Ward 2 council candidates for the upcoming municipal election have weighed in on Walmart’s proposed wind turbine, with every contender expressing concerns about the project.
The Post contacted Councillor Peter Thoem, Dave Bedini, Marianne Meed Ward and Shannon Gillies to get their reactions to the 80-foot-tall wind turbine being proposed on the property of the Fairview Street Walmart.
Walmart Canada told the paper last week that it hopes to have the wind turbine installed this fall. The 20-kilowatt turbine will supply energy to the store.
The company placed a public notification advertisement in the Post’s Wednesday, Sept. 22 edition, which seemed to be the first time residents and members of city council had heard of the project. Further details of the project were revealed in a story in last Friday’s Post.
Thoem, who initially did not have a comment on the issue when contacted last week as news of the project broke, said that upon review of the proposal, it is more about advertising that environmentalism.
“I think this proposal is more about being seen than energy generation,” he said. “I see it as Walmart’s way of getting around the city’s sign rules, which would never approve an 80-foot-high structure. I expect Walmart will plaster its name all over the tower. Under provincial legislation, energy conservation projects do not require city planning approval. The only requirement would be a routine building permit, which is only to ensure it meets construction codes – nothing more.”
Thoem said he would prefer to see solar panels installed as a possible green energy source rather than a wind turbine.
“The only good thing I see in this is that it will generate 20 kW of electricity; a trivial amount compared to the potential of rooftop solar panels on Walmart’s 130,000 sq. ft. roof,” he said. “Rooftop panels don’t attract much attention, whereas a wind turbine certainly does.”
Dave Bedini said he was surprised the project has progressed so far without public awareness.
“It seems that Walmart has taken an almost clandestine approach to this proposal, only making a public announcement because it was required by the ministry,” he said.
“The Post story also implies the contract has already been let out to a manufacturer. I have serious concerns about the entire process and project.”
Bedini said that he does not believe Walmart’s claims that there will be minimal impact on the surrounding area and that this type of project should not be installed in an urban setting.
“I applaud the green initiative, but the aesthetics of such a structure in an urban setting don’t make sense,” he said. “The science is still out on the negative effects of the noise generated in my opinion and I find it interesting that there has been no mention of the actual amount of electricity to be produced and the realistic expected benefit.”
Marianne Meed Ward said she supports green initiatives, but has concerns about Walmart’s wind turbine proposal.
“I’m generally supportive of efforts to use renewable energy, but each project has to be weighed on its own merits, and I’ve got several concerns about this project: it is in an urban area, where typically turbines are in rural areas,” she said. “(Another concern is) it is in an identified ‘low-wind’ area, according to Walmart’s own project documents; that raises questions about building such a huge structure that may not be operational a good part of the time. Turbines are most successful in high wind districts.”
She said several residents contacted her last week after word spread of the project. Like other candidates in the ward, she wants the public to be engaged and Walmart to address their concerns.
“The residents I have heard from are concerned about the scale and appropriateness of a wind turbine in an urban setting that is 80 feet high,” she said. “There’s also concern about whether residents will have a meaningful opportunity to have input into this project before any approvals are given by any level of government.”
Shannon Gillies said Walmart should release more information about the project and include public consultation as it progresses.
“My immediate response is that wind power is one of the cleanest energy sources available and that this is a welcome initiative by Walmart, but we obviously need to learn more about both the positive and negative effects this project could have on Burlington residents, and on our wildlife,” she said.
She said a disucssion with a concerned local resident brought some important issues to light.
“The local citizen who contacted me expressed concerns about negative health effects,” she said. “This was news to me, so I would like to learn more about what those might be. Flying blades from a malfunctioning turbine are certainly a big concern. I would also like to know more about how the wind turbine will affect the landscape of the area and about the risk it could pose to birds.”
The wind turbine proposal can be viewed at www.windpowermedia.com/burlington.
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