesperson Laura Humphrey of Belwood said in an interview. She feared the proposal for up to 35 turbines will grow over time to a much larger development.
The Shelburne site, she noted, started with 25 turbines and now has 133.
Further, there are proposals for other wind farms in the region, including sites in Arthur, Grand Valley and Mapleton north of Guelph.
And in addition to questions relating to people’s health, it’s still unclear what effects wind farms will have on wildlife and farm animals, Humphrey said.