“How do I know my kids won’t get sick?”
That was the first question from the floor at a wind energy information night in Smithville on Tuesday.
And while the panel of experts assured attendees that health studies definitively proved the safety of turbine installations, this answer was not enough for many in attendance. About 200 people attended the event at South Lincoln Secondary School. The night was organized by Vineland Power Generation and IPC Energy to address concerns about a planned wind turbine installation in West Lincoln this year. Six experts from a range of government and industry groups delivered presentations on the economic and environmental benefits of wind power. Many in attendance were members or supporters of the West Lincoln Wind Action Group, WLWAG, which had organized a protest in advance of the evening.
Valerie Kuhns of the Niagara Economic Development Corporation stressed the local economic benefits of wind power. She said future wind projects were inevitable, as both the federal and provincial governments are committed to expanding wind power’s role as part of the overall generation infrastructure. The federal government hopes wind power will be responsible for 20 per cent of power generation across Canada by 2025. According to Kuhns, Niagara is well-poised to take advantage of this with local manufacturing.
Panelists George Canning and John Simmons, who are both appraisers and real estate consultants, spoke to the crowd about the effect of wind turbine location on property values. Simmons described an extensive review of housing in Chatham-Kent he and Canning conducted. Simmons ended his presentation after being met with jeers when he suggested that hedgerows or vegetation could block the sight of a turbine. Canning said it was not possible to tie decreasing property values to wind turbine construction, because too many factors are in play. Canning specified that this information could not be generalized province wide. He noted property values near any industrial site can rise, if there is demand for housing in the area.
Farrah Khan of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), whose parents live in Smithville, spoke about the health effects of wind turbines. She said repeated studies over the last 40 years have established beyond a doubt that turbines are safe.
“We find that when sited correctly, health experts in Canada and around the world agree that wind turbines are safer for the environment and for our health than conventional sources of power like coal and nuclear power,” she said. Khan said anti-wind groups claim about 100 people in Ontario have been made ill by the turbines, out of a very large population who live near turbine sites. She said the symptoms described by most were indistinguishable from side-effects of stress.
Following Farrah’s presentation, the floor was opened to a sometimes combative question and answer period. West Lincoln resident Michael Blanchard was first to the microphone, and expressed a sentiment that seemed to be on the minds of many.
“How do I know my kids won’t get sick?” asked Blanchard. Khan responded that 40 years of health studies had not indicated any casual link between wind turbines and negative health effects. Blanchard refused to accept this answer.
“It’s great that your scientific studies show that doesn’t happen, but bottom line there’s people getting sick. Are they a fraud, are they out for fun?” Blanchard said.
Neil Switzer, chairman of WLWAG, asked the panel if they would support a clause to protect property values as part of the provincial wind turbine approval process. Switzer said similar clauses were in place for landfill sites. Canning replied that he had not considered such a clause and could not answer immediately.
“Oh c’mon. Your credibility just went down the drain,” Switzer replied. Simmons noted that the question was overly broad and would want to know what such a proposal would contain before commenting.
“There is a standard clause for protection of property values as you are well aware,” said Switzer. Simmons, who has been active in real estate and appraisals for nearly 50 years, said he was not familiar with these clauses.
Switzer replied derisively, “We will provide you with that information since you are new to the industry.” Laughter drowned out Simmons’ reply.
The question and answer period continued for about 90 minutes. WLWAG chair Switzer and panelist Khan came away with very different interpretations of the event.
“The residents were not sold on the shallow and misleading presentations and no satisfactory answers were provided,” said Switzer afterward. “Some residents said they were insulted with the lack of information provided and the panel could offer no guarantees to health or property value protection issues.”
Khan said the anti-windpower groups were a vocal minority.
“Several audience members came to the front to thank me personally for my presentation and offer their support for wind energy projects. I spoke to an electrician, who said there is no history of cancer or other work-related illness in his field. He was very supportive of the wind initiative in West Lincoln,” she said. “The silent majority of Ontarians are on-side when it comes to wind energy, but the very vocal minority that oppose wind are doing a good job of getting heard,” she said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding