This spring I attended the installation of a windmill in Jarvis – at the Walpole Antique Farm Equipment Association.
The tower is 100 years old, 40 feet high and part of our farming heritage. What is not part of our farming heritage is the plan for hundreds of industrial wind towers across our area. Far from 40 feet, these towers are 400 feet high at the tip of the blade -that’s two-thirds the height of the twin stacks at OPG Nanticoke.
My experience, talking to people who live in areas with wind turbines, is that you will either grow to hate them, or ignore them. People contacting my offices fall into two distinct categories; those in the business or holding a lease, and secondly, those with concerns about health, bird migration, or the visual impact. The former are in favour, the latter oppose – and often they are neighbours.
People in Toronto have made it clear that they do not want to look at wind towers – and, as a result of the Scarborough Bluffs lobby, Dalton McGuinty has proposed offshore setbacks for wind towers of 5 kilometres. The setback ensures turbines are placed some 4.5 kms further away than those on rural land. Coupled with the 550 metre setback from homes it ensures you will not see a second wind tower near Toronto.
Living near a wind tower is not advised by three local families who have approached me with health problems that prevent them, on occasion, from living in their homes. A Clear Creek delegation to Norfolk County council suggested that of 140 houses in the area 40 were for sale, vacant or abandoned – because of towers.
One given, for our future among wind towers in Haldimand and Norfolk, is it pits neighbour against neighbour. But you will not see rulings from county council, nor see any of the yellow roadside zoning signs because McGuinty’s Green Energy Act has neutered our municipal process – our local politicians are allowed no say on wind – while the environment assessment process for green energy has been so watered down it has been rendered toothless.
While the Green Energy Act all but guarantees approval for industrial wind power, it can’t completely silence those with questions or concerns. Across Ontario, 58 municipalities – including Norfolk County – have passed resolutions calling for a moratorium on construction pending further research.
During legislative debate this spring, I voiced concern on behalf of area residents: “That impact on my riding deserves input from municipal councillors. It was a mistake to take away those oversight powers. In one fell swoop legislation removed all rights from my constituents and their locally elected representatives.”
In the Legislature I also relayed concern about bird migration: “I am now hearing from duck hunters concerned about the flyways from the Prairies, Long Point across Lake Erie to the United States.” I’ve talked with local bird experts indicating the impact could be severe, and with Pennsylvania State representative John Hornaman, who is advocating towers out in Lake Erie.
For years I have spoken with people who want a windmill to get off the grid. Now, because of McGuinty subsidies, I find myself speaking with those who want a windmill to get on the grid.
We’re planning an Energy and our Environment symposium this fall. Contact me at toby. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Toby Barrett is MPP for the riding of Haldimand Norfolk.
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