An executive with Renewable Energy Systems Canada is promising “early and sustained consultation” with the community as it looks into developing the first wind farm in Perth County.
Peter Clibbon, vice-president of Montreal-based RES, said it’s the same tack the company took with a 43-turbine installation currently nearing completion in Chatham-Kent near Ridgetown and another being developed near Thunder Bay.
“If this project – and it’s a big if – that we’re exploring in Perth takes off, if we decide this is something we really want to do, we would commit to the same level of consultation,” Clibbon said in a phone interview.
Clibbon said it’s still too early to say what scope the project would have in Perth.
A typical wind farm can take four to five years to complete, he said, citing RES’s Talbot Wind Farm near Ridgetown as an example. The 99-megawatt installation was started in 2005 and is just wrapping up construction.
But RES’s activity in the county has already spawned opposition from a citizens group, West and East Perth Against Turbines (WEPAT), which is hosting a public meeting in Stratford Dec. 16.
RES representatives canvassed door to door in West Perth and Perth East last summer looking for turbine site leases and the company put up a test tower on Line 44 just east of Bornholm to gather wind data in September.
The company also had an office in Monkton for several months in 2009 and in July of that year, held a meeting in Brodhagen to introduce itself to residents and outline plans for a wind farm between Lines 44 and 55.
“A developer can’t act in isolation. It has to engage with the community or it won’t get its provincial authorization under the Green Energy Act,” Clibbon said.
WEPAT’s main concerns are negative health effects on people and farm animals living near the turbines and their impact on farmland and property values.
“It’s important that we take these concerns seriously, because real or not, that’s what people think. It’s our duty to put people’s minds at ease,” Clibbon said.
Still, he maintained the turbines are safe. He cited Ontario chief medical officer Arlene King’s position that there are no material health impacts on people living near turbines.
“I firmly believe that the health impacts that we’ve heard from groups such as this are exaggerated or, I think, hypothetical,” Clibbon said.
“If this was a large phenomena of illness associated with wind farms, we would have seen epidemiological information pointing towards that,” he said.
While land values have been negatively affected by some “badly sited” wind farms, Clibbon said, “you can’t tar the whole industry with that.”
Stray voltage and its impact on livestock is a product of poorly grounded distribution lines, not turbines, Clibbon said. “As long as the lines are properly designed, properly installed – stray voltage is not an issue.”
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