Supporters of Lake Superior Action-Research-Conservation, whose aim is to halt the spread of industrial wind farms, recently told Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha that the taxpayer-subsidized wind energy industry is based on deceit.
“You’ve got to stop the spin that wind can replace (fossil fuels). It can’t. It’s too variable,” said group spokesperson Catherine Bayne during a 90-minute public meeting with Mantha at the Prince Township Community Centre, east of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
“It requires backup all the time,” said Bayne, who argued that the backup generation cannot operate at peak efficiency when it is boosted or scaled back depending on the amount of wind power. “It actually creates more CO2 emissions, and your dependence on fossil fuel is still there.”
She also cited Chapter 3, Section 3.03 of the Ontario Auditor General’s 2011 report as evidence that the province committed billions of dollars to renewable energy without first conducting a cost/benefit analysis.
The LSARC members, joined by 20 area residents, urged Mantha to seek a moratorium on alternative energy projects pending an independent review of their scientific and economic rationale.
LSARC organizer George Browne told Mantha that presently Ontario has a 35 – 60 per cent surplus generating capacity.
“Based on the Long Term Energy Plan, we have at least five years before we need to start putting in new generation,” Browne said. “Why not stop everything now, do the studies, figure out where we’ve gone wrong, and fix the problems?”
Prince residents also sought Mantha’s support in fighting the proposed installation of eight new turbines at Brookfield Renewable Power’s Prince Wind Farm. They feared the Green Energy Act of 2009 would override local opposition to the wind farm’s expansion.
Though Mantha supported a full review of province’s renewable energy plan, he could not promise that his New Democratic Party’s caucus would back the moratorium.
Instead, he contended that low-impact renewable energy projects make sense. “You don’t have to go large industrial,” he said. You can go small-scale where you don’t interfere with your neighbour … where you can generate some power on a much smaller scale at your home… where it will also create the jobs.”
But most in the audience argued that, minus a moratorium, large energy projects would continue while the review was taking place.
St. Joseph Island resident Debbie Shubat, the Policy and Political Action representative for the Algoma Chapter of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, said she would ask the RNAO membership to seek a moratorium pending an independent epidemiological study aimed at setting safe noise levels for wind turbines and appropriate setbacks from residential zones.
Shubat presented her findings, which suggested that populations living within two km. of wind farms commonly suffer health problems such as headaches, sleep disturbances, poor concentration, and vertigo.
She noted, too, that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, which formerly touted wind energy, now backs a moratorium.
Prince resident Maralyn Pandzik told Mantha she was “nervous” about his support for small-scale projects, which she feared would morph into large ones.
Marshall said the entire township – including the council that approved the Prince Wind Farm – had been “lied to” about its impact.
“We don’t want to be tricked again,” she told Mantha. “So I would say stop it … until proper studies are done and everyone is aware of the pros and cons.”
One Goulais River resident said no one there had been consulted about the Prince Wind Farm, and that their property values had dipped because of the highly visible turbines and “a bank of blinking lights all across the horizon at night.”
First-term Prince Coun. Amy Zuccato told the group that before the wind turbines arrived, her family enjoyed visits to her father’s hunting camp in the shield zone.
“Now we hardly go there at all. All you can hear when you’re up there is whoosh, whoosh.”
Zuccato added that the roads her family had once travelled freely had been replaced by private industrial roads, and camp owners were threatened with trespassing charges if they ventured beyond their own properties.
Ironically, the pre-constuction brochures touting the wind farm promised that it would “open up routes to new outdoor recreation opportunities,” Zuccato said.
Prince Lake residents voiced the same complaints as Zuccato, along with the added worry about turbine fires.
Browne displayed a video clip of lakeside resident Tiina Pajos discussing that possibility.
“Those wind generators are quite close, and when they go on fire it’s usually during a very windy day. It’s not when they’re sitting still,” Pajos said. “So you’ve got a dry forest, a high wind, and one access road. That’s scary,” she said. “I’ve got kids.”
Next, Browne showed a clip of a flaming turbine, explaining that the brakes that keep the blades from spinning too fast sometimes fail.
“They can get too hot and lose friction, and then it starts to spin and build up heat and catches fire,” he said.
Yet wind farms, unlike other large industries, are not required by law to have their own fire suppression equipment, Browne noted.
Other residents voiced concerns about the carnage wreaked upon birds and bats, the possibility of a turbine throwing a blade, and the lack of public awareness that the Green Energy Act trumps local decision-making.
The entire group opposed the further creep of turbines along Lake Superior’s north shore, which they said would spoil the wilderness for generations and make a mockery of Sault Ste. Marie’s motto, “Naturally Gifted.”
Toward the meeting’s end, Jerry Pandzik asked Mantha if he would permit a wind turbine to be erected on his property, given the concerns he had heard.
“No, I wouldn’t,” Mantha replied.
The same resident then asked Mantha whether he would toe his party’s line when he returned to Queen’s Park or support the constituents in their wish to halt the turbines. “At the end of the day, I have to answer to my constituents,” Mantha said.
He advised area residents to keep sending their concerns to his office.
“Every single one of these issues I will be taking up with my caucus, and I will be more than happy to come back at a future time – sooner rather than later, before this comes to fruition – on how you can help me get a message across.”
He told the Prince residents fighting the wind farm’s new turbines to have council pass a resolution requesting input into the Ministry of Energy’s decision about the expansion and reflecting their conviction that they had been misled about the impact of the original power project.
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