(MANVERS) Sitting around the kitchen table in Sara Miller’s rural home is a group united in its opposition to wind turbines.
Wind energy is an emotional and polarizing issue across the province; one that’s sparking protest and debate in communities and amongst politicians.
Here in Ms Miller’s home, with tears in Sara’s eyes, emotion begins rises to the surface as talk goes from general issues with wind turbines to personal specifics.
Her son has a heart condition.
“His life is in the hands of the turbines,” she says.
No wind turbines have been built in the area but three contracts have been offered by the Ontario Power Authority in the Manvers/Bethany/Pontypool area for a combined total of 31.5 megawatts of electricity production.
Ms Miller says it’s unknown how far the resulting noise will travel and that experts have ripped apart various government reports yet plans are going ahead.
Adding more wind turbines, maintains Ms Miller, will mean the noise more than doubles. In the rolling Cavan hills, she says the acoustics could carry it further.
Property values are another concern.
“Obviously our house is unsellable,” she says.
It’s a house her husband built by hand. It’s where she has raised her family.
She has been told the wind turbine sound will be like a car driving by all the time.
Part of the issue around government studies, she says, is they were done when the towers were smaller.
“How can that many people be wrong?” she says of the number of anti-wind turbine groups.
There’s another side to it, she says – climbing electricity bills.
Paul Reid lives in the area and won’t likely be directly affected by the wind turbines but he’s concerned about his community and about funding for the project.
“It’s a subsidized business,” he says.
Wind turbines and homes don’t mix, he says, repeating a slogan you’ll find on many signs in front of people’s homes in the area.
The area is part of the environmentally-sensitive Oak Ridges Morraine.
“You can’t put a garden shed in but you can put this (wind tubines) in,” says Mr. Reid.
He says those that sign up to host a wind turbine on their property are signing away other people’s rights. Families, he says, will sue each other.
The most successful areas for hosting wind turbines, he states, are the poor areas where people are desperate for money.
He adds they aren’t wind farms but factories.
“These are subsidy farms that grow debt,” he states.
When it comes to the health issues, he says people are affected differently, just like how not everyone gets migraines from weather changes.
“We’ve met some people who have been labeled crazy,” he states.
He knows a woman who sleeps in a trailer to get away from the wind turbines at night.
“We don’t have independent health studies,” he says.
On top of this, he says there’s subliminal messaging, like advertisements on TV that feature wind turbines, painting them in a good light.
The group would like to see setbacks from homes set further back from the current 550 meters. Mr. Reid suggests two kilometres.
He says the current setback allows the turbines to fit nicely within the rural concessions and are not based on safety. Even with slightly higher setbacks, he says it would be difficult to find possible locations.
Pam Lawson points out it’s hard to get a building permit in the environmentally-sensitive area yet these turbines will be allowed to be built.
The construction, says Ms Miller, requires a big foundation, like a factory.
“I think the government will look back and apologize some day,” Ms Lawson says.
She questions the wisdom of placing the turbines near local schools. She says people who sign up to host wind turbines don’t care about children or birds.
Part of the health issue, she says, is that people naturally tighten up in anticipation of vibrations.
If it is green energy, she questions why wind turbines are exempt from full environmental assessments.
Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal says a review of the Green Energy Act started in 2011 and he expects a report to come forward in March. No legislation is perfect, he notes.
“The review has concluded,” he says.
He’s not sure that wind turbines will be much of an issue in his riding – which doesn’t include Manvers – since it’s not all that windy.
He says the Province has looked into providing municipalities with more jurisdiction over where wind turbines can be located. This may include looking at the Official Plan of the affected municipalities and see if there are areas more compatible for wind and solar farms.
“There’s some merit in that,” he states.
He says setbacks in Ontario are some of the most restrictive in North America.
When asked about questions of the validity of the Province’s health studies, he says you can produce a report that is written and researched by experienced individuals but, in today’s world of instant communication, there’s a report the next day that counters what has been written.
Over many decades, he says when talking about electricity, people have brought up positions that say it may impact health. There have been many questions raised by neighbours of nuclear facilities and people talk about stray voltage from power lines. Legislation, he says, has to strike a balance of mitigating risks the best possible way.
“We live in a world where there’s always going to be questions about ways we generate and deliver electricity,” he says.
“Part of the review of the Green Energy Act was to sit back for a moment and hear the input.”