By Ruth Farquhar, Sudbury Star
I have always wondered why power companies refer to industrial wind turbines as wind “farms.” These are about the furthest things from farming as you can get. Words matter. I heard someone the other day refer to them as wind mills. Again, these are not wind mills like the nice ones set up in Holland, running a grist mill, or beside Heidi when she is wandering through the Alps. Calling them what they are, which is industrial turbines doesn’t make everyone feel warm and fuzzy, does it?
Currently, the 33 turbines proposed for MacLean’s Mountain just outside of Little Current is in a holding pattern. According to the Ministry of the Environment, Northland Power has submitted its application for Renewable Energy Alternatives, but there has been no decision made either way. If the application for the 60- megawatt project is approved and Northland builds the infrastructure it needs (a new transmission line over to Goat Island), it will open the floodgates for other companies who wish to set up shop on the island.
Right now in Ontario, there are a couple of things happening that could have huge impacts on wind turbine companies. According to an investigative report by CBC, there is an application from Edward and Gail Kenny of Wolfe Island to appeal their tax assessment. They have lived on Wolfe Island, near Kingston, for 48 years and were assessed at $357,000. They are arguing that 86 turbines that are around their home have driven down property values. The Municipal Property Assessment Corp. has offered twice to settle the case. Even though the settlement would end the costly legal battle, a requirement of the settlement would insist on making no reference to the turbines as a factor in offering the deal. The Kennys feel the public has a right to know what is happening so they are fighting this with no legal representation.
CBC also learned that many more rural residents living in and around turbines are also concerned that their property values are plummeting and they are unable to sell their homes. One study done by Brampton Realtor Chris Luxemburger examined real estate listings and sales figures for the Melancthon and Amaranth area in Dufferin county, which is home to 133 turbines in what is Ontario’s first and largest industrial turbine location. He found that on average, from 2007-2010, properties adjacent to turbines sold for between 20%-40% less than comparable properties out of sight of the turbines.
As well, a bank in the area of the turbines is not allowing lines of credit to be secured by houses situated near turbines. In a letter to one family the bank wrote, “we find your property to be a high risk and its future marketability may be jeopardized.”
What I find fascinating with the whole damn mess is how long the Dalton McGuinty government is going to pretend that there is nothing wrong with their green energy plan. As I said to friends in a mild argument last weekend, how can we expect people whose lives and properties may be affected by the turbines to lie down and take it? If you own a property that you have spent your whole life building up and either want to sell it or pass it on to children, the thought of losing all the value of your property would be extremely upsetting.
Most people live in an area because they love it and here we have the McGuinty government expecting rural people to take one for the team because he knows what’s best. The arrogance is appalling. How much longer are we going to hear that there is no impact on people’s health and property values? Documents obtained by Freedom of Information clearly showed that Ministry of Environment’s field officers warned their superiors about noise from turbines affecting those living beside them. This information was suppressed by officials. Really, can you blame people for not having faith when the government says there is no impact?
So here we are on the island, watching the two turbines go up on the bluff in M’Chigeeng and waiting to see what will happen on MacLean’s Mountain. It’s hard to fight the sense that we have no control over what is happening when we see what has gone on in other parts of the province.
I was hoping that with the loss of seats in areas where there is opposition to turbines McGuinty might wake up, but as letter writer Barbara Ashbee said in the local press last week, “McGuinty’s unbridled enthusiasm (for the act) is clouding his judgment as he ignores his citizens.”
No kidding. Unfortunately, he may ignore it long enough to have Manitoulin become Wolfe Island of the North.
Ruth Farquhar is a freelance writer based on Manitoulin Island.