Momentum is growing in a protest movement against the proliferation of wind farm projects in Prince Edward County.
The fledgling opposition group Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) is holding a public meeting at 10 a. m., Aug. 2 at Milford town hall specifically to discuss plans for wind turbine power generation plans in the county.
Janice Gibbins, who founded the organization with her husband Gord, said they hope to draw people to the event to show “there are two sides to the story,” and “turbines do not drop from heaven.”
“Turbines have a tremendous carbon footprint,” said Janice. “The manufacturing and the shipping of them is tremendous.”
Currently six different companies are moving forward with plans to build wind turbine projects in Prince Edward County or offshore from the county in Lake Ontario. Proponents of wind turbine projects hail them as a renewable energy source that makes the province less dependent on polluting coal power plants.
But the Gibbins believe wind turbines are not as environmentally-friendly as advertised. They believe the manufacturing and the installation of several hundred large turbines would offset any benefits they could bring to the environment.
Furthermore, Janice said, they would have a devastating effect on bird populations and wetlands.
She began researching the topic a few years ago when she found Canadian Hydro was planning a project on Royal Road, in South Maryburgh, near where she lives.
Prince Edward County council has since voted to alter zoning bylaws to allow the project to move ahead and the project is now being reviewed by the Ontario Municipal Board.
She believes the project – and others planned for the area – would violate legislation to protect migrating birds and species at risk – things that make the county a tourist attraction for nature lovers.
“There are rare and endangered species of birds, plants, mammals and reptiles there,” she said.
She also has concerns about what the construction process could do to the environment.
“Each turbine has massively-sized equipment and each turbine needs its own road
and construction site. At construction time you have a two-lane road going in and three acres of construction around each turbine. Unless they’re sited carefully away from wetlands and habitat, they do a tremendous amount of damage.”
Gord Gibbins met with Prince Edward County Mayor Leo Finnegan Monday to express some of these concerns. Following the meeting, Finnegan told The Intelligencer he and his council have yet to take a stance on proposed wind turbine projects in the county, as they’re still trying to find out facts about each project.
“I’m not against wind energy,” he said. “But I think it would need to be properly situated. I wouldn’t want to see the countryside all covered in turbines. It’s something that has to be thought out and regulated carefully.” Finnegan said he attended a meeting with a group concerned about wind turbine projects in the winter and plans to attend more meetings in the future.
Following the APPEC meeting Aug. 2, the municipality will host its own information session Aug. 20 at7 p. m. at the Picton Community Centre, he said. Experts from the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources are expected to be on hand.
The topic of how the various wind projects could affect the environment is also expected to be raised during an environmental advisory committee meeting at 1 p. m. Aug. 11 in council chambers.
Finnegan said these meetings will help his council decide if and how to proceed with any zoning changes it may be asked to approve as project developers move ahead with plans.
The Canadian Hydro project is the only one it has had to make a decision on at this point, he said.
Other projects by Gaia Power Inc., Gilead Power Corp., IPC Energy, Skypower Corp. and Trillium Power Wind Corporation are still in the early stages.
The municipality has yet to determine what economic impact the projects could have if they all go ahead, Finnegan said, adding some are planned on private land and others on crown property.
He said councillors are waiting for more details to come out so they can make an informed decision on a topic that has divided environmentalists.
“There are a lot of pros and cons,” to wind energy, he said. “It depends on who you talk to.”
By Stephen Petrick
25 July 2008
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