Commentary & Photo Essay by Eric Nixon, Hayter-Walden Publications
Three Turbines: The Bornish Wind Energy Centre, a project of Florida-based NextEra Energy, will see the construction of 45 industrial wind turbines in North Middlesex over the next several months. Eventually, Bornish will be joined with the company’s Adelaide and Jericho projects to create a network of about 175 turbines. Several other projects are also in the works by NextEra, Suncor Energy and other companies in Lambton and Middlesex Counties. Photos by Eric Nixon, Hayter-Walden Publications
Wide Shot Blade Assembly: The industrial wind turbines being erected by NextEra are GE Energy 1.6-100 models. The installed cost is estimated at between $3-4 million apiece. When operating, each turbine can generate 1.62MW of power. The blade assembly being installed on this 80-metre (260 foot) tower weighs more than 33 tonnes and each blade is almost 50 metres (160 feet) in length. It is estimated that 800 tonnes of concrete is used for the base of each turbine.
Kerwood & Elginfield: Kerwood Road was restricted to one lane for several days last week as crews from Blue-Con Inc. of London drilled a hole for the installation of a massive hydro tower at the corner of Elginfield Road. The augur (centre) uses a giant eight-foot bit to dig the holes where a huge steel rebar cage (seen below the augur) is buried to support the steel hydro towers, which reach heights of 56 feet and will be installed throughout the project area.
Close-Up Blade: A lone worker stands atop the “nacelle” as the blade assembly is installed on a Bornish wind turbine last Thursday. The nacelle houses the main components of the wind turbine generator and is the size of a bus, weighing over 50 tonnes. It’s also filled with lubricating oil, which is usually the source of most turbine fires. In some installations, nacelles include a helicopter landing pad.
Transformer Station: Construction continues on NextEra Energy’s Parkhill Customer Transformer Station on Nairn Road, between Cassidy Road and Bornish Drive. The station will take power from the company’s three large wind farm projects, transform it from 115kV to 500kV, and transmit it to Hydro One’s adjacent “Evergreen Switching Station,” which will be constructed on the same property. From there, it will be fed to the existing 500kV Hydro One lines (seen on right).
Turbine Truck Blocking Traffic: In addition to the current construction of 80 wind turbines in the Bornish and Adelaide projects and its associated traffic, Elginfield Road has also been cluttered recently with other wind turbine trucks proceeding east past Parkhill. Traffic has been blocked numerous times in both directions over the last few weeks as escorted trucks try to negotiate the corner where Elginfield Road travels north at the intersection of Nairn Road.
Stuck Truck: Semi-transport gravel trucks working on the Bornish and Adelaide Wind Energy Centre projects have been involved in numerous accidents and rollovers over the last several months. Adelaide Metcalfe resident Kelly Dortmans submitted this photo of a gravel truck in the ditch at Mullifarry Drive and Brown Road. The rear tires of the vehicle are located at the bus stop where Dortmans’ son was about to be dropped off from school. Dortmans tells The Gazette: “There is nowhere for my son to stand safely. We have abandoned the bus cubby, as it is unsafe for this very reason of poor driving. I don’t even want him walking on the road as these drivers are smoking, on their phones and speeding around the corners with tonsof heavy equipment.”
Ours was once a quiet, peaceful, near-idyllic rural community where neighbours relied on neighbours and the sound of an occasional truck driving down a back road would catch your attention momentarily as you waved to the people passing by. Generations of families grew up on the farm, banding together to form a community that they were proud to be part of and helped to strengthen through cooperation and collaboration.
Now, it is in the process of being transformed into an industrial zone, where a Florida-based company will pump out high-priced electricity through a series of wind turbine projects, while padding its billion-dollar bottom line. The first part of that industrialization is taking place right now in our own backyard as 45 enormous wind turbines are currently being erected in the Bornish Wind Energy Centre project, which covers a large swath of North Middlesex, along with the Adelaide project near Kerwood.
Hundreds of temporary workers from all over Ontario and the U.S. are involved in the construction, which utilizes large numbers of semi-transport dump trucks, cement mixers, augers, drills, and an assortment of other specialized equipment that’s almost unrecognizable to the average person. In this week’s edition, we take a look at some of the construction that’s taking place – and its consequent results – through a series of photos taken over the last few weeks.
Many residents are shocked at the transformation that’s taking place in our community, while others have discovered it’s pretty much what they expected all along. At the moment, there are serious concerns about safety, with plenty of massive vehicles travelling at high speeds down narrow country roads.
Construction workers who have spoken off the record to numerous residents say the projects’ bosses have fast-tracked the construction in hopes of having the wind centres operational sooner than their projected mid-summer start-up. There are rumours that dump truck operators are being pushed to the maximum and that it’s become hard to retain the drivers and get gravel to the sites on-time, resulting in numerous accidents and rollovers.
One resident said he’s always been worried about the impact the turbines would have once they were erected, but didn’t anticipate the dangers the community would face during the construction itself. The OPP have issued multiple warnings about slowing down, paying extra attention to traffic, and avoiding all area roads near the projects during the construction period.
They’ve also talked with construction supervisors, warning their crews to slow down, use extra caution, and respect the rights of people who live and work in this community. Still, with frequent road closures and blockages, unpredictable traffic, and drivers unfamiliar with local roads, it’s inevitable that more accidents are on the horizon.
And all of this construction is merely a prelude to what lies ahead. The life we knew pre-industrialization will never return. Instead, we are in the midst of watching our community transformed into what is popularly known as a “wind turbine ghetto.” Much like any ghetto, there will be poverty, this time caused by declining property values and an eroding tax base driven by ratepayers choosing to move elsewhere.
There will be increased health issues, affecting our area medical facilities, with many residents in close proximity to the turbines suffering headaches, tinnitus, sleeplessness, nausea and depression, just to scratch the surface.
Many livestock farmers will suffer from a decrease in production resulting from stray voltage. Birds and other wildlife will flee to other areas, creating an eerie calm in the countryside that will be broken up only by the incessant whooshing of the turbines. Family pets will become moody and ill; many will have to be given away or put down. And there will be dozens of other side effects experienced both in our rural areas and in our towns.
Finally, as if adding insult to injury, we will watch as our hydro bills skyrocket, the product of inflated Feed-In Tariff (FIT) contracts signed years ago when our provincial Liberal government decided to reach deep into our wallets and start taking our hard-earned cash for the next two decades, all in a misguided attempt to create Green Energy.
Last fall, the government also announced it will start paying wind turbine companies not to produce energy at times when it isn’t required, rather than being forced to sell off the surplus electricity to the U.S. and other provinces for a fraction of what it’s costing us to produce. It’s absurdity on top of absurdity – and it’s all coming out of our pockets.
Welcome to our new wind turbine ghetto, one which will only increase in size as NextEra and Calgary-based Suncor Energy begin adding several hundred more industrial wind turbines over the coming few years. If you think life here in the ghetto is insufferable now, you ain’t seen nothing yet