The group opposing the construction of a wind turbine at the CAW Family Education Centre has begun to think outside the box.
Thursday afternoon Saugeen Shores Turbine Operation Policy (STOP) posted a tersely worded message on the wall of its Facebook page designed as an open letter and invitation to the CAW to halt its construction of the turbine or at least find a compromise both parties can live with.
“Stop the treating us as mushrooms,” the post, attributed to Greg Schmalz, read. “Please don’t act like cowards and bullies shoving this down the community’s throats amid our outrage like you know what’s good for us. That’s arrogant and an abuse of power.”
The posting ask the CAW’s Kim Yardy and Ken Bondi to spend “a few days” at one of the homes in Kincardine Township near where people have had to abandon their homes due to issues arising from the industrial turbines. It also called for a face-to-face meeting between Schmalz and CAW national president Ken Lewenza to discuss what STOP considers “win/win” options.
STOP’s desire to turn a “negative into a positive” are not just words either; the group is willing to put its money where its mouth is. The post said STOP is willing to either pay for and have installed on the already partially constructed turbine foundation “a new class of people friendly turbine with dramatically lower dB A and dB G,” pay for the cost of re-locating the turbine to an approved location, such as near the currently installed wind turbine at the Bruce Power Visitors’ Centre or write the CAW a cheque for the net profit, or the equivalent of the net profit of the Feed-in-Tarrif contract, which should cover the cost of the education centre’s electricity bill for the next 20 years.
“The intent is not to come across as a rich property owner and/or a group of rich property owners that just want to cut the cheque and say ‘sayonara,'” Schmalz said in an interview Friday morning.
The concept rather, Schmalz explained, is that if a community would be willing to fundraise for a large scale project designed to enhance the overall well being and quality of life, such as the $5 million needed to renovate and repair Centennial Pool, what would the monetary value be of the quality of life for the 400-500 families living within 1,500 metres of where the turbine is to be built.
“When you take a look at that scale of impact… I would suggest that if an effort was launched to raise money from a municipal level and a private sector level, that the $2 million figure is achievable and realistic,” Schmalz said.
A base investment would bring back a return of five per cent per year, or approximately $100,000, which is essentially the amount paid for each year for electricity at the CAW. Such a return, spread out over 20 years, would recoup the money invested by the union in the wind turbine project, without building it on its property.
Not that he expected C AW to consider the proposals.
“The money side was really an effort to have them say no to us; ‘we’re not interested in that,'” he revealed. “But if they ever were, I think it’s a realistic goal that it could be achieved.”
Schmalz thinks there is a way where C AW can install a turbine on its property that residents in the neighbourhood and throughout the Saugeen Shores community would support. He’s researched a turbine project based out of the University of Ottawa, which uses a counter-rotating blade, similar to a missile launched from a submarine.
The turbines are being designed with the hope to considerably reduce the bothersome noise which has been one of the greatest concerns.
“They took that and said ‘if you appl ied that to a wind turbine, what would be the net effect?'” Schmalz explained. “They’re entertaining delegations of wind developers who are interested in following this technology for obvious reasons. If you could be in that business, and it was people friendly, that’s a breakthrough.”
The production capacity for these dual-blade turbines is currently is 10 to 35 kw, a substantial drop from the 800 kw the turbine slated for the C AW will produce. However, Schmalz argued this is how C AW could fully utilize the education portion of the centre’s name. CAW could be at the forefront of exploring how this new technology could be utilized in the commercial sphere.
“If you could ever get the C AW to think about the fact they want to be teachers of the value of wind generated energy, if they could get their head around this technology and put up a version of this new technology instead of what they’re going for, effectively it makes them world class leaders in teaching this new technology on a commercial scale, ” Schmalz said.
While staunchly committed to seeing the project at least altered from its current designs, Schmalz is somewhat resigned to the fact his group is fighting an uphill battle. However, the group will continue to fight, raise awareness
and ready any future legal action.
“We went into this with full knowledge this is not a situation where the CAW is not going to not do it,” he said. “It’s their policy and rarely could they save face in the bigger picture world they deal in if they went back based on residents’ concerns.”
The back and forth banter between Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb and Lewenza, in the form of Letters to the Editor found on Pages 11 and 12 of this edition, cements Schmalz’s viewpoint it’s the CAW’s way or no way.
The letter from Lewenza includes the following: “To change course at this late stage is unthinkable. Our windmill project began over seven years ago. We have invested upwards
of $2 million, so far. That’s money that can’t be
“Unthinkable is a pretty all
encompassing word,” Schmalz said. “We’re not going to give any consideration or think about not doing the turbine. That’s probably as close as we’re going to get to our official answer.”
Last Monday, STOP had a deputation with Dorris Dumais of the Ontario Ministry of Education to once again share its viewpoint with the ministry. Despite the large body of research and new regulations, Dumais informed STOP C AW had done everything above board with regard to public consultation and the project. The time for the group to have done anything to halt the turbine from being erected would have been in 2005 when the project first became public knowledge.
“We’re pretty late in the process,” Schmalz said. “(But we want) to maintain a pressure point on them in case there was the chance it could effect some change, that’s really the purpose of the mission going forward in the last month.”