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Wind opponents demand Ontario reveal density of turbines

Ontarians interested in quickly finding the location of wind turbines in the province have their work cut out for them.

The province doesn’t make public a consolidated map of its thousands of turbines. The Ontario Power Authority, which approves wind turbine contracts doesn’t have one; neither does the Ministry of Natural Resources or the Ministry of Energy. Even the industry group, the Canadian Wind Energy Association, doesn’t have a map showing the location of all the turbines.

That’s a concern for opponents of the industry.

“Whether you live in the city, the suburbs, or even rural areas, you don’t have an understanding of how massive this undertaking is,” said Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “I don’t think they realize how the landscape is going to change … tourism, the economy, everything.”

Energy Minister Chris Bentley said the locations are public information. He isn’t aware of a central, consolidated map and said plans to make one aren’t in the works.

“The contracts are publicly posted. They’re available. Who has the contracts is public information. Every company establishing wind turbines has to go through public consultation,” he said. “It’s out there for the people in the community and municipality.”

Wilson said the government isn’t being as open as it could be.

“The government says they are transparent and open about all this, but people don’t know where they are going to go until it’s too late,” Wilson said.

The province does list its wind farms, but they are represented by a single dot on a map. They don’t list each turbine. That information isn’t always easy to find, as Wayne Gulden of Wind Farm Realities found.

“The only way I know how to get the locations is to root out each project’s site description. plan or noise study, with the noise study being the preferred source as it almost has to have the turbines’ coordinates,” Gulden wrote in an email to CBC News.

“Unfortunately, the noise study usually isn’t published until fairly late in the process. Most often I end up relying on the site description plan which may or may not have the coordinates.”

Wilson also said that during the application process, the companies only list the number of turbines proposed and not the precise location.

Ontario Power Generation, a crown corporation that runs hydro-electric dams and nuclear power plants in Ontario, lists the location of each of its locations on its website.

Chatham-Kent ahead of the curve

The only municipality in the province to make the locations of every one of its turbines public is Chatham-Kent. Its map appears on its website and list the coordinates of more than 300 wind turbines.

Pat Bruette, wind farm coordinator for public works, said the map put an end to people calling the municipality looking for locations. He said home buyers and sellers use the map. So does the community’s 911 dispatch.

“They do have workers around the towers for services after. They become a serviceable site where emergency services have to attend if someone gets hurt after that,” Bruette said. “There were some question planning people were handling through phone-ins. It just made a lot sense to get the map running on our website and hopefully reduce some of the questions we’re asked.”

Chatham-Kent has more wind turbines than just about any other municipality in Ontario. It has more than 300 up and running and another 124 slated to be erected by 2014.

Wilson said the map is a tool that can be used to show the affect turbines are having on rural Ontario. Of course, it’s up to the viewer to decide whether that affect is good or bad. Wilson believes the latter.

“When I first saw the map, I thought, ‘this is a vision of hell on earth.’ It’s just astounding, the number of turbines being squashed in there,” she said. “It will become apparent to people that it’s not a lone turbine lazily turning in the breeze. These are industrial machines and they are turning our communities into industrial power plants.

“Maps would go a long way into helping people understand what’s really going on in Ontario.”