By fall 2013, the landscape of Caistor Centre could drastically change – if the government approves a proposal by the owners of the HAF wind energy project.
The owners of the project – a consortium made up of IPC Energy, Rankin Construction and Wainfleet Wind Energy – held their final public open house Tuesday, part of the Ontario government’s renewable energy approvals process for green energy projects. And while project manager Tom Lewis says there is support for the project in the community, there were more critics than supporters at Tuesday’s open house at the Caistor Community Centre.
One man, who did not want to share his name, said he will be able to see all five of the turbines from his back window, a view he didn’t have in mind when he purchased his wife’s family farm five years ago.
“I had no idea I’d be able to see all five,” said the man. “I came out here for the peace and quiet. I can see all kinds of wildlife from my backyard – deer, coyotes, all kinds. And now I am going to see these big towers.”
The man was able to better visualize just how tall those turbines will be thanks to a public awareness campaign launched Saturday by the West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group, a citizen’s group which opposes wind energy.
This past Saturday, the group raised several weather balloons to the height of the proposed wind turbines, to provide a sense of scale for the size of the storeys-high towers. The wind turbines to be installed across the municipality will be as tall as 145 metres. WLWAG is calling the campaign “Look Up, Wake Up.”
“We raised the balloons to help people visualize just how tall these turbines are going to be,” said Cam Pritchard, spokesperson for the group. “A lot of people can’t envision how tall 145 feet is. There were a lot of people on the border line, who weren’t sure if they were for or against the turbines, and when they saw the balloons, it really hit home for them.”
The group was also present at Tuesday’s meeting, staging a “casserole orchestra” to show their dismay towards not only the project but the Liberal government. A cacerolazo, or casserole in English, is a form of protest in some Spanish-speaking countries. It involves people making noise by banging pots, pans and other utensils to bring attention to an issue. This form of protest has recently been used in Montreal where students are protesting high tutition fees. In Quebec, the students are using the protest to show their dismay towards Premier Jean Charest, in West Lincoln, the small group of citizen’s was banging their pots and pans to show dismay towards Premier Dalton McGuinty.
“These protests started in Chile and Argentina where the government took away their elected rights, just like Dalton McGuinty is doing to us,” said Anne Fairfield, who organized Tuesday’s casserole orchestra. “The reasons are the same, we are very displeased with our government.”
The group opposes the project for a number of reasons with health effects and property devaluation being the main concerns. But according to Tom Rankin, an engineer and owner of Rankin Construction, there is more scientific data supporting turbines than opposing them. Rankin mentioned the Ontario College of Family Physicians and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario support green energy, including solar and wind, a fact he says can’t be ignored.
“Don’t look through this with pre-conceived notions,” said Rankin. “The science is there to prove that there is no ill effects of windmills.”
Rankin said he started looking at wind energy 10 years ago and when this projects original proponents – Vineland Power Inc. – put the project for sale, he jumped at the chance to be involved with a “clean energy project.”
“A lot of people don’t think that global warming is a fact of life,” said Rankin, noting the 100-year-storm has become more of a five-year-storm and that changes are happening across the world. ‘Windmills produce clean energy, there is no pollution. Coal produces toxins, carbon dioxide and contribute to global warming. I agree with our government, we have to get out of coal power.”
The five turbines will be located in an area described as between Westbrook Road, Twenty Road, Abingdon Road and Concession Five Road in Caistor Centre.
The next step in the process is to submit the renewable energy approval application to the Ministry of the Environment. Following that, the MOE will post it on the environmental registry for a 30-day public comment period. The government then has six months to approve the application.
The project proponents expect to have the turbines in commercial operation by third quarter 2013, should the government approve the application.
Those who were unable to make it to Tuesday’s meeting can submit their comments online at www.hafwindenergy.ca.
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