In our riding, we have two burning issues: wind farms and a methane terminal. Politicians from all the other parties have been avoiding these issues for the last two years. For now I will deal only with the wind farm project.
Wind farm projects are being announced every month in Quebec and are growing like mushrooms, but the air is turbulent in the wind industry. The promoters tell us that wind farms will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (but reducing our consumption of meat will do more to reduce the GHG emissions).
Don’t be fooled, the money they are investing in wind energy has nothing to do with the environment. Promoters build wind farms because there is a lot of money to make. Firstly, it’s a tax shelter and a very efficient one. They also receive production bonuses from the government and special credits for reducing air pollution.
Wind farms may be built on private land but they affect the landscape, which is common property, so to speak. Opposition to wind farms has focussed mainly on this spoiling of the landscape. Most of the time, we judge things according to their potential return on investment and so, it is only normal that promoters and shareholders are at loss when one speaks of the “value” of a landscape. In Europe, citizens are complaining that miles of landscape have been destroyed by wind farms; many are even complaining about health hazards associated with them. In Europe, land values have fallen around wind farms, and tourism also. Let’s face it, a wind farm is like a forest of huge towers with intermittent headlights on top of them for airplanes; nobody can miss them!
Also construction needs a lot of cement; a sea of cement would give a better picture. Thousands of trucks, very heavy, very broad and very long, damage the roads, on top of polluting with diesel fumes, noise, vibrations, dust and traffic. House foundations will be affected, and the following spring roads will break up.
In 30 years, if the promoters have not declared bankruptcy to avoid paying for dismantling of wind towers, the foundations will be left to the grandchildren of the original owners. It would be better to force promoters to put money in trust to cover end-of-life dismantling; a form of asset fund for future generations.
If promoters and shareholders had their way, public enquiries would not be necessary. Industrial wind farms are not nice and green like the promoters want us to believe.
In our riding, they are telling us that there will be an economic windfall, but 75% of the expenses go for the turbine and Quebec does not produce any. Industrial wind farms create no permanent jobs because the turbines are monitored by a technician working far away in an office filled with computers.
Wind farm projects need planning. The huge towers will still be on our landscape when today’s decision-makers are dead. Municipalities need stronger regulations to exclude industrial wind farms from agricultural lands, migratory corridors and tourist areas. It is also necessary to group wind farms in areas far from urban areas, and substantial indemnity should be requires to repair damage to the road system.
To make a good decision today, one needs to think 30 years ahead. The opposition to the wind farm project in our riding is mainly because of its size. Large industrial wind farms are rapidly becoming anti-environmental because they are symbols, not of respect for the environment but of resources’ exploitation and industrial domination over our territory.
What we propose is a local development run on a cooperative basis, instead of the usual economic exploitation where millions talk louder than common sense. Municipalities have to become partners – or better, responsible investors for future generations – by forcing government power monopolies to include local participation. Large wind farms should not be built near populated areas, but in Canada’s & Quebec’s North on the edges of big hydroelectrical reservoirs. The Green Party of Quebec adopted this proposal for its electoral platform.
Municipalities are starting to take the first step in the wind farms issue. For more information, read this article from July 3rd 2007 (in French) : http://www.bas-saint-laurent.org/texte.asp?id=4860 and the links associated to it.
At the June 2006, public hearings for the office of environment of Quebec (BAPE) we made submissions that wind farms should be far away from cultivated lands, the river, migratory corridors and heavily populated areas. We wrote several articles for the newspapers. Eventually, the plan was postponed and even the tax shelter of 2006 was put back by another year. Our voice was heard; we are proud to say that we have contributed to changing attitudes towards wind farms in Quebec.
Skypower announced on the 5th of July that they have received all necessary permits from the government and that the construction of the first wind towers will begin in the next few weeks. To read the communication on the web, follow the link. (in french)
This article was written by Bernard Viau, editor of Green Canada Vert and secretary of the electoral district association (EDA) in the Quebec riding of Montmagny L’Islet Kamouraska Rivière-du-Loup, located in the lower Saint-Lawrence river area.
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