December 8, 2011

Turbine continues to stir up opposition

By Jeremy Warren, The StarPhoenix, 8 December 2011

A group of Montgomery Place residents are confident they can stop the city from building a wind turbine near their Saskatoon neighbourhood.

The Saskatoon Wind Turbine Coalition, which is opposed to the construction of a wind turbine atop the Saskatoon landfill in the city’s southwest end, held a forum with about 100 people Wednesday night to discuss the potential adverse health effects of turbines.

“We feel the mayor and city council were not informed when the decision was made to build a turbine,” said Montgomery Place Community Association president Barb Biddle. “We don’t think it’s too late for councillors to put a hold on this.”

City council voted to approve the $5-million wind turbine project on Oct. 11 and the city is now seeking construction bids for the project proposal. The city is unlikely to scrap the plan – which calls for the construction of a single turbine at the city landfill – now that the project has been through the approval process, said Kevin Hudson, project manager and Saskatoon Light and Power engineer.

“As long as proposals that we receive are technically right and within the proposed budget, then projects are generally approved,” Hudson said. “Council has approved this project and the money is in the budget.”

Once the bids are reviewed after the Dec. 15 bid deadline, councillors will likely be given the final recommendations for the successful bid at a Jan. 16 meeting. Councillors Pat Lorje and Charlie Clark have previously expressed their opposition to the project.

“Our group is not anti-turbine,” said Chris Fossenier, a local IT firm owner and property developer who is active with the coalition. “We don’t think this turbine is safe. We don’t think this turbine is smart.”

Critics of the landfill turbine say it will be too close to residences and the low-frequency noise emitted from the large blades could cause headaches, sleeplessness or other detrimental health effects. Much of the research into “wind turbine syndrome” is anecdotal, but increasing.

The turbine will be set back about 780 metres from the nearest residence, Hudson said. A city report indicated the noise the turbine will generates at that distance is 32 times less than the existing background noise, he added.

With the four independent reports the city is satisfied with its plan, despite persistent criticisms from residents, Hudson said. The city has spent about $500,000 to date on consultations and reports for the turbine project.

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