The company behind a wind farm project in Norwich Township has far to go before it could see 100-metre-tall turbines in the fields near Curries Road and Middletown Line.
That is something Bart Geleynse, Prowind Canada Inc.’s project manager for the Gunn’s Hill wind farm, wants to make clear.
A full-page ad petition from concerned area residents appeared in the July 12 Oxford- Review. It expressed anger that many residents were not informed earlier and expressed fear over potential health and agricultural concerns.
Sympathizers were asked to sign the petition so it could be forwarded to all levels of government.
These concerns, which Geleynse said were based on misinformation, will be addressed in a public meeting scheduled for Aug. 14 at the Quality Hotel and Suites in Woodstock.
“We’re looking at several projects in Oxford County this one is the furthest advanced, but it is still in preliminary stages,” he said.
Another wind project is slated for the 17th Line in East Zorra-Tavistock and the company is looking in Embro.
Geleynse said Prowind Canada chose the Norwich property because it appeared to have high winds and is close to a hydro grid. The company emerged out of an agricultural supply business and recognizes that agricultural land is ideal for wind power.
Its township-approved building permit is only for the met mast – a relatively thin metal tower that tests the area for wind power feasibility.
It will only be after an extensive environmental assessment with Ministry of the Environment standards, promising results from the feasibility study and council approval that the actual turbines will be installed, Geleynse said. This is likely two years away.
“There are health concerns floating around the Internet,” Geleynse said. “But they are misinformation.”
The main concerns raised have been health effects from the noise and movement. However, he added if there was truth to these concerns, people that lived near the ocean would be sick from its subsonic rhythm.
Currently, a 60-metre-tall met mast with eight small turbines sits in the middle of the Huinink family soybean crop. Prowind Canada leases the plot and the landowners would receive financial incentive for participation.
In its final incarnation, the property could see four to five 100-metre towers with 40-metre blades.
Nathan Huinink – who lives with his family on one of the property’s houses and his parents in the other house – said he is 110 per cent on board with the project. He met Geleynse through family, as one’s aunt married the other’s uncle.
“I’m a big fan of renewable energy, that’s the long and short of it,” he said.
Huinink said he has been getting the cold shoulder from some neighbours, but is optimistic opinions will change once everyone learns the correct information.
“It’s classic human psychology, anything new is a threat,” he said.
Both he and Geleynse said they were not surprised that people had questions, but were surprised at the petition.
Huinink who lives with his wife and two children with the third on the way said he is not at all concerned with adverse effects from the wind turbines. Rather, he is concerned about the effects of the world’s increasing dependence on depleting oil and other non-renewable energy sources.
“Why didn’t we do this 10 years ago?” Huinink asked, adding that Canada is 15 years behind Europe and five years behind the United States.
Geleynse said he thinks – with the right government policies – Ontario has the potential to turn that around and become a world leader in wind power.
It costs $10,000 to connect to the power grid, $50,000 alone for the met mast, and $25 million for the actual turbines. But in the end, Geleynse said it is still cheaper than nuclear energy which requires much more maintenance.
He also argues the turbines will be an economical boost to the area, as it will create jobs.Prowind Canada hires local contractors and studies show turbines can be tourist attractions.
The company will also donate approximately $12,000 to $15,000 to a local association each year, Geleynse said.
Calls to the phone number posted with the petition were not returned by deadline.
By Nicole O’Reilly
23 July 2008
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