Approximately 300 people attended a symposium hosted by Wind Concerns Meaford at Meaford Hall on Saturday. With wind turbines and solar farms springing up all over southern Ontario, and numerous turbines currently planned for the Grey-Bruce area, the symposium sought to provide a critical look at the short- and long-term repercussions for the Meaford area.
Four guest speakers addressed the environmental, economic and employment issues involved with the Green Energy Act and alternative energy developers, and whether the power generated by turbines is actually a viable source of ‘green’ energy.
Independent energy and environmental advisor Tom Adams shared his thoughts about the reliability and efficiency of Ontario’s power delivery system, and the impact of wind power on the consumer.
Adams said that the Green Energy Act dictates that green energy is given priority over other types of power generation even if cheaper options are available.
He also pointed out that the carbon footprint to produce one turbine is far greater than the energy that is produced which offsets the low emission energy production that is often touted by supporters of wind turbines.
Ontario currently produces more energy than it uses, and the excess energy is sold to other jurisdictions at significantly lower prices than the actual cost of production, making wind power especially costly.
Just how expensive is wind energy?
According to speaker Michael Trebilcock, the cost of wind and solar power reaches beyond what appears on your monthly hydro bill. With the inefficiencies and inconsistency of wind power generation, Trebilcock – a professor at the University of Toronto – says that the public subsidies for the installation, maintenance, and production of wind energy costs taxpayers $150,000 to $200,000 per year, per ‘green job’ created in green energy developments. That combined with the need for back-up coal or gas powered generators for when the wind isn’t blowing adds to the already high cost of wind power production.
Another cost to consumers often cited by those against wind farm developments is the reduction in property values for those who live in close proximity to wind turbines.
Mike McMurray, who owns a hobby farm in Grey County, is also a real estate agent who says that many seeking to purchase property are turned off by the presence or the potential presence of wind turbines, and this McMurray estimates can translate into a drop in property values of as much as 40 percent within a two mile radius of a wind turbine.
Areas which rely heavily on drawing tourist dollars are the most adversely affected cautioned McMurray, since a decline in tourism revenues compounds the financial toll that such developments can have on a community.
One proposed wind farm development in Meaford calls for 26 turbines to be erected at Silcote Corners. The structures are planned to reach a height of 456 feet from the base to the blade tip which for comparative purposes was pointed out is 25 percent of the height of Toronto’s CN Tower. The blades alone have a span equivalent to 1.5 acres.
A graphic was shown of Coffin Ridge Winery with the proposed turbines superimposed in the actual positions at actual size. Even with the relatively small number of turbines proposed for Silcote Corners, the bucolic vista that the Coffin Ridge area currently enjoys would be severely compromised.
What frustrates wind opponents the most is that Ontario’s Green Energy Act has stripped the power of residents and municipal governments, leaving little recourse for communities which don’t to see want wind farm developments move forward.
Ian Hanna, Chair of Wind Concerns Ontario lives in Prince Edward County. Hanna told those in attendance that the Green Energy Act is protected from court challenges meaning that no town, person, or group can fight proposed developments, a fact that Hanna suggests is undemocratic.
The only controls at the disposal of municipalities are found in the building permit and use of road allowance processes. Nearby Chatsworth announced on Friday that it will not issue building permits for turbines and they are prepared to be sued by developers.
In recent months members of Wind Concerns Meaford along with their supporters have lobbied Meaford’s council to do all that they can to prevent wind farm developments from becoming a reality in the municipality. Council has said that they and municipal staff are looking at all options available to them, and will continue to monitor proposed developments in Meaford.
*With files from Susanne Wussow
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