QUEEN’S PARK – Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson is applauding a call from an advocacy group for the province’s farmers to suspend contract awards for large-scale wind energy development projects.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture issued an eight-point position paper late last week that, in part, called for great municipal input in the planning process, criticized the pricing schedule, and asked for provincially developed protocol to measure noise generated by wind turbines.
“We’ve got evidence that turbines trigger health problems, our energy prices are skyrocketing, and we’re excluding local communities from the decision-making process,” said Thompson.
“We are seeing inefficiencies with the pricing for wind power, concerns over the setbacks, health and environmental risks, and concerns over property values, and I am pleased to see the OFA bring their important voice to the table.”
In December, a private members bill that would return the planning power for industrial wind turbine projects back to municipalities was defeated.
That same month, Thompson tabled a motion in the Ontario Legislature calling for a moratorium on all industrial wind projects until a third-party health and environmental study can be completed.
“We are hearing very clearly from our members that the wind turbine situation is coming to a head – seriously dividing rural communities and even jeopardizing farm succession planning,” said Mark Wales, who is the OFA president.
“The onus is on our provincial government to ensure the interests of rural Ontarians are protected. OFA is speaking up to clearly outline the issues that must be addressed right now,” he said.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association, which is a non-profit trade association representing individuals and businesses in the wind energy community, has expressed disappointment that the OFA has called for a suspension of contract awards for wind energy development.
In a press release, it said farmers across the province are participating in wind energy development. In addition, many issues OFA has identified as areas of concern are already being reviewed and examined through processes like the Ontario government’s Feed-in-Tariff review process, which is now under way.
“We are surprised and disappointed the OFA is proposing to put thousands of jobs at risk in Ontario and limit the ability of farmers to participate in Ontario’s clean energy economy,” said Robert Hornung, who is the president of CanWEA.
He said CanWEA will ask for a meeting with the OFA to discuss concerns.
Wind farm development has been just as controversial in Niagara as it has been in Huron and other parts of the province.
Last February, Niagara Region Wind Corporation signed a feed-in tariff contract with the Ontario government for a 230-megawatt wind-power project. The initiative includes putting 77 turbines in Pelham, West Lincoln, Wainfleet and parts of Haldimand County at a cost of $550 million.
A proposed wind farm in West Niagara has been a source of controversy in the communities where the 77-turbine development is to be built.
The latest addition to the wind-energy plan calls for two sites: one to manufacture the control panels and converters and another to build concrete segments that can be stacked to erect towers.
Angry West Lincoln residents convinced their council to call for a moratorium on new turbine construction until health studies are completed on residents living near existing Ontario wind farms. Further to that are concerns about noise and the impact on wildlife.
“This is a contentious issue in West Lincoln,” Joyner said in late September when the project took another leap forward. “People are upset. And the frustrating thing is, I don’t have a say, our council doesn’t have a say.”
That’s because, local moratorium or not, the wind project is completely in the hands of the provincial government and the Green Energy Act.
“It’s difficult. How do I as mayor say that a landowner does not have the right to supplement their income by having one of these (wind turbines) on their land? We’re talking a lot of money.”
Joyner said hosting landowners are being offered $50,000 per year, per turbine.
“On the other hand, we have people who are going to be living adjacent to one of the wind turbines saying, ‘You’re ruining my life. These things are going to make me sick.’ And the bottom line is whether you actually get sick from the turbines, if you worry and stress about something, it will make you sick. This whole thing is pitting pew against pew, people against people.”
Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor didn’t support the Tory legislation last December.
He has argued that rather than give communities more say, the bill was simply a back-door attempt to scuttle the Green Energy Act.
“They (the Conservatives) have been very clear on that,” Craitor told Bullet News Wednesday. “They don’t support green energy.”
Craitor said he has a lot of respect for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, but this is one time he can’t agree with their position.
Much of Craitor’s riding, which includes Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, is agricultural.
Still, he says he doesn’t hear farmers here in opposition to the green energy initiatives of his government.
Instead, Craitor said the farmers who contact him are quite often expressing their support for green energy programs or are interested in finding out how they can participate.
“There are a fair number who say ‘What a great opportunity’,” Craitor said.
– with files by Peter Conradi
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