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Opponents of the government-approved Zephyr wind farm project near Watford will get the chance to state their case to Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal.
A preliminary hearing to appeal the project will be held Dec. 22 at Lambton County’s Wyoming council chambers. The next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 11.
The Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group (WAG) filed the appeal in the wake of government approval for the $22-million, four-turbine, 10-MW wind farm. Green Breeze Energy Inc. is currently building the farm’s infrastructure near Churchill Line between Ebenezer and Walnut roads.
WAG member Esther Wrightman says the group is demanding a proper health study before the government goes through with wind energy projects.
“It needs to be addressed, it needs to be looked at, we need to have a study,” Wrightman said. “Without the information, I don’t know how they can feel comfortable installing these machines near people.”
The provincial government released a report Friday asserting wind turbines cause no direct health effects past a regulated distance.
The study was conducted by HGC Engineering and then reviewed by three independent noise experts. It concluded that Ontario’s regulations are rigorous, government spokesperson Kate Jordan said.
“We want to be responsive to concerns that some people have expressed,” Jordan said. “Ontarians should be assured that they have one the strictest sound criteria.”
This is the second ERT tribunal for an Ontario wind farm this year. An appeal was denied for the Kent Breeze wind power project near Thamesville when the tribunal deemed there wasn’t enough evidence to show harmful effects.
“The wind ministry would have touted it as a success,” Wrightman said, “But when you read the results of the decision, they said people can be harmed by wind turbines.”
Brent Hall – vice president of strategic planning for the Zephyr project – said Green Breeze Energy wants to avoid rehashing issues the ERT already addressed in Thamesville. They filed a motion to limit the hearing to new information.
“We’re not interested in spending money to hear the same witnesses over and over,” Hall said.
The Zephyr project has been approved by the government and meets or exceeds all safety regulations.
“We’re confident that we’re building an environmentally safe and friendly project,” he said.
Wrightman says she spoke with families living near the Thamesville turbines who have experienced dizziness, migraines and other health concerns. She called the government’s 550 metre minimum setback “a number that was picked out of a hat.”
The 550 metre setback prevents turbines from being built too close to residences. It follows World Health Organization guidelines.
The ERT’s preliminary hearing was originally scheduled for Dec. 15 but was rescheduled and confirmed for Dec. 22.
The tribunal has the power to squash the project or provide recommendations, the ERT web site says. A decision must me made within six months of the appeal.
Construction continues on the Zephyr project and Hall said it should be operational by the end of January and providing power to the grid by March.
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