After gathering the scattered bits of information that are being circulated regarding the wind “parks” proposed for this area, I was appalled at the sheer size and scope of the proposed developments and what their accumulated impact will be. We now know of seven projects and have learned that approximately another 30 property owners are in negotiations.
Surely such developments would not be considered by our municipalities without first having a thorough and comprehensive study of the impact it would have here in our entire valley and across Renfrew County. I understand that wind energy is a “green” alternative to fossil fuel and nuclear energy, but I am also very concerned that we do not fully realize the risks and drawbacks that wind “parks” (as the wind power companies like to refer them as) can have. Here are some of my concerns:
1. Why has there been no environmental assessment on the impact to ground animals, trees, plants and natural vegetation that will occur not only once the structure is in place, but during and after the road and access construction? Science Daily (Sept 23/2007) reports that in order to assess the overall environmental impact of wind power the finite lifespan of wind turbines and the need to replace and recycle them must be taken into account. Clearly this is a large blind spot in assessing their overall impact.
2. Realistically, how will this benefit the citizens of this valley as a whole? We know that the wind companies claim that they will “revitalize struggling rural communities.” But, it is evident from their answers that a preferred list of construction companies will build and transport these towers, remote cameras will monitor the sites and only a certified inspection will take place afterwards. Some local labour may be hired during a few months of construction, but that is it. It’s imported labour from there on in.
3. Tourism and land values. I live and work in this area, raising horses and poultry on a farm in close proximity to one of the sites for wind generators. It is well known that animals have a hypersensitivity to noise. What will be the impact on domestic animals?
Wind turbines in this area will NOT attract tourists. Visitor centres at wind farms in Britain are already closing for lack of business. Surveys have shown that a quarter to a third of visitors would no longer come if wind turbines were installed – that’s a huge loss for an area that is so dependent on tourism come the summer months.
Land values: no impact. Except that if you put your home up for sale within visual range of the towers, you have basically cut your market in half. Prospective buyers might love your home, but they’ll walk away. You’ll eventually get a buyer, it’s just a question of whether or not you can find the house hunter who is willing to live with the view.
4. Safety: Ice build-up on the blades, nacelles and towers themselves pose a risk. Oil, hydraulic fluid, cooling and cleaning fluids all have the potential to leak and contaminate land and drinking water. Lightning can render a tower useless and possibly dangerous. And finally: fire. How do we fight a fire that towers above our forests, 120 metres high? We don’t. Most turbine fires are left to burn themselves out, generating toxic fumes and scattering flaming debris, starting secondary fires below.
5. Security. What have these wind companies given the municipalities, the province, the country as a guarantee that they’ll be around in 20 years when these towers come down? Have they put up a letter of credit, bonds, or any kind of surety so that we may rest assured that we, or our children, are not left paying the hefty price tag for the removal and recycling of these towers? Do we “trust them” as they have asked us to do or do we ask for something a little more substantial?
Clearly, the landowners and the companies themselves will be the only ones to benefit long term. All of our elected officials, municipal and provincial, need to look at all sides of this issue, and make an informed, educated and unbiased decision as to these proposed industrial developments within our valley.
Too often we are led to believe in this sparkling blue and white vision of wind “parks” in our countryside and rising out of our forests. The reality is, they are not parks. They are industrial and commercial developments. They do not belong in environmentally sensitive wilderness areas. As the UK Countryside Agency has said, “it makes no sense to tackle one environmental problem by instead creating another.” I couldn’t agree more.
18 June 2008
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