A new group called Innisfil Windwatchers is launching a campaign to stop the construction of a wind turbine farm.
The group, made up of businesses and residents near the proposed site on the east side of Hwy. 400 at Concession 5, held a press conference at Avalon Orchards Tuesday morning.
Schneider Power Inc. wants to build five 80-metre tall turbines with 40-metre long propellers, which will generate electricity for the local hydro grid.
But the group not only disagrees with the location, it questions the viability and safety of wind power all together.
“People are going to think this group is just a bunch of NIMBYs, but the more I’ve looked into this, the more I think I wouldn’t want to have these near anyone,” Windwatchers member Jim Roberts said following the press conference.
Roberts doesn’t live near the proposed site. He became interested when the proponents first considered the Gilford area, where he operates an organic farm, as a possible location.
The group opposes a wind farm for several reasons saying:
• The wind farm would be too close to homes and businesses, including an airfield for the Toronto Parachute School;
• Noise and a flickering shadow effect created by the turbines can cause health issues;
• The large turbines will become a distraction for drivers on a stretch of Highway 400 that is already known for its collisions.
• The 200-acre wind farm will detract from Innisfil’s plans to create jobs in an area it hopes will become an industrial corridor.
Sarah Raetsen, an environmental planner for Schneider Power, said studies the company has sent to the Ministry of Environment show the site is a good location for a wind farm.
“We came to Innisfil because it’s a good area for wind,” she said.
But Windwatchers dispute that claim, saying Ministry of Natural Resources data show wind speed in the area as “marginal”.
Schneider is expected to present studies approved by the environment ministry during a public rezoning meeting in September.
The site must be rezoned by the town before the turbines can be built.
“We are out to do the best job we can,” Raetsen said. “And the Ministry of Environment is there to act in the public’s interests as well.”
But Windwatchers members say after researching wind farms, they are against building turbines at the proposed site.
Joe Chow of Cookstown Aerodrome on Sideroad 10 and Conc. 6 said the “massive” turbines would play havoc with small planes attempting to land at his airstrip.
“I’m totally against this project,” he said. “This doesn’t belong here.”
Chow, who operates a parachute school, said pilots would have to circle around the wind turbines, which would be about 2.8 kilometres from the airfield.
“The location of this wind farm couldn’t be worse for us,” he said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Windwatchers reproduced studies done in the United States that quoted residents who complained about health issues associated with living near turbines.
Some residents in a Wisconsin farming community complained of a low, methodical crushing noise keeping them awake at night. Others complained flickering of light through the propellers affected their balance.
Windwatchers also says the wind farm could detract from Innisfil’s long-term economic plans if it curtails plans for an industrial corridor along Highway 400 in the area.
Although it has yet to approved by the province, Innisfil’s official plan calls for an “employment zone” as well as a new Highway 400 interchange at Conc. 5.
“Tying up those 200 acres of prime real estate for the proposed 25 to 30 year lease would cut off a rich revenue base for all Innisfil residents,” Windwatchers member Mike Escheli said.
The wind farm would not produce long-term employment and would create far less tax base than traditional commercial or industrial businesses, Escheli added.
In an interview last year, Bernd Schneider said the Innisfil project is valued at about $25 million and about $15 million would be injected into the local economy.
While Windwatchers is opposing the local project, its members also questioning Ontario and Canada’s foray into wind energy, saying research shows it is not efficient and creates pollution through the manufacture and transport of the turbines.
“I don’t think the government has thought this out very well over the long term,” Gaye Trombley said. “There has to be more strategic thinking to see how economically viable this is.”
Wind energy has been used in Denmark for about 20 years and is used most in Germany.
Raetsen said her company, which has received government grants toward the project, “is answering the province’s call” for wind energy.
Meanwhile, the group acknowledges they are concerned about their property values.
“That’s a very real concern for these people,” Roberts said. “You work all your life, and much of your worth is wrapped up in your property.”
8 July 2008
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