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Ontario Federation of Agriculture wants loophole closed

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) says landowners shouldn’t be allowed the option of putting up a wind turbine less than 550 metres from their own home.

OFA general manager Neil Currie said in an interview Thursday a lot of people the federation has spoken with were not aware that turbines could, under agreements they sign with power companies, be placed closer to their homes than the provincially required setback.

“It’s a fine point that many people were not aware of, and we were not aware of until recently,” he said.

“We feel that people shouldn’t be given the option of waiving the right to 550 metres. If 550 (metres) is a good distance then it should be good for everybody.”

The recommendation is one of six relating to wind power the federation has made to the provincial government in a public statement that generally supports wind turbine development.

In a statement, the OFA calls on the government to “quickly and fairly” address all health and nuisance complaints from rural residents involving wind turbine developments.

It also recommends:

• Reducing stray voltage and line loss through larger gauge service lines and higher capacity transformers.

• Ensuring the maximum allowable noise level of 40 decibels is not exceeded and developing a protocol to measure noise, including continuous tone and low-frequency noise.

• Amending regulations governing landowners who agree to lease or sell land for turbines to require a minimum setback of 550 metres for all wind turbine developments.

• Ensuring that landowners are clear on their right to negotiate an acceptable setback distance for any wind turbine on their own property or on any property within the boundaries of the development.

The OFA says it is committed to exploring all the opportunities for alternative energy as they relate to and impact Ontario farmers and rural residents.

Harnessing energy through wind turbines is one of the green energy options that will contribute to a reliable source of energy for future generations, it says, but it asks the provincial government for “clarity on wind-turbine related health, noise level and stray voltages concerns.”

The federation says it struck a task team of directors, staff and researchers to draft recommendations for future wind turbine development after receiving anecdotal reports of adverse health impacts, primarily concerning noise levels and stray voltage.

A spokesperson for the Perth County Federation of Agriculture was not available yesterday to comment on the wind turbine issue that has been dividing several rural communities.

The Wellington County Federation of Agriculture took the position about a year ago that there should be a moratorium on new wind farm developments until further health studies were done, but its president, David Parker, said in an interview Thursday there are members on the board in favour of wind power and members opposed to it.

“We’ve been asked to take a stand by the opposing sides,” he said. “Our stand is simple. We cannot tell farmers not to put (a turbine) up and we will not advise a farmer to put one up. We understand the economic situation a lot of these farmers are in, and it’s dire.”

Parker said the federation is advising farmers to get full legal advice before doing anything.

“It may be seen to be sitting on the fence but it’s a business decision that only they can make.”

In Belwood, the wind farm issue “has torn the community right down the middle,” said Parker.

“It’s pitted farmer against farmer. It’s pitted neighbour against neighbour.”

“We need different forms of energy. We need to look at different forms of energy. But it’s got to come at a cost society is prepared to accept.”