Ontario should suspend awarding further contracts for large wind turbines, the province’s biggest farm organization says.
“It’s tearing rural communities apart, so farmers can’t do what they do best, which is grow food,” OFA president Mark Wales said in an interview.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) issued a new position statement Friday calling for a pause to resolve questions about wind energy.
It comes as the province is reviewing its “feed-in tariff” program, which awards contracts for renewable energy, including wind turbines that generate electricity.
The OFA says there are unresolved issues surrounding the price of wind power, its effectiveness, its impact on rural communities, and on the lack of local control over big turbines.
“A balance between the province’s power requirements and local autonomy regarding land use must be struck,” says the statement.
The Liberals suffered losses across rural Ontario in last year’s provincial election.
The Green Energy Act leaves municipalities with no say over where large turbines can go.
“Residents not engaged in wind turbine development have been pitted against neighbours over concerns with health impacts and quality of life issues,” says the position statement.
The province “must enable an acceptable level of planning control for industrial wind turbines at the municipal level,” the statement says.
It questions the current provincial rule requiring large turbines to be set back at least 550 metres from dwellings. The province should conduct a “comprehensive analysis on setbacks, it says.
And it questions the suitability of wind power, which it notes can’t be controlled currently. That means it is sometimes plentiful when not needed, and scarce when it is.
Wind projects should be able to store their power, it says. That could be through batteries, or by wind-operated pumps that pump water up into reservoirs when the wind it blowing, and let it run down to produce power whenever it’s most needed.
Most big wind projects have been done by big wind companies. Wales said more community power projects are needed to enhance local control, and spread the benefits.
Energy minister Chris Bentley says he’s looking for ways to provide more local input.
In an interview before the OFA statement was released, Bentley said he’s like to increase local say “without major legislative or structural changes.”
“I don’t know what the right approach is, but I’m confident there’s got to be an approach that can more effectively listen to people in ways they don’t believe they’ve been listened to before,” he said.
“I think they have been listened to and heard, but that’s not always their perception.”
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