Opposition is growing to giant wind turbines as the novelty of being paid for wind wears off.
In St. Joseph, south of Winnipeg, a concerned citizens group is protesting a proposal by Bowark Energy Ltd. of Calgary to install 63 wind turbines across a 13-kilometre stretch of arable land.
In Elie, just west of Winnipeg, some residents are demanding a study on long-term costs of a wind turbine proposal by Sequoia Energy.
Applications for the next wave of wind turbines in Manitoba closed Tuesday. The province and Manitoba Hydro will approve three of about 30 proposals submitted.
Complaints about wind power systems include noise, loss of property value, and a perception that the turbines are eyesores junking up the uninterrupted prairie horizon people are used to.
The turbines are nearly as high as the Richardson Building, with giant propellers in front. In Germany, which has the world’s largest wind power industry, hundreds of rural groups have begun protesting what they have dubbed Verspargelung der Landschaft – fields of giant asparagus spears.
Todd Braun, who lives west of St. Joseph and runs a business that includes hosting open-air events, worries about the aesthetics of wind turbines, if approved. The turbines may be fine for farmers but “what happens to the people in the middle … all the neighbours put up with the machinery and noise and get nothing.”
Sleep disruption due to noise is one complaint of people living near wind turbines, say opponents.
“You can’t ignore the noise. The noise is constant, a kind of grinding sound (from the spinning propeller) all day and all night long,” said Maurice Bonin, a welder in St. Joseph.
On windy days, the wind turbines can sound like a jet flying over except the sound doesn’t leave. There is also a pulsing sound emitted by the machine.
Bonin said silence is one of the reasons people choose to live in the country. “The sound of silence, this will be gone forever,” he said.
The wind turbines are so high they must have lights on all night long to warn aircrafts. The propellers cause the lights to flicker, said Nathan Schmidt, also part of the anti-windmill movement near St. Joseph.
The 40-year agreements people in the area are being asked to sign also include a “confidentiality agreement.” The signee is required to keep mum “any and all information and knowledge relating to the Project, the Windpower Facilitiies, the Consideration, or Grantee’s operations, whether in written, oral, electronic, or any other form whatsoever.” The confidentiality agreement contains six sections and four subsections of legalese.
Braun and Bonin have refused to sign contracts with Bowark. They would not have received turbines but are asked to sign because they are in the path of the wind flow. The contract would have only paid them several hundred dollars in exchange for subjecting any future construction on their property to the company’s approval.
Farmers in the area could receive $3,500 per year per turbine on their land. The area in question covers 32 sections, or 32 square miles.
Citizens accuse local politicians of caving in to windmill companies to get extra tax revenues. In Elie, the local council wants to allow wind turbines within 200 metres of houses. In St. Joseph, the Rural Municipality of Montcalm has already established setbacks at 200 metres. Other areas are imposing much greater setback distances of a minimum of 1,000 metres.
By Bill Redekop
18 July 2007
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