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Paving paradise  

Next week, Canadian Hydro will sponsor two public hearings to discuss a plan to construct 86 windmills on Wolfe Island. The 200-megawatt project will feed Ontario’s electric grid, from towers located across the west end of Wolfe Island.

For the geographically challenged or those who don’t have much opportunity to visit the Cape Vincent area, Wolfe Island is across a narrow channel of the St. Lawrence River from Cape Vincent; the ferry runs from the southeast corner of the island to the Cape. The island is clearly visible from Cape Vincent to Tibbets Point, and most of the towers will be clearly visible as well.

I mention this because, with the wind farm or farms proposed for Cape Vincent and Clayton, if the Canadian Hydro project goes through, the St.Lawrence River valley and eastern Lake Ontario will almost overnight become the site of as many as 350 windmills.

There are fewer than 200 towers in the Maple Ridge project on Tug Hill, and that project dominates the horizon from Turin to past Copenhagen. Along the river, wind farms could dominate the horizon from Fishers Landing to, well, to well out into Lake Ontario.

I have a great deal of ambivalence about the prospects of turning the lake and river area into a giant wind farm. I do believe that green power is important – the renewable, natural nature of wind-generated power has to be superior to burning coal or natural gas or splitting atoms. And yet…the number of windmills it takes to produce enough power to make a wind farm economically viable means that no working wind farm can ever be inobtrusive. Despite what some of my Cape Vincent critics blindly maintain, the aesthetic enjoyment of an area with such breathtaking natural beauty as the Thousand Islands region has significant value and it should be protected.

It seems to me that the dual “economic development” goals of some people along the river are mutually exclusive; you cannot on the one hand push a massive wind farm as a major economic asset and also continue to pursue with abandon tourism dollars. Some – perhaps many – people will be put off by the sight of the towers relentlessly marching along the river to the extent that they will not find the natural beauty they came to enjoy. And they won’t come back. (And believe me, when the initial awe of wind towers wears off, they aren’t going to draw any tourists here.)

Sometimes, man acts with foresight and wisdom. Mostly, though, my experience is that foresight is in extremely short supply. As Joni Mitchell pointed out, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone?” It seems that folks along the river are hell bent on paving paradise and putting in a tower lot. They don’t seem willing to consider that once paradise is gone, it just never comes back.

posted by Kentsboss


23 March 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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