CanWest News Service
TORONTO – Growing opposition to wind farms in Ontario has led to the delay or cancellation of at least three electricity-generating projects in recent months, prompting the province’s energy minister to warn the not-in-my-back-yard phenomenon is a threat to the province’s energy security.
“It’s no longer NIMBY. For some people it’s NOPE, not on planet earth, it’s BANANA, build absolutely nothing anywhere,” Dwight Duncan told CanWest News Service.
“None of us wants to have the transmission lines or the wires or generation sources close to home. (But) people have got to start asking themselves some pretty serious questions about this.
“We need proper processes, proper environmental assessment processes and so on and they are in place. But at the end of the day, remember if we don’t get these things up and sited, we’re not going to have enough power. These (wind turbines) produce greener power, cleaner power and we all have to do our bit.”
Duncan’s warning comes at the end of a summer that has seen Ontario’s burgeoning wind-power industry suffer a number of setbacks at the hands of local opponents whose objections include everything from the noise produced by the turbines to their impact on bird populations, rural vistas, human health and property values.
Last week, Enbridge announced it was cancelling plans to install 11 wind turbines in the community of Saugeen Shores on the Lake Huron coast.
“We realized it would be highly unlikely that we would be able to meet the standards expected by Saugeen Shores,” said Debbie Boukydis, Enbridge’s manager of public affairs.
Wind companies typically rent sites for their turbines from rural landowners, who sign 20-year contracts for annual payments of between $3,000 and $5,000 per turbine. Enbridge originally proposed locating its turbines 50 metres from neighbours’ property lines and then in response to public concerns raised the distance to 121 metres. Saugeen Shores, however, is insisting upon a 250-metre setback, a restriction that makes it difficult to locate turbines on most properties.
Boukydis said Enbridge will proceed with plans to install 110 turbines in neighbouring Kincardine, Ont., but she acknowledged the project is already months behind schedule.
“We thought that we would be up and running by the end of 2006,” she said, noting the arrival of the turbines could be delayed by two more years if opponents succeed in their efforts to secure a full-scale environmental assessment.
Wind-farm developers must conduct an environmental screening process but if concerns persist, individuals can appeal to the Ministry of the Environment for a more comprehensive environmental assessment. To date, no Ontario wind farm has been required to meet the more rigorous standard.
In other recent developments:
– Brookfield Power abandoned a proposal to build a 49.5-megawatt, 30-turbine wind energy project in the scenic Blue Mountain area at the end of July, citing delays in obtaining the necessary permits.
– On July 17 Canadian Hydro Developers announced a 12-month delay in the startup of the second phase of its Melancthon Grey Wind Project near Shelburne, north of Orangeville, Ont. The company blamed a “longer-than-expected” approvals process and said the 88-turbine (132-megawatt) wind farm won’t go into service until June 2008. In August, representatives of the Six Nations laid claim to the land where the new turbines are expected to go as well as to the 45 existing turbines that comprise the first phase of the Melancthon project.
Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said opposition to wind farms is often the result of “misinformation or lack of information.” He noted four new wind farms will be generating power by the end of this year but conceded the trouble encountered by some projects “indicates the need for us as an industry to ensure that all the stakeholders have good, solid information about the industry.”
Hornung said it would be easier if Ontario established province-wide standards on issues such as setbacks so that such decisions are not left to the discretion of municipalities.
The Ontario government estimates that by 2008 the province will be the leading wind-generator in Canada, with turbines supplying nearly 1,300 megawatts, an 80-fold increase from 2003. Provincial authorities are counting on wind to supply a significant portion of the 15,700 megawatts of power the government expects to obtain from renewable sources by 2025.
With the Liberals promising to limit the number of new nuclear reactors in the province to just two, achieving the renewable energy target is vital to Ontario’s future energy security.
None of this matters to 64-year-old Ernest Marshall. He doesn’t have anything like the clout of America’s Kennedy clan, which has mounted a high-profile campaign against a proposed 130-turbine wind farm off Nantucket Sound where they have an estate. But he knows what he doesn’t like.
“You should come here today and hear the bugger squeal,” the retired industrial engineer says of the EPCOR wind turbine located about 300 metres from his rural property just outside Goderich, Ont. “I can see about 11 of them from my house and they all make noise though we were told there would be no problems at all.”
The first phase of EPCOR’s Kingsbridge Wind Power Project consists of 22 turbines with a generating capacity of 39.6 megawatts. Marshall would like to see them all dismantled.
“But that’s not going to happen. We’re going to have to move out. My wife is complaining she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since we came back from Florida at the end of March and it was running.”
In Saugeen Shores, William Palmer has applied the engineering skills he honed doing risk assessments for nuclear power plants to produce a report on wind turbines that was instrumental in convincing the local council to adopt the 250-metre setback. In addition to concluding the greater distances are required to ensure no one is injured if a blade flies off the 80-metre towers, he concluded the turbines are noisier than advertised.
“When you get more than one turbine together, noise from the two combines and you get a rumble,” Palmer added. “People describe it as an endless train.”
Tom Adams of the energy watchdog group Energy Probe says the dilemma for Ontario is the best wind sites also happen to be in the picturesque cottage country on the shores of the Great Lakes and the highlands around Orangeville.
“A lot of those people have gone to those places for the view and don’t want to be disturbed,” he said. “Industrial-scale wind-power development is new to Ontario. It represents a dramatic transformation of the landscape. So there are sharply divided opinions.”
The province’s energy minister, for instance, sides with environmentalist David Suzuki, who last year created a furor when he wrote that properly-sited wind turbines are beautiful and that a “blanket `not in my backyard approach’ (to wind-power projects) is hypocritical and counterproductive.”
“I’m like David Suzuki – I think he is absolutely right,” Duncan said. “They are beautiful (and) of all the power sources they are probably the least offensive from an environmental perspective.”
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