“Stop the wind turbines.”
That was the main message adorning the many signs held by about 50 people as they protested outside Wainfleet Township hall Tuesday night in the freezing cold. Inside, the council chamber’s gallery was packed as residents who spoke urged township council to support a province-wide moratorium on the installation of wind turbines.
Two wind turbines are proposed to be built on land owned by the Loeffen family west of Station Road. The project is headed up by IPC Energy, who was represented by president John Andrews Tuesday night.
The main concerns were brought forth by Mike and Tara Pitt, the owners and operators of Skydive Burnaby in Wainfleet, who feared the installation of the turbines would create a safety issue with skydivers landing in the area.
Tara said the company is not against the development of green energy, but would like council to support a moratorium on the turbine constructions. Tara said aldermen can declare a conflict of interest because there is much at stake in Wainfleet.
“They are 400 feet tall and are directly west of our landing area,” Tara said. “Eighty per cent of the time when jumpers leave two to four kilometres west of the airport. They fly 400 to 500 feet above the moving blades. You’ll face the turbines as you approach them. If you get caught in the blades it could cause (divers) to turn away and have them land in undesirable positions.”
Tara noted Skydive Burnaby brings in thousands of tourists each year, and urged council to make a responsible decision to participate in a moratorium.
John Andrews, president of IPC Energy, said the Loeffen family take the concerns of safety very seriously. Andrews said he met with Mike Pitt twice to make him aware of the plans.
Andrews said there were two turbines planned on the east side of Station Road which is closer to Skydive Burnaby but because the Pitts were concerned with its location they were moved west of Station Road, north of Concession 1 and west of Sideroad 20.
“They are 1.7 kilometres west of Skydive Burnaby,” Andrews said. “Mr. Pitt has been on a campaign to stop the construction, even though they are not close to the drop zone. If we were in any violation of any Transport Canada guidelines, I’d imagine they would be all over us and we’d cease and desist.”
Andrews said IPC has investigated the proper drop zone clearance for Skydive Burnaby and there were no concerns.
“Wind is our business too. WE study it, take it seriously and understand it,” Andrews said. “I do not see this as an issue.”
Resident Andrew Watts spoke about the effectiveness of wind turbines. While he claimed he’s “not an engineer,” but “a retiree who cares about my future,” Watts said research he’s done unveiled that wind energy only holds three per cent of total energy production in the province and only one per cent of all energy from wind turbines goes back into the grid.
Andrews also urged council to invest in the moratorium.
During council discussion Ald. David Wyatt said there has always been concerns about wind energy industry coming to Wainfleet and how it could have negative impacts on existing businesses. While he’s all for development of Wainfleet as a tourism and recreational destination, green energy would not provide enough jobs or business for Wainfleet.
Safety is also a major concern, Wyatt said.
“If there is concern of one injury it’s enough to hold it off,” he said.
Ald. Richard Dykstra said there’s not much the township can do in decision making because of boundaries set forth by the Green Energy Act. Dykstra asked CAO Scott Luey what the township could do.
Luey said the township is a commenting agency, providing feedback to IPC through the provincial government. Luey said it’s IPC who sells hydro to the province and it’s the province who sets the approval for turbine construction.
“Our intention to gather public comments and have a separate meeting of our own,” said Luey. The meeting will take Feb. 23 , 7 p.m. at township hall.
“We can’t make any approvals but we can move forward with any information there is,” Luey said.
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