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Against the wind: questioning wind farms treated as heresy by converted 

The province, the wind industry, residents of St. Leon, even David Suzuki have made Manitobans aware of the benefits of wind energy. We hear about all of the benefits. Without a doubt it is amazing.

That said: What’s up with the opposition in St. Joseph or in Elie? Why is the Greenwing wind project at Swan Like in abeyance? Why are folks up in arms in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Texas, Australia, Germany?

Some say opponents are uninformed, anti-green, against everything that is good for business, for people, for communities, for the country – in fact, good for the planet.

The industrial wind turbine has become a green icon. Saying you are “against wind” frequently leads to puzzled looks, disbelief or even anger.

Opposition by a group of St. Joseph- area residents to Bowarks’ St. Joseph wind project stems from the fact that wind farms have downside effects on landscape, health and property values.

In March 2006, a friend and I visited St. Leon and spoke with a resident with turbines on his land. “When it’s really windy they (turbines) sound just like a jet (overhead),” we were told.

This sound was not a concern to the resident. In fact, it was looked upon as being quite impressive. They do not make this sound all the time but they do make varying degrees of sound/noise most of the time.

Some might feel that the noise, shadow flicker and the general industrialization of the rural landscape is worth the price, but not all of us agree.

In France, the National Academy of Medicine has called for a moratorium on wind projects within 1.5 kilometres of any residence. The academy feels there is a risk for people exposed to the sounds generated by the turbines. The United Kingdom Noise Association recommends the same setback.

A number of health issues have already been raised and researchers have found a cluster of symptoms near industrial wind turbines: headaches, dizziness, nausea, exhaustion, anxiety, anger and irritability.

Only in France you say? Well, talk to Daniel d’Entemont in Nova Scotia or Ernest Marshall in Ontario. There are more and more ordinary citizens who complain they have been ignored or steamrolled by the wind industry and its supporters. Some have become so desperate they have abandoned their homes because of wind turbines. Should this be ignored? Are wind turbines good at any cost?

A wind project is not a tourist attraction, at least not for long. Consider that if the projects at Dominion City, Morris, St. Joseph and Rosenfeld all go ahead, the area will be so different as to be unrecognizable.

Property values, especially residential property values, will fall. People will move away. We don’t need to wonder why. Who would choose to live in a forest of giant steel towers with flashing lights at night, noise and shadow flicker – which is a bit like the lights rapidly going on and off.

In Denmark (where wind farms have been long established) the government is about to pass a bill to give compensation for loss of land value to people living near a new wind farm.

The total number of people that will be negatively affected by wind turbines is not huge but the impact on the few is real and considerable.

Our homes are more than the footprints of our dwellings. We see our surroundings as part of our homes. If the St. Joseph wind project goes ahead, our home and the homes of others will be irreversibly damaged.

Bowark reps encourage us by saying they, too, are concerned about negative effects. Verbally they say they will respect our property. The fact of the matter, however, is that it’s the long and detailed 40-year contract that will determine what can and cannot be done. Contracts are drawn up the way they are for a reason.

All industry has a need to grow. The simplest way to grow will be to increase production at existing facilities – meaning more turbines plugged into existing projects.

Wind companies have already planned for expansion by securing more land than they need for the projects as currently proposed. More turbines closer to the remaining homes? Not an encouraging thought for us.

Simple arithmetic indicates that if all 86 proposed projects are developed in line with the wind farm at St. Leon, about 1.7 million acres of mostly agricultural land will be required.

Let’s learn more. The St. Leon wind farm has its good points and is certainly a source of pride to the community, but it’s still an experiment and one in its early days – all of the results are not known.

Many St. Joseph residents will see little or no benefit if the Bowark project goes ahead. Myself, my wife and several others in this community stand to lose a great deal. Uncertainty about the longer term just adds to our concern.

Wind turbines will not be viewed as friendly giants forever. Google wind turbine and millions of items come up. Not all of it is positive.

We need to carefully consider the contracts and what they might mean to the future of southern Manitoba. How many projects might get built? Where are these 86 projects? How will agriculture be affected? If we find in 10 years that, oops, we made some mistakes, will there be any consideration or compensation? How many turbines could eventually go on a project – 60, 120, 240? More? Will there be any place in rural Manitoba that wind turbines won’t be permitted?

Consider carefully what it will be like to have giant turbines spinning in all directions around your home every day and night for the rest of your life.

Some can live with the noise, the loss of residential property value, with the shadow flicker and the loss of the night sky, etc. If you can, that’s fine. Remember, though, the negative effects of a wind project do not respect borders or property lines and what some can live with others cannot.

Todd Braun is an ex-farmer turned artist and stonemason. A lifetime resident of the St. Joseph area, he views wind turbines as questionable neighbours.

Aug 16 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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