(KAWARTHA LAKES) The wind turbine debate is heating up, following an announcement last Thursday (April 8), regarding three proposed wind projects in Pontypool and Bethany .
Area city councillor Dave Marsh, Ward 16, told This Week, that the overwhelming feedback he has received from his constituents regarding the projects has been negative.
“My constituency went so far as to go door-to-door … and they found that about 90 per cent of people were against it,” he said.
Among the main concerns raised by residents are health issues, property values, tourism revenue and a lack of transparency and involvement for local residents, he said.
Heather Stauble, one of the organizers of the Manvers Gone With the Wind group, which opposes the proposed wind project development, said some studies have shown that wind turbines have an adverse affect on humans and animals. Adverse effects include anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation and arrhythmia as well as low birth and mortality rates, she said. The health concerns come from infrasound that turbines give off, which is inaudible, but registers in your body, she said.
“In the house, you actually sense more than you would outside because the house actually acts like a receptor,” Ms Stauble said.
In fact, she said France has filed a court order to shut down turbines at night while a health study is conducted.
Ms Stauble is particularly worried about children living and going to school at one of the two schools in the area, because she said studies have shown negative effects on cognitive development from wind turbines.
Internationally, she said setbacks are set around the 1.5 – 3.5 km range, compared to the proposed setback distance of 550 m in Kawartha Lakes.
Ms Stauble’s group has requested, among other things, a full health study regarding the effects of wind turbines on those who live in their immediate vicinity.
Coun. Marsh took a more measured stance, saying, “The jury is still out on the health issues.”
However he did point out that about 45 municipalities have joined together through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to ask for a moratorium on such projects until all health concerns are addressed.
In terms of property values, Coun. Marsh explained that the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) has ruled that property assessments of land around wind turbine projects have been shown to decrease by about 50 per cent. In his experience as a real estate agent alone, he said he has lost three potential house sales so far, after the potential buyers were made aware of the proposed projects.
Environmental concerns have also been brought up, Ms Stauble said, not the least of which being protected land on the Oak Ridges Marine, which the Green Energy Act opens up to development, she said.
“There are setbacks as low as 30 metres on the Oak Ridges Marine,” she said.
Beyond the clear cutting of trees needed to bring in the turbines, she also worries about the effect on the water table.
In a March 15 letter to Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Brad Duguid, Bill Allen, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, warned against blemishing the natural sights of Ontario’s tourism areas, like Kawartha Lakes.
“We ask that due consideration be give to the potential negative impacts on tourism businesses when locating proposed wind farms. We strongly recommend establishing minimum distance guidelines for sighting of wind turbines near tourism destinations particularly for those areas that rely on maintaining an unblemished viewscape for visitors.”
Ms Stauble agreed that tourism is a cause for concern as well.
“This landscape will change from rolling hills to wind turbines that are at least 450 feet tall,” she said, adding that she has heard that turbine heights could soar to 720 feet.
In terms of tourism, Coun. Mash said the proposed projects will definitely take a hit on revenue collected from visitors.
“We have people who come to this area to see our hills and our landscape …this will desecrate our landscape,” he said.
At the end of the day, Ms Stauble said wind power is inefficient and sporadic. Coun. Marsh agreed, saying that because wind turbines do not have the capacity to store energy during peak times, established energy sources will still have to remain in place as a back-up during low wind times.
“The goal of shutting down coal [burning plants] has not worked in other countries,” Ms Stauble said, siting Germany, Spain and Denmark as examples.
She also said that power companies are offering landowners 13.5 cents per kilowatt, whereas homeowners pay more in the range of 4-5 cents per kilowatt.
“They [Ontario Power Authority] will be buying for more than we are paying for it now,” she said.
“Our rates will go up because of this, because they can’t sustain a loss like that.”
However, for cattle farmer Allan Cochrane, who has signed on to have three turbines on his Highway 7-A property in Manvers Twp., the project creates an opportunity to make a little extra money without much hassle, he said.
“They are only about 10 feet across, you don’t lose a lot of land.”
Mr. Cochrane was approached by Energy Farming Ontario Inc. about a year ago and signed a 21-year lease shortly thereafter, he said. He added that construction is expected to begin this summer.
Beyond the construction phase, when fences will be erected around the site, he said the space taken up will amount to three 10-foot poles in the ground where his cows go to pasture.
His belief is that because the turbines won’t be within a half mile of his house, ultimately their presence will not affect him much, except for the extra money going into his bank account. He is set to receive $500 per year until the turbines are up and running and has been promised an additional $8,000 per year, per turbine once they are functioning.
As for the vocal opponents of the proposed wind projects, Mr. Cochrane said he doesn’t think their opposition is about concerns as much as it is about jealousy.
“The only people who are dead set against it are people who don’t have enough room to put up the tower themselves,” he said.
Mr. Cochrane shrugged off noise concerns, saying, “I wouldn’t want one right on top of my house, but half a mile away won’t bother me much, they aren’t that loud.”
“I don’t think they would be any noisier than my fridge, if that,” he added later.
Beyond specific concerns, Coun. Marsh said his constituents are confused and do not feel remotely involved in the decision-making. The lack of clear and transparent information regarding proposed projects creates a lot of concern, he said.
“How can the government stand there and make announcements … and say we are going to approve these projects and not know where they are?” he wondered.
While Coun. Marsh said he is aware of the municipal and public consultation components of the Renewable Energy Approval process, he said he had little faith that concerns would be addressed in any real way, and expected dissenting viewpoints to be overruled. The process only allows for appeal based on technical merit, he said, adding that will not include the majority of concerns expressed by his constituents.
Coun. March pointed out that he has no issue with renewable energy projects when they are in appropriate places, but the proposed sites are not appropriate because they are too built up and will effect property values he said, and the process has not done enough to involve the municipality and local residents.
“The people should be a part of the process,” he said.
So far, Coun. Marsh said he has not been impressed with MPP Rick Johnson’s representation of his constituent’s concerns, adding he is no longer returning calls regarding this issue, and called for Mr. Johnson to come to a meeting he is planning to talk about his constituents’ concerns. The meeting time has not been made yet, as Coun. Marsh said he is waiting to have confirmation of Mr. Johnson’s attendance before locking it down.
“I’ll make my town hall meeting around his schedule,” Coun. Marsh said.