The recent decision of the Ontario Government to place a moratorium on offshore wind farm development has “energized” Wind Concerns Ontario, says the organization’s president – and now WCO would aim to having existing turbines decommissioned should absolutely independent and disinterested studies prove they are a threat to human health.
John Laforet, responding to questions in a telephone interview Tuesday, said he was “grateful to Ontario for energizing WCO. I have never seen so much enthusiasm (among members).” He said the Dalton McGuinty Liberals had erred in saying it needed more science before the offshore development could proceed.
“I think the government made a big mistake by acknowledging that science is needed for offshore.” That raised the obvious question of whether the studies are also needed for onshore, where the turbines are much closer to people.
He acknowledged that there might be more science than health effects from turbines involved in the offshore ones. “We don’t know what toxins are in sediment (in the lakes). The intake pipe is in their (proposed) construction zone. It’s ludicrous, criminal,” Mr. Foret said.
WCO recently commissioned an expert panel of practitioners in various health disciplines to undertake a study of the effects of turbine noise, vibrations and infrasound, among other things associated with turbines.
The WCO panel’s conclusions ran counter to an earlier one commissioned by the Canadian and American wind energy associations. The wind energy panelists might have been more illustrious than the WCO ones, but Mr. Laforet said the “industry” results would have been flawed because it dealt with existing literature – which, he said, had also been written for the wind industry.
Whether the analogy is valid or not, he said the association panel should have spoken to “the real people, the people living near the turbines” because “if you go to your doctor and say you have a cold, he is not going to say you don’t as no one else on your street has a cold. He is going to examine you (to determine what’s wrong).”
There are several financial issues involved in declaring a moratorium and, going further, in WCO’s possible call for a decommissioning of existing wind farms, if the science suggests such.
Those would include the Ontario contract with Samsung of Korea, the Ontario Power Authority’s contracts with the turbine wind farm developers, and the developers’ lease conditions with landowners, among other things.
Mr. Laforet’s position is that the industry and not the government should be on the hook should the science prove the turbines are a health hazard. “There are 107 affected people (in Ontario) who have the right to restoration of their lifestyles. At the end of the day what are we going to do? Destroy their lives because of the contracts? Industry is in compete denial (that there are problems),” he said.
Moving forward, he said WCO would continue to carry its fight as per usual but also that it “would make sure not all Liberals are back after election.” Referring to polls of individual ridings, he said he feels certain WCO can influence enough votes to dethrone the Liberals this fall.
The Green Energy Act appears to be at the core of the opposition complaints about turbine development. But even that is hard to sort out.
The province says that “Ontario’s Renewable Energy Approvals regulation requires extensive environmental reports, public, municipal and Aboriginal consultation, as well as noise assessments,” and CanWEA is urging its members to go beyond the basic requirements of the Green Energy Act in their consultations and community involvement, but at least one proponent last year announced publicly a proposed development apparently without consultation with the local municipal council, and another is alleged to have used outdated maps to illustrate where three 2.3 MW towers would be sited in relation to existing households.
Here, “Ontario has already attracted more than $16 billion in private sector investment in the Green Energy sector, and over 20 companies have announced plans to set up or expand operations in Ontario.
“Ontario’s Long Term Energy Plan includes 10,700 MW of renewable energy – wind, solar and biomass – by 2018. This is equivalent to meeting the annual electricity requirements of two million homes,” the province says in its review of the situation.
CanWEA says the turbines are performing well in the move against coal generators. In a news release Tuesday, it cited the Independent Electric Supply Operators as reporting that, on Valentine’s Day, wind had supplied six per cent of electrical energy to the grid while coal supplied only 1.5 per cent.
By 2018, the present provincial “long term energy plan” would have 10,700 megawatts of wind, solar and biomass energy by the year 1018 “equivalent to meeting the annual electricity requirements of 2 million homes.”
Apart from the concerns of WCO about health, many opponents say the financial price is too high at 13.5 cents a kilowatt hour (kwh) for wind energy and between about 40 and 80 cents for solar.
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