Government and proponents are finding that harnessing wind power is not a breeze with communities across the province uniting to stop the industrial developments. Anti-turbine groups are popping up all over Eastern Ontario: The South Branch Wind Opposition Group in Spencerville, Beckwith Responsible Wind Action Group in Carleton Place the North Gower Wind Action Group, and the umbrella organization Ontario Wind Concerns.
Ottawa’s not known as the windy city, but within a few hundred kilometres of Parliament Hill’s Peace Tower, hundreds of wind turbines are being proposed for small communities where big developers hope to make an even bigger windfall.
Ottawa has largely been spared from the fuss and fury of wind power projects, but among the 29 Eastern Ontario proposals on the books at the environment ministry, three projects are within city limits, while many more are just beyond the outskirts.
According to the ministry, Richmond, Galetta and a third Ottawa location are in the pre-submission stage as they await renewable energy approval applications. Other sites include Carleton Place, Mountain, Dundas, North Dundas and Eganville.
Another proposal to build about eight turbines, each 626 feet tall, in North Gower is in the planning stages.
“It’s a quiet community, but that will change when we become a giant power-generating factory. It will change the quality of the village and quality of life here forever,” said North Gower resident and Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson.
Her primary concerns over wind farms include unknown health risks and property devaluation she estimates at $47 million for the community.
“Once these huge machines go in that do produce noise and vibrations, we’re going be in a very different place to live,” Wilson warns.
As fast as the proposals hit bureaucrats desks, furious opposition swells in reaction.
Government and proponents are finding that harnessing wind power is not a breeze with communities across the province uniting to stop the industrial developments.
Anti-turbine groups are popping up all over Eastern Ontario: The South Branch Wind Opposition Group in Spencerville, Beckwith Responsible Wind Action Group in Carleton Place the North Gower Wind Action Group, and the umbrella organization Ontario Wind Concerns.
And after years of opposition from groups in Eastern Ontario, the biggest proponent in the area, Prowind Canada, pulled up roots from its Kemptville head office and moved to Hamilton. Calls to president Jeff Segal for updates on company projects went unreturned.
Premier’s had enough
Even municipalities are blowing down the doors of Queen’s Park, demanding more say when it comes to locating wind farms.
Dalton McGuinty seems to have had enough.
“I’ve got all kinds of communities that want them,” the premier told QMI Agency in April. “I don’t need the headaches that are associated with them going into communities that don’t want them.”
McGuinty said the province will identify rural communities that are open to renewable energy installations, like turbines, using a points system.
The program aims to avoid the angst in areas such as North Gower and Beckwith.
The points system favours communities where residents buy an equity stake in the project, and where municipal councils express overt support.
“Whenever you try to site an energy project, it doesn’t really matter what it is, not everybody is enthusiastic about having it near them, but we all want to use the electricity,” Energy Minister Chris Bentley said.
“That points system provides priority for projects in which there is broad-based community participation, where there’s municipal support, among other things. So what it means is that projects will most likely end up in communities that are more supportive of them than those that are not.”
Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod calls the move a “cop-out,” and doesn’t think the plan will provide any help to groups like Wilson’s.
“It doesn’t meet the community’s needs whatsoever … How do they decide what (communities) are favourable and what are not? How does Dalton McGuinty determine that on a points basis by municipality since we’re such a big municipality?”
The Liberals want to create a false economy, MacLeod said, “and they think this is the silver bullet to get us out of recession. All it is, is digging us deeper and deeper into debt and it’s putting an unfair burden on consumers.”
MacLeod said the differential between the rates consumers pay – in Ottawa between $0.065/kilowatt hour and $0.117/kWh during peak hours – and what the government pays producers – upwards of $0.135/kWh for wind and as high as $0.802/kWh for solar – is unsustainable.
In the end it will hit consumers where it hurts: In their pocketbooks.
“If you start looking at Ontario’s electricity supply situation, you realize wind power at this scale, industrial scale, it’s very expensive,” Wilson said, “and it produces power when we don’t need it.”
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