A proposed new wind farm is drawing concerns from local residents and businesses.
Yesterday, a citizens group called the Innisfil Wind Watchers met with members of the local media to express concerns over a proposed set of wind turbines that would be operated by Schneider Power. Town officials expect to host a public meeting on the turbines in September.
If approved, five 120-metre high turbines would be built on a 200-acre stretch of agricultural land between the 5th and 6th lines, near Highway 400. The total generation capacity of the site would be about 10 megawatts.
While not opposed to the energy-generating technology, the Wind Watchers have concerns about the close proximity to residential development and the 400 corridor. The opponents say the turbines would create a visual distraction for drivers, while also preventing necessary commercial and industrial development along the Innisfil Heights/400 area.
“There are concerns on the effect (turbines) may have on radio communication … they could impact television (and the) internet,” said wind farm neighbour Isabelle Wagner. “There’s a very strong misconception that wind turbines in Innisfil will make our hydro costs go down. It’s not electricity for Innisfil. Why put this in a location where it’s not good wind (according the the Ministry of Natural Resources), and it’s so close to a residential area?”
Others say the turbines could force their businesses to close. The nearby Skydive Toronto airfield would be impacted by wind currents, while organic apple producer Avalon Orchard would be affected as well. The orchard relies on insects and bats for the growth of the fruit, but both animals could be deterred by the turbines, said Avalon owner Gaye Trombley.
“People don’t realize what (120 m) looks like in magnitude, they’re huge,” she said. “We’re definitely green people, but we’re very concerned about the feasibility of the site selection. There’s not been enough research done on the health and safety impact of (wind farms). Who wants to parachute in an area where you’ve got wind turbines? For myself, wind turbines do effect the dryness and hydrology of the soil. It also creates chaotic wind patterns in the area. I depend almost solely on insects in this orchard to keep it organic.”
But Schneider representative Sarah Raetsen says the turbines would have several environmental benefits, by reducing reliance on coal and nuclear power.
Thus, the turbines would help meet the province’s energy needs, without the creation of smog emissions or greenhouse gasses, she said.
“The location of the wind farm is selected to have the least amount of impact on the landowner of the actual wind farm site, while also having little impact on the surrounding landowners,” she said. “The wind turbines are sited in accordance with the setback requirements of the Town of Innisfil, the County of Simcoe and the Ministry of the Environment. In addition, several other agencies, as well as members of the public have been able to provide comment on the siting of the wind turbines on the site.”
As part of the proposal, Schneider would also build an information centre on the site, to provide pamphlets on renewable energy, wind farms and energy conservation.
Raetsen says the company has attempted to work with nearby landowners throughout the process.
“We are continuing to work with local landowners on an on-going basis,” she said. “Throughout our environmental study, we held three public open houses, which is more than is required by the ministry.”
But Trombley says the site could be built elsewhere, in areas with typically higher wind generation.
“It just doesn’t make good business sense, from our perspective,” she said. “It is minimal level of wind in that area. This area has been identified as a low wind area. It’s minimal efficiency and generation of power, it’s poorly located and putting many of the residents at risk.”
Mayor Brian Jackson says town council and staff are aware of the Wind Watchers concerns.
“It’s appropriate we remain impartial until we get all the information so we can deal with it properly at the public meeting,” he said. “We will be reviewing the proposal. Council is aware of some of the concerns the public has, (but) we’re waiting to put all the facts together before council discusses it.”
If approved by the town, construction of the turbine foundation could begin next summer.
By Chris Simon
9 July 2008
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