DAMASCUS – It was a dark and stormy night, as industrial wind turbine activists were in the community.
Resident Barb Wagg offered concerns about the impact of wind turbines in Ontario, and more specifically a project under development in Wellington North.
Wagg said, “We thought if [turbines] were going to be in the area, landowners should hear both sides of the story.” She noted many landowners have already been contacted by company representatives.
“We felt the landowners needed to be well informed before making a decision to sign a contract.”
A promotion of the event asked, “Are you a landowner in Wellington North who is considering signing a contract with RES Canada to allow them to lease your land for wind turbines? You have heard all the financial benefits from RES Canada, but before you sign, come hear what expert speakers have to report on the risks and adverse effects industrial wind turbines will have on you and your neighbours.”
Of the 100 or so attending the night’s meeting, many appeared to be residents looking for answers.
But despite the meeting’s promotion as an information meeting, handouts in the lobby included:
– encouragement of residents to attend the “no” to turbines protest on Nov. 30 in Drayton (the flyer stated “Let’s say no to turbines to NextEra [Energy] and John Wilkinson in Drayton on the 30th”;
– promotion and request of financial support to organizations such as Wind Concern Ontario and the Wind Vigilance Society;
– sales of windconcernsontario.org signs to “Stop the Turbines”; and
– a request for financial support in a lawsuit against the Green Energy Act.
Though initiated locally, Lorrie Gillis, process administrator of Wind Voice, a self-reporting group on the effects of wind turbines, chaired the meeting.
Wagg explained the meeting was not held to oppose the turbines but to gather more information.
“This is intended as an information session for people who were thinking about signing a contract with a wind company – to give the other side of the story – so they know exactly what they are getting themselves into,” she said.
In her introduction of the speakers, Gillis explained there is a newly named group, WAIT – Wellington Against Industrial Turbines.
Gillis said the group put plans for this information in place prior to the erection of the wind turbines outside the village of Arthur.
“Interest in this topic has increased considerably since then,” she said.
Questions and answers
One of the most telling signs of those presenting, was an apparent impatience with viewpoints other than those directly opposed to wind turbines.
Some individuals commented that they had hoped to hear some positive suggestions. Others were looking for technical or hands-on information about how the proposal would directly affect them.
Another question was for specifics about the siting of the RES-Canada contract, which could result in up to 45 turbines within Wellington North. The company has signed some landowners and is apparently recruiting more.
The boundary is the Second Line between Concessions 14 and 16, up to Highway 89, and some areas between Concession 14 and Highway 6.
Gillis contended wind project areas include most of southern Ontario. “So, it’s not just here locally; it’s a problem across the province,” she said.
One individual questioned the distance at which turbines would cause disturbance.
Wind Vigilance Society member Carmen Krogh suggested that can range quite a bit depending when it was constructed, geography and denseness.
She said over water, noise could travel over 15 kilometres, but over land it could be up to two.
“But there are a whole host of issues. It’s a really complex subject,” Krogh said.
One audience member asked if the presenters had any positive advice to offer, suggesting the presentations made that night were all negative regarding wind turbines.
While the individual said he did not have a turbine, he commented that similar health related issues could be raised regarding other methods of producing electricity from coal-fired generation to nuclear.
“We all get pollution, we all get acid rain, we all get global warming” he said, adding with nuclear energy, the plutonium will be lethal for 1,000 years.
He added that hydroelectric energy floods beautiful valleys and washes up mercury that kills fish.
Krogh said the arguments were not for or against turbines. “This is about risk to health.”
The audience member contended similar meetings appeared only to be stirring up opposition to any turbines.Gillis responded the issue is the placement of turbines too close to rural families.
“There are too many red flags coming forward that this isn’t safe,” she said.
A voice from the back suggested that if everyone had their own small scale wind turbine, there wouldn’t be the need for the industrial size turbine. That person felt numerous small scale turbines would eliminate the need for the larger projects.
Another individual pointed out to the presenters that electricity was used for their projector and their presentations.That person was cut off as Gillis stated, “We’re here to talk about the adverse health effects showing up as a result of industrial wind turbines.
“I’m not an expert of electricity generation, but there must be better ways to generate electricity rather than making all of our rural families ill – or many of them.”
Another woman in the audience stated flat out, “This is an opposition to wind turbine meeting.”
As Gillis defended the presentation, the woman attempted to hold the microphone to make her point, but Gillis took it back before she could continue.
“If you want to complain about global warming or anything, we’re here to talk about what is happening to our rural families,” she said.
The woman responded that Ontario is known for having one of the highest rates of cancer due to acid rain.
“We don’t know what it’s due to,” Gillis said. “And it is pretty generalizing to attribute it to things out of the air.”
The woman contended “Before we knock something, we should be aware of these other things too.”
One of the practical suggestions from the meeting in the area was also perhaps one of the simplest.
If landowners do not want wind turbines on their properties, then they should not sign the contracts.
Further, if they do not want them in the area, then as a group they need to not sign turbine contracts for much larger areas.
Another man from south of Highway 9 said, “These projects only go ahead because landowners agree to sign the contracts.”
He noted there are three projects on the go on the other side of Highway 9 and that community is rallying against them.
“And it is the voice of the community which is what is making the problem go away,” he said.
Gillis contended some of those companies have been out there searching for locations for the past 10 years.
She said those who have signed up were misled about the virtues of industrial wind turbines. “The less people signing up, is better.”
Gillis said municipalities and the community need to be educated and she considered the Damascus meeting a good start.
For those wanting information for potential health effects, a number of websites were provided at the meeting:
– Wind Vigilance Society, www.windvigilance.com;
– Wind Concerns Ontario, www.windconcernsontario.org;
– National Wind Watch, www.nationalwindwatch.org; and
– Wind Action Website, www.windaction.org.
The following day, roughly 25 area landowners travelled with RES-Canada representatives and Milverton area residents to see the current projects underway by the company – presumably to hear the company’s standpoint on wind generation.
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