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SL&P respond to wind turbine criticism

Saskatoon Light and Power maintain that the project is both safe and economically viable, in the face of community opposition

Saskatoon Light and Power has responded to the claims and allegations of economic infeasibility and health concerns made by opponents to the Tall Wind Turbine Project slated for the Montgomery landfill.

The utility company released two multidisciplinary reports on Thursday done by doctors, audiologists and other experts which look specifically at health effects caused by wind turbine low frequency sound, or infrasound, and shadow flicker, the visual effect caused by sunlight passing through wind turbines.

You can find the expert panel review here and the CMOH report here, or at the project website.

Manager of metering and sustainable electricity Kevin Hudson with the power company explained that concerns raised in other parts of the world over wind turbines and health are caused by energy sites with inadequate setback from residences.

“Below 85 decibels it’s no longer perceptible to humans through either auditory or non-auditory means, and that happens at a distance of about 300 meters from the turbines,” said Hudson.

“Any concerns about infrasound ends at valley road, and the residents are another almost half kilometer from that location.”

Hudson stated conclusively that there are no public health concerns from wind turbines with appropriate setback, and that symptoms of dizziness and nausea are caused by shadowflicker, not noise, which is only an issue when the turbines are much closer.

“We’re well below,” he said.

Financial feasibility

Saskatoon Light and Power admits that it will take nine years for the Tall Wind Turbine Project to pay itself off, but is focusing on the following 11 years of pure profit to the tune of $5 million.

Hudson explained the utility company’s plan.

“Right now we purchase all of our power from Sask Power and transform it down to usable voltage levels,” Hudson said.

“What we’re doing with the energy we produce from the wind turbine is lowering our payments to Sask Power.”

The sustainable energy manager compared it to an individual buying solar panels for their own home, which is a major investment at first but pays for itself eventually in energy savings, and then some.

Future expansion

There are no plans to put up any more turbines, as NavCanada only approved one.

Any more of them so close to the airport, Hudson explained, could cause navigation issues for airplanes.

They also cannot build elsewhere from the landfill, as turbines need to be within the service area defined in the 1950 boundary, and far enough away from residences to avoid impacting them.

Hudson explained that instead, Saskatoon Light and Power is planning on turning the Montgomery landfill into a full featured ‘green energy park’.

“We’re also developing a landfill gas project that will generate power,” he said.

“When it becomes economically feasible we’re also looking at doing solar, a utility-scale solar project.

Opposition health concerns

The Saskatoon Wind Turbine Coalition held a public information meeting on Tuesday night at Montgomery school, bringing in about one hundred people.

Community leader Barb Biddles and wind turbine opponent and researcher Carmen Krogh spoke on the negative health impacts of wind turbines, what Biddles talked about as their primary issue.

Krogh classified most of the symptoms under what she called “annoyance”, which she says results in stress and sleep problems, among other issues.

“There’s a sensation that people have a hard time describing, which is an internal vibration or pulsing in the body or different organs,” said Krogh.

Krogh admitted that the evidence found in studies “didn’t demonstrate a direct link”, and acknowledged the scientific view that the symptoms are psychological.

“But that doesn’t matter; these are still harmful symptoms,” she added.

Coalition volunteer and organizer Chris Fossenier explained that studies haven’t found connections between wind turbines and negative health effects because they’re looking at the wrong kinds of sound.

“We’re not talking about noise you can hear, it’s just noise that affects you,” he said.

Biddles referred to other jurisdictions that have had wind turbines for 20 years or more.

“Some of these jurisdictions are actually not only rethinking it in terms of how far away they should be,” she said.

“There are other jurisdictions that are rethinking it and not continuing with that type of energy production.

Opposition financial concerns

The coalition is also worried about the economic feasibility of the project, which even the city admits will take years to pay off.

Coalition volunteer and organizer Dion Brick suggested the city is being dishonest in its packaging the project as ‘green’, when one turbine won’t make a significant electrical impact.

“We’d be better off changing some light bulbs and using our $2.5 million to supply citizens with light bulbs, and they’ll actually see a decline on their bills,” said Brick.

He said that as a coalition member he would support taxes going toward an entire wind farm, as long as it was located far away from residential areas.

The coalition’s opportunity to speak at city council has been postponed, and they will be trying again on Dec. 19. They have a scheduled private meeting with Sask. Light and Power on the 14th.