Wind power has a lot of potential if planned and positioned in a responsible manner. But that potential is being wasted, demonized and tainted by the bullying, forceful and undemocratic nature of the Green Energy Act.
Point Clark’s wind debacle, plus the news of proposed off-shore wind development have drawn me to this conclusion and tipped the scales on what I consider fair and reasonable government. I find wind power as interesting as I find the policies forcing it into communities atrocious. It’s a great concept still in its infancy, which could do much more for small communities than it could by feeding the Ontario grid.
I thought of this while I was flying with a local pilot above Huron-Kinloss, where he pointed out many of the ‘archaeological’ test sites for International Power Inc.’s wind project, carved out of the agricultural lots.
Driving down Lakerange Road, I’ve never seen so many anti-wind power signs ever in the years I’ve covered the wind industry emerging in our area, from both the Enbridge to Ripley wind projects. They weren’t just sparsely placed as I’ve seen them in Bruce Township and on trips to Shelburne, they were side, by side, by side.
The lakeshore community of Point Clark does not want to see this project move forward, but instead of the company demonstrating why it should be allowed to build, or recommending where the best place would be, the decisions have already been made and the public’s opinion isn’t a factor in determining where the turbines are erected, at all.
This is why people were loud, angry and shouting at the ‘public meetings’ in Ripley and
Kincardine last week. When the impact of our democratic opinions are stripped from the very political representatives that are supposed to protect our public interests, the public that put those decision-makers in power gets upset, to say the least.
Looking down from the sky at the altitude of the top of the proposed 2.5 MW General Electric turbine, I could see how these machines will be encroaching on the entire community of Point Clark and the residential neighbourhoods in the Heritage Heights subdivision. Both are valuable residential areas and important tourism draws for both Kincardine and Huron-Kinloss. From the height of the turbines closest to the lake, the entire community, including part of downtown Kincardine, are in view. With the sparse, but consistent issues experienced by many neighbours of wind turbine projects surrounding sleep deprivation, heart palpitations and a series of other health issues, what will be done if these impacts are experienced across the entire community? Will Point Clark become the test site as to why turbines shouldn’t be placed anywhere a company can convince the government? Let’s hope we don’t get to that point.
New houses are still being built within a kilo-metre of these towering giants, which will be looking down upon these landowners who’ll have to deal with their metallic glare, without any benefit to the individuals who will be affected. Yes, the taxes collected from these projects will carry a significant amount of financial gain through taxes for the township overall, but the major benefits are soaked up by the property owners that have signed the leases with the turbine companies.
This is where the debate begins surrounding fairness, the right to use one’s property and the impact it may have on neighbouring residents, or the community at large.
Can anyone say they wouldn’t take the $15,000 to $25,000 a year being offered by the wind companies for each of these turbines? I’m sure those who don’t need the money could turn it down, but the majority who need that kind of guaranteed, cash for life income would sign in an instant. Who can blame them? We all want the ability to use our property as we see fit, but in the case of turbines and their ability to visually dominate the landscape, it should be the community that makes the decision for in the best interest of those who are the most affected.
Could this be avoided if neighbouring properties were also guaranteed some kind of income for dealing with the visual and possibly audible annoyance it causes them? For many, I think it could fly, but many more don’t want to be near them, don’t want to look at them and don’t want to lose the value of their property if they want to sell and move somewhere else.
Wind companies and the lobby group Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWea) reject that wind turbines have any ‘health impacts’ other than annoying people, or that they have an impact on property values based on an American study they like to wave around. It may fly in rural areas where agriculture or industry is their financial staple, but not in a tourism escape like Bruce County. There will be many people who will never get used to these things and will move to areas where they aren’t around. Some already have.
The wind companies will be directly blamed for these impacts, but their media spin doctors will continue to deny the negative and put a positive slant on the benefits versus the negatives, because that’s what they’re paid to do.
Suncor/Acciona was smart to keep their project east of Highway 21, which was why it saw pre-GEA approvals so quickly and cooperatively. It now has other issues, but that’s for another time. International Power Inc. should have learned from these lessons, rather than using the Green Energy Act as an excuse to set up shop wherever they can make the most money from the wind resources available, ignoring the common courtesy of working with the public and instead opted to work around it because they have a license to do so. For that fact, this company is stupid if it thinks it’s not going to fight what will likely be the biggest battle ever fought against wind power.
That is until all of the information on off-shore wind applications is released and it steals the spotlight of negativity, as I expect it will. What I saw over the weekend was startling.
The information I reviewed after it was presented to me was infuriating to say the least. How can an off-shore wind policy be developed for use off of our coastline and not include the opinions of a significant number of residents in the preliminary stages? How can it get through without openly presenting their findings to the media?
I think the answer is the government is sick of delaying progress and is getting far too good at using so-called ‘public reviews’ to slip through policies by asking on a fraction of agreeable ‘interested parties’. Our billion-dollar bureaucrats are hard at work against us in cases like this, when we have to chase them for the information they’re committed to presenting so “transparently.” It’s issues like this that make people lose faith in government, but have faith a new direction will lead us to salvation.
After seeing all the issues surrounding wind power evolve in Kincardine and Huron-Kinloss, I was naïve to think the province wouldn’t be stupid enough to introduce off-shore wind to a tourism-dependent region. Now I know the government is ignorant and power-hungry enough to believe the public will accept the use of Crown land by polluting the sunsets, shoreline and beach views with industrial wind turbines. “It’s in the eye of the beholder” they say, but I don’t I’m at all wrong in thinking the majority of the public would rather see clean sunsets, without the silhouette of wind turbines in the picture.
The Green Energy Act has made the provincial government blind to the fact that the people own the land, not its elected government or the companies that dangle money in front of them to make them jump. As residents, it’s up to us to show the government just how bad of an idea this is and building as close to the shoreline as they are
If we don’t act now, we won’t be able to do much when construction begins. That is when I fear people may take things into their own hands, out of desperation to save what they hold dear. It’s how governments were formed, or dismantled, when they didn’t listen to their electorate. But it’s not the way it has to be if the government bends a bit and stops its top-down dictating with the GEA.
The beach is all of ours to protect and not just another landscape for the corporate world to exploit. Let MPP Carol Mitchell know, because it’s her government that hasn’t been willing to listen, although she’s been willing to defend it.
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