AMHERSTBURG – The company proposing a wind farm for the former Malden Township held their first public open house Thursday night and saw people voice both support and opposition for the project as well as many others who just wanted to see what was being proposed.
Gengrowth’s open house saw a steady stream of people head into the Amherstburg Community Church where the company attempted to give their proposal – entitled the South Side Wind Power Project – to those in attendance. According to Gengrowth, the proposed project will have the potential to provide power to 2,500 homes. Turbines are roughly 80 metres high, they point out.
“What we’d really like to do is introduce the project to the public,” said Jeffrey Segal, vice president of development and construction with Gengrowth. “We tried very hard to provide the public with a lot of information about wind power, about the process about developing wind power in southern Ontario and we hope that the public will make informed decisions about the project.”
According to Segal, many people who came to Thursday’s open house “came to find out what the real story is. That’s what I’ve heard over and over again. They’ve heard so much negative, they wanted to come and get the facts.”
Segal said that historically, wind results have been positive in the area. He said Gengrowth is still checking wind results in the area as they have installed a meteorological tower which has provided them with two to three months of data to this point. He said a year’s worth of data is needed before they can see whether they can proceed with the project. Also, several studies are underway and they are engaging in the planning process.
“We hope it’s going to go forward. There’s a lot of investment risk here,” said Segal. “We’ve done our best to find a place where we think will have the right wind but until those results come in we don’t know.”
Segal said they have heard a lot of concerns that people are raising but the company believes they have to set the record straight.
“What has been disseminated into the community, we found a lot of it to be misinformation,” said Segal. “We’ve tried very hard to address each and every one of those concerns by providing the right science behind each of those concerns.”
Setbacks are important with respect to noise, noted Segal, but said technology has improved in recent years to the point “that for all intents and purposes, they’re really not noisy.”
“With respect to birds, the blades now spin much more slowly than they ever did and that again is a technological advance,” he added.
Segal said the South Side Wind Farm will likely feature five turbines or less. At present, they are only allowed 10 megawatts, he said.
“The capacity on the distribution line doesn’t exist for more than that at present. At least that’s what we’ve been told,” he added. “There’s a very high probability that in this area where we are there may not be any additional wind farms. It’s one thing to put up turbines but it’s another to get the power onto the grid.”
Bill and Maureen Anderson, who organized a meeting several weeks ago at the Malden Community & Cultural Centre, voiced several concerns with respect to the proposed wind farm. Maureen notes they are forming the Essex County Wind Action Group.
“We feel that this is a very bad place for a wind farm. It’s too close to Holiday Beach, it’s too close to homes,” she said. “What’s happening now in Europe is they’ve realized this is not good to be putting next to homes. The setbacks in Europe are about a mile. In both Holland and Denmark they’re about 1,800 metres to a mile. In Amherstburg right now it’s 600 metres.”
Maureen does not believe wind farms belong anywhere near schools either.
“The shadows from the flicker effect will be shining on right on the schools which has been known to cause epilepsy attacks and all sorts of things. Ontario hasn’t done the proper health studies on things like this.”
The Andersons live on Concession 7 South, near where the South Side Wind Farm is being proposed.
“A lot of people might call it NIMBY (Not In MY Back Yard) or whatever,” she said. “People who are faced with this are really the only ones who are motivated to go and really look into it. Most people are just kind of accepting the fact, it’s green, clean, don’t think anything more about it. There’s a lot more to this.”
Maureen Anderson said there is fierce opposition in the United Kingdom right now on this subject.
“This is not something that should be anywhere near people and it should be nowhere near sensitive wildlife areas like Holiday Beach and Big Creek,” she said.
Other problems like ice throw, fire problems, storage of oil and reducing the value of the community were other potential problems the Andersons mentioned.
“Who wants to live next door to six wind turbines that are the size of 40-storey skyscrapers in beautiful Malden?” Maureen asked. “Also, the more we’ve looked into this the claims of clean, green are misleading and exaggerated. If you look into the entire overall results and how it works into the grid and the instability of the grid and the necessity of having fossil fuel plants there working at all times just in case the wind turbines keep going down, the overall result is little or no CO2 reduction.”
Maureen believes it is more to do with “big industry money” than it is about the environment, adding they have nothing against the smaller turbines being used to power specific sites.
“Denmark is exporting much more wind energy that what they are using,” added Bill Anderson. “They’re exporting it simply because their grid can’t handle it. While they’re doing that, they’re importing electricity from gas and coal fire plants from other countries to maintain their grid. They may have a reduction in CO2 emissions in Denmark but they are actually increasing CO2 emissions in the countries they are importing electricity from. So, where is the net gain? There is none.”
Loris Collavino was another person who attended the open house and spoke highly of what he saw. Collavino, who owns roughly 400 acres of light industrial zoned land on former General Chemical property near River Canard, said he is looking at a wind proposal of his own.
“I think Gengrowth did a great job here. I think they’ve put the facts out on the table and made the whole situation more understandable with I think was very fair and unbiased information,” said Collavino. “I hope that it gets approved, it moves forward and we see our first project here in Amherstburg.”
Collavino said he is starting to work on his project and “I just hope all these projects are received well by the town. Once people are experiencing a wind farm, they’ll feel a lot more at ease seeing more parks like that go in.”
There are wetland areas near his site and feels it could be a tourist attraction to come to the wetlands and see the turbines in action.
By Ron Giofu
Amherstburg Echo staff
20 February 2007
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