A number of St. Joseph residents are not impressed with the proposed wind project in the area.
BowArk Energy Ltd. plans to begin Phase 1 of the St. Joseph Wind Project next summer. When completed, there will be 43 wind turbines dotting 19,000 acres of countryside. They’ll be hard to miss, since they stand about 30 stories tall.
About 120 landowners in the R.M. of Montcalm have already signed land lease contracts, allowing the developers to use their land in exchange for a wind farm revenue or a flat fee.
Phase 2 will involve an additional 10,000 acres, with over 100 contracts already acquired. A third phase is already proposed, and in the end, BowArk hopes to have about 189 wind turbine units spanning the horizon in Southern Manitoba. This will exceed the number of turbines in the community of St. Leon, which only boasts 63 units.
Todd Braun is opposed to the project. The artist and stone mason lives on a five-acre property just outside of St. Joseph. He and his wife Lisa have spent the last 15 years developing the property as a preserve for nature, art and meditation.
He says when BowArk first presented the idea to the people of their area, there were very few misgivings, since wind energy has long been touted as environment-friendly. The financial aspects were also appealing, since BowArk was offering a one time bonus consideration of $195 per acre to lease the land – $31,200 per quarter section – as well as an annual royalty payment per turbine.
Landowners were told they could continue farming the land as usual. The turbines would not disrupt equipment or chemical application, and any crop loss because of the development would be compensated.
But after a bit of research, Braun says he found documented evidence on the harmful affects of wind energy. He says things like shadow flicker can occur when the blades of the turbine flash over the light of the sun, creating a strobe. affect He says noise is also a concern. The whirring of the blades can grow as loud as 65 decibels above ambient sound, which is similar to an average conversation taking place in your home 24 hours a day.
Braun adds that there have been cases where wind turbines have had a negative affect on people’s health. He’s been in communication with various individuals in Ontario, Nova Scotia and the U.S. who have been seriously impacted by wind energy projects, citing issues with noise, shadow flicker, loss of residential property value, and loss of quality of life.
Aesthetic factors are a big concern as well. Norman Schmidt, also a St. Joseph area artist, says he was initially intrigued by the idea of wind energy because he thought it would be a way to become less dependent on the grid.
But upon further investigation, he too became convinced that the giant structures would mar the beauty and tranquility of the landscape. “We do not want to see our beloved prairie destroyed for the sake of monetary gain,” Schmidt says. He proposes that the government encourage the use of small-scale wind turbines on farmsteads with tax incentives so that people could decrease dependency on the grid and free up energy for others. BowArk president Brad Sparkes maintains that most of the negative information floating around is based on projects that were established overseas in the early years of wind energy. He believes the technology has advanced over the years and has become less intrusive.
BowArk’s intention is to set up the turbines at least 550 meters from any home, 1.5 kms apart. This would work out to about two turbines per section of land.
Some landowners are excited about the project.
St. Joseph resident Marcel Fillion says he can’t wait to see the turbines turning in the wind in their area. He has committed four pieces of land to the project.
Braun and his neighbours aren’t so excited. They have raised issues with BowArk’s contract, particularly the clauses regarding sound level control, setback distances and future expansion. “What we plan to do is keep raising the questions and the issues. We have heard all the benefits. Raising questions on wind turbine placement next to homes puts us in a difficult position in the community, even posing the question exposes us to ridicule by some. Our home and our business will be changed by this project. Living with turbines is different than talking about them or stopping to visit them for an hour,” Braun says.
By Lori Penner
31 August 2007
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