BEDFORD – He was hooted and heckled and confronted with counter-arguments by an angry crowd of 300 Eastern Townshippers.
But the promoter of a controversial project to turn a dozen farmers’ fields near the Vermont border into a gigantic industrial wind park got his point across Thursday night.
The plan is good for the environment, good for the local economy, and won’t harm people’s health or property values or their views of the landscape, David Cliche tried to assure residents at a raucous information meeting in Bedford, 80 kilometres southeast of Montreal.
At issue is a plan by Cliche’s company, SM International Inc., to erect 31 towering, three-rotor wind turbines in local fields, hoping to generate two megawatts of electricity for Hydro-Quebec from each, for a total of 62 megawatts, starting in 2011 for export to the United States. The 62 megawatts would be enough power for about 12,500 typical homes.
Cliche’s is but one of many bids for wind-power projects in Quebec that the provincial utility solicited in 2005 and will begin examining after the Sept.18 deadline. The final cuts are to be announced in January.
The Quebec government would have final say, with approval expected in early 2009.
Hydro-Quebec wants to add 2,000 megawatts of “clean, green” wind-generated electricity to its grid, now almost exclusively generated by big hydroelectric dams in remote regions like James Bay.
But the wind-power projects aren’t being greeted with open arms, especially in picturesque villages like Bedford and neighbouring Pike River and Stanbridge Station, where residents fear the huge turbines will destroy their way of life.
Defending the project with local mayors who have been promised $368,000 a year from SM International to spend on their villages for the 25 years the turbines are to operate Cliche laid out the company’s case in a slide show projected at Bedford’s community centre.
Frequently interrupted by hecklers, he had answers none satisfactory for the crowd for all the major concerns:
Proximity to homes: No tower would be closer than 650 metres from a home, far enough not to be an eyesore, Cliche said.
Disruption from construction: Digging would start in May 2009 and last 16 months. Trucks would make 240 trips a day for the first five months, and 15,300 over the entire construction phase.
The tower’s concrete footprint: It will take concrete from 60 mixer trucks to build the foundations of each turbine tower .
Height of the towers: Each would be 139 metres tall, including the rotor. Cliche showed computer-generated images of what they would look like compared with landmarks around them, drawing derisive laughter from the audience, who said he’d got the scale totally wrong.
Noise: The sound of a turbine blade turning would be less than 40 decibels when measured at the outside wall of a person’s house, Cliche said. “It’ll means that when the wind blows, you’re not supposed to hear the turbines over the sound of the wind.”
Bird and bat migration: There are no endangered species in the area, and besides, U.S. studies show only about two birds a year are killed by wind turbines, Cliche said.
The “green” effect: Turbines don’t generate greenhouse gases, and the Bedford project will save 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from being spewed into the air from other sources like oil, Cliche said the equivalent of taking 28,000 cars a year off the road.
By Jeff Heinrich,
2 August 2007
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