Residents of an eastern Ontario island community are divided over a wind power project that will earn revenues for their township, but that some fear will industrialize their rural landscape.
The Wolfe Island Wind Project off Kingston, Ont., will consist of 86 2.3-megawatt wind turbines and is scheduled to begin construction this fall, says the company that is to build, own and operate them.
Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. held open houses on Wolfe Island and Kingston last week about the project, which is intended to fulfil a contract with the Ontario Power Authority to supply enough renewable power for 75,000 homes.
‘I think over time the visual impact becomes less obtrusive very quickly.’– Canadian Hydro CEO John Keating
The turbines are expected to generate $2.4 million in annual royalties, property taxes and township fees for the island.
Opponent cites health concerns
But some island residents such as Chris Brown say that just because wind is considered a green power source doesn’t mean it won’t have a negative impact on those who live nearby. Brown said the government should spread the turbines out more across the province so fewer are concentrated on Wolfe Island.
“It’ll completely industrialize the island,” he told the CBC Thursday, adding that he also has concerns about the health effects from electromagnetic fields emitted by the power lines.
“There are issues with the amount of power and current that’s being carried, the proximity to schools.”
According to Health Canada, scientific evidence linking such electromagnetic fields to negative health effects such as increased rates of childhood cancer is very weak.
Dozens of Wolfe Island residents such as Mildred Walton have agreed to allow wind turbines on their property in exchange for royalties worth thousands per turbine.
Walton said most people opposed to the project are either newcomers or those who don’t even live on Wolfe Island.
“And I don’t know what business it is of theirs,” she said in an interview Thursday.
Canadian Hydro CEO John Keating said he suspects even opponents such as Brown will come to accept the wind turbines over time because they are a cleaner way to produce power.
“The impact of wind power is very, very low on our environment,” he said. “One of the major impacts could be said to be visual. I think over time the visual impact becomes less obtrusive very quickly.”
Brown’s partner Sara McDermott said the debate over the turbines has already had a negative impact on the tight-knit community.
“People aren’t waving at me anymore,” said McDermott, who moved to the island two years ago. “People come up to me and say ‘Oh, I’ve been cursing you.’
“It’s really disheartening to experience that.”
Monday, April 2, 2007
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