Three experts in their respective fields are sharing warnings about the wind.
More than 700 area residents came out to the Regional Equine and Agriculture Centre of Huron (REACH) Thursday night, to hear the professionals speak on issues relating to wind-turbine projects slated for the region, at the behest of the Central Huron Against Turbines and Huron East Against Turbines’ groups.
The session, facilitated by outgoing Central Huron Deputy Reeve John Bezaire, drew residents of Huron, Bruce and Perth Counties, as well as a vast array of municipal politicians and candidates, including Huron County Warden Bert Dykstra, Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Reeve Ben Van Diepenbeek, Bluewater Mayor Bill Dowson and outgoing Huron East Mayor Joseph Seili. Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb also attended, while the absence of Huron-Bruce MPP Carol Mitchell, whose government’s Green Energy Act is the impetus for a wind-turbine development boom, was noted by several ratepayers.
Representatives of both CHAT and HEAT opened the presentations by noting the time to act is now.
CHAT’s Burkhard Metzger, who is seeking a seat for the West Ward of Central Huron Council, reports while the information session features speakers that are “unspun” and “non politicized,” it is important for ratepayers to understand the wind projects can only move forward if people fail to speak out.
Meanwhile, Gerry Ryan, of HEAT, credits his municipal council for its efforts in further investigating the issue with its attempt to get a Low Frequency Noise bylaw drafted, as well as through adopting an interim control bylaw, which prevented a wind company from putting up turbines with setbacks of only 350 metres before the province enacted its Green Energy Act, with a 550-metre setback standard.
Ryan says ratepayers need to know more than 350 turbines are planned for the area, including at sites near Clinton, Goderich, Holmesville and Grand Bend. There are also 12 applications for offshore wind farms.
“A year ago, wind turbines were probably the last thing on your mind,” he says. “There is a time to act, and that is now.”
First to take to the podium was Dr. Robert McMurtry, a former Dean of Medicine of the University of Western Ontario, who has been an outspoken proponent of an epidemiological study being conducted before large-scale industrial turbine projects are allowed to move forward.
Indeed, McMurtry, whose home County of Prince Edward is being developed for wind projects, says the Province of Ontario is not following the rule of its own “precautionary principle” of “do no harm” by allowing these projects to move forward.
McMurtry’s journey with wind farms began in January 2008, when he first heard of a project slated for his home territory. He decided to embark on some research after being told the turbine projects were positive because they provide ‘green’ energy and are income generators.
“I did some research and became concerned,” he says. “The concern led to alarm.”
McMurtry then found out about health problems wind farm area residents were having as a result of Low Frequency Noise. The claim could not be easily dismissed, notes McMurtry, because, “so many around the world have described it as a problem.”
McMurtry made a formal deputation to Prince Edward County Council about the adverse health affects associated with wind farms.
To McMurtry’s surprise, the Ontario Government denied the LFN claim, though his home county passed a resolution requesting the government undertake a health study before allowing wind developments.
In August 2009, McMurty made a presentation to a government standing committee on good governance with regard to the Green Energy Act, where LFN was highlighted as a concern. His report included statistics showing 53 Ontarians were already reporting adverse health affects from wind farms.
“I asked them to do the health studies again,” he says. “Once again, it was a matter of waiting, delay and denial.”
McMurtry says that, so far, the province’s only concession to health concerns is the appointment of a commissioner who has five years to review reports. The problem, say McMurtry, is the study should be conducted before large-scale wind projects are erected.
Ultimately, McMurtry joined a lawsuit since it seems to be the only measure that gets the government’s attention. This year, a Society of Wind Vigilance was also created, which counts engineers, acousticians, radiologists and doctors among its members. The group meets monthly via teleconference and discusses reports from various countries.
As for the popular belief the projects will move forward regardless of how many people oppose them, McMurtry says such is not the case.
“This is not inevitable that the turbines will go up,” he says. “The truth cannot be defeated.”
During a question-and-answer period, McMurtry agreed with one participant’s assertion the projects are going up in rural Ontario, because urban residents are supporting the Green Energy Act without understanding its long-term impacts.
“Make no mistake about it. This is a targeting of rural Ontario.”
McMurtry urged event participants to contact their MPP, and to protest the projects planned for the area.
“The turbines are coming down the highway now, and I really think we have to think in the terms of the now,” he says, noting waiting till the next provincial election, set for 2011, may be too late.
McMurtry adds he has personally spoken to many members of provincial parliament, including Premier Dalton McGuinty.
“I have spoken with the Premier É and they’re not listening. I’ve never encountered such behaviour before in my life.”
And, he adds, the province’s contention that wind projects will eliminate the need for coal is untrue.
“Wind turbines will not shut down coal. That whole story is a fraud,” he says, adding wind developments only operate 24 per cent of the time and, “when it produces energy, it’s not the right time of the day.”
Though she was not scheduled to speak, a Registered Nurse whose home is smack-dab in the middle of the Enbridge wind project near Kincardine, took to the microphone to urge people to fight windturbine developments.
Norma Schmidt says she was a long-time green energy supporter who even pondered putting a turbine on either end of her property when the project first came to the area.
“I’m surrounded by the Enbridge wind farm É and my life is an absolute living hell,” she says. “Do everything within your power to keep those turbines away from your home.”
Schmidt says while the ill heath affects came over time, she now finds herself in a position where she can’t sleep, suffers migraines and nausea, and feels constant pressure in her ears.
“These symptoms just didn’t come one day É I didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘I hate turbines.'”
Schmidt says she finds herself disappointed, disillusioned and fearful of what the future may bring since she does not want to sell the home where she raised her children and hopes to one day invite her grandchildren.
“Please don’t let them come into your neighbourhood because I don’t want you to get sick,” says Schmidt.
As for the politics of it, Schmidt says she is disappointed with both Premier Dalton McGuinty and MPP Carol Mitchell.
” I can’t even get an appointment with Carol Mitchell to talk to her. She won’t see me.”
Meanwhile, Tracey Lamont, a St. Columban area resident where a wind project is slated, says she took her legally blind son on a road trip to the Ripley area to see if he’d feel any impact.
She notes that as soon as they were within two kilometers of the turbines, her son began to complain of a loud noise “like an airplane was overhead.” The family again tried to visit another wind development with him, and the boy again complained of intolerable noise.
Lamont says her home is now on the market, as the family feels it has little choice but to relocate before the wind project is developed.
The night’s second speaker, Ian Hanna, is the Prince Edward County farmer who launched a lawsuit against the provincial government for not using the precautionary measure principle of health safety. That judicial review is set to be heard in January 2011.
“My name is Ian Hanna, and I am a N(ot) I(n) M(y) B(ack) Y(ard). I’m a NIMBY and I’m proud of it.”
Hanna says he proudly adopted the label after provincial representatives began lobbing it at him when he spoke out against plans for a wind-turbine project in his home county.
“The best they could do was shout, ‘NIMBY!'” he says, noting both he and several other concerned residents knocked on every door on Big Island, when word spread that a 15 to 20 turbines were slated for it.
Hanna notes though his county council was listening to residents, the province was not, and, ultimately, the decision was made to launch a lawsuit.
“This government dismissed our fears. Every time we raise the red flag, they turned to coal,” says Hanna. “This government will not close a coal plant as a result of turbines. It certainly cannot happen.”
Hanna adds it is ironic the province continues to point to Germany as a success story in terms of wind development, when that country has yet to close a coal generator.
And, says Hanna, it should seem obvious to the province that it should do the research first.
“The onus is on the developer to prove harm will not result,” he says.
Hanna is pleased the courts are taking the matter seriously, and that a hearing date is set for January 2011. He adds that the group has had several small victories so far, including being able to keep McMurtry as an expert, though the named wind company sought to have his testimony struck as it questioned his credentials. McMurtry’s credentials include being a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon, the first visiting chairman at Health Canada, a member of Romanow Commission on the future of health care, a professor emeritus at UWO, and a 2003 Award of Excellence for his work in the healthcare field.
If the suit is successful, says Hanna, the industrial project set for his county will be halted, and other projects in Ontario will likely face delays.
“Nothing less is our goal,” he said, to a standing ovation.
The night’s last speaker, engineer Bill Palmer, says the Ontario Government’s focus on wind is difficult to understand given the greatest energy wasters are related to shipping and transportation.
Indeed, says Palmer, electrical power generation is a very small piece of the energy pie.
“Wind produces at 80 per cent of capacity less than 3 per cent of the time,” says Palmer, noting 40 per cent of the time wind is not producing in the daytime, when the most amount of power is required.
“Statistics show peak demands are not met by wind,” he says. “That’s not a good match.”
Further, Palmer questions the investment in wind when a premium is being paid for an electricity generator that doesn’t produce power when it’s most needed.
“A premium price is being paid for something that’s only available some of the time,” he says, adding a premium is usually paid for something that meets the customer’s demand, not the other way around.
Palmer also notes there are public safety risks related to turbines, including reports of blade breakages as a result of storms.
Ice throw is also a concern, he says, noting the Port Elgin area project has road signs warning of ice throw for turbines and advising people to stay back 300 metres, when the turbines themselves are only 60 metres from the road.
And Palmer says the Counties of Bruce, Grey, Simcoe and Huron will be littered with turbines in ordered to replace the power created by one generator.
Palmer’s presentation wrapped up with a slide show of wind projects throughout Europe, all of which were placed in industrial areas and not near residences.
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