The road to a cleaner, greener energy future is fraught with strife on Wolfe Island. The disruption and dust caused by the construction of 86 massive windmills has forced at least one couple to pack up and leave their island home of 17 years.
Dawn and Dean Wallace lived on the road travelled regularly all summer by the huge dump trucks and tractor-trailers carrying equipment and construction material to the west end of the island where most of the windmills will be located. Though the project is scheduled for completion this April, the couple couldn’t cope any longer.
“It’s a green project without a green process,” Dawn Wallace told the Whig-Standard.
Many islanders describe a community divided by the burgeoning wind farm.
There are the landowners who will benefit financially from providing land to Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. And there are those who won’t, though the township will receive an annual fee that will help with the island tax base.
There are west-end residents like the Wallaces who have had their lives disrupted. And there are those who live away from the epicentre of development, free from the upheaval.
There are the environmentalists who see the giant turbines providing clean energy to the provincial electrical grid long into the future. And there are those who are concerned about the windmills’ potential negative effects on migrating birds, bats, other wildlife and wetlands.
Canadian Hydro spokesman Geoff Carnegie said the company has done its best to respond to residents’ complaints, particularly in suppressing dust kicked up by the trucks.
But the Wallaces tell a tale of frustration, their concerns not being addressed to their satisfaction by the company, the township or the provincial environment ministry.
Clearly, the massive scale of the project guarantees there will be victims – whether it’s people living on the construction route or animals travelling migratory routes.
But as one islander noted, looking at the overall environmental picture, is it preferable to have a few hundred bats and birds die from windmills or thousands of humans from the pollution caused by dirty coal plants?
If wind farms are the way of the future, and are to be promoted by the provincial government, then the province is obliged to study and learn from the mistakes of the Wolfe Island project and the negative effects it has produced.
Trucks and heavy equipment rumbling by your door at 4 a. m. do not make for comfortable living. It certainly doesn’t complement the quiet, country lifestyle people are seeking when they move to places like Wolfe Island. Surely, there are ways to maintain basic standards of living.
Another island resident, Chris Brown, said that anyone who raised questions or concerns were “laughed down and dismissed.” In such instances, the township council and the company must be available to provide answers and solutions to reduce frictions.
Ironically, the farms, homes and businesses on Wolfe Island won’t even be powered by the very windmills that have caused all the disruption and carry the promise of a greener future.
This island community has paid the personal and social costs of providing a home for the windmills. It shouldn’t be repeated elsewhere.
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