Opponents of a wind energy project near Durham are prepared to walk the talk in their bid to prevent the construction of as many as 17 wind turbines in their neighbourhood.
Organizers are holding a public meeting on Saturday to work on plans for community action.
“It’s a meeting to work on strategies to prevent this invasion,” said spokesperson Grant Pattullo.
NextEra Energy has been working on the project since 2006. Last year it was awarded a Feed-in Tariff contract by the Ontario Power Authority. At a meeting in Durham in July, a company spokeswoman said she expects all approvals by the province to be in place by next summer so that construction on the turbines could begin in the fall of 2013.
That’s not going to happen said Pattullo, who promises that Saturday’s meeting will come up with a number of strategies to stop the project.
“There will be more than one plan, there’ll be multiple plans at more than one level. We’re going to stop this. They’re not coming here to West Grey,” he said.
Some of the strategies under consideration range from asking council to vote against wind energy projects in the municipality, something that council has not done to helping landowners who signed lease agreements to get out of their contracts.
“Landowners are having second thoughts when they find out how their neighbours are outraged and concerned. . . We’re wanting to work with them to get out of their contracts,” Pattullo said.
“There’s no contract that can’t be broken. Landowners that have signed contracts – we’re going to help them get out of them,” he added.
During a protest demonstration along Grey County Road 4 in front of the West Grey municipal administration building prior to Monday’s committee of the whole meeting, Pattullo characterized the wind energy industry as an “unholy alliance between business and government.”
He referenced a wind energy critique that says wind energy doesn’t make any sense. He said wind turbines don’t operate during times of peak demand, in the early morning and early evening when the winds die down.
He described some of the nuanced effects that the proposed wind energy project near Priceville would have on the community which he calls spiritual concerns.
“We don’t think it’s healthy spiritually to have man-made structures dominating the landscape. People move here from the city because we want natural things. We want the trees to be the largest things in the landscape not some godawful man-made monstrosity sticking up God knows how many storeys in the air,” Pattullo said.
“We’re not just standing up for ourselves, we’re standing up for nature as well. It’s the domination of nature by these things that really horrifies us,” he added.
Pattullo allowed that maybe wind farms and large scale agriculture might be compatible but certainly not in a place such as West Grey where agriculture is conducted on small scale and most of the residents are non farm rural residents in the country side.
Priceville-area resident Martina Hayward described the battle by opponents against the proposed wind energy project as a massive fight on several fronts.
“We’re fighting for the environment, we’re fighting for our health, we’re fighting for choices that we didn’t get to make, we’re fighting for democracy. We’re fighting for a lot of good things,” she said.
Later during the committee of the whole meeting, representatives from NextEra Energy detailed their emergency action plan and procedures for rescuing workers injured or trapped in wind turbines.
They explained that high angle rescues of workers in wind turbines or putting fires in the hub of the turbine are the responsibility of the owners. But the company expects that local emergency personnel would be responsible for the care of the injured once on the ground, or that local fire departments would put out fires in operations buildings while police would carry out investigations and take reports in the case of criminal activities such as sabotage or theft.
Company spokesperson Doug McIntosh said the way to put out electrical fires in wind turbines is to cut off the source of electricity and that would deprive the fire of its source of energy and it would die out by itself. He said he knows of only three fires in more than 4,500 wind turbines owned by the company in Canada and the U.S. None of them damaged the environment or nearby private property.
Councillors peppered McIntosh and community relations consultant Derek Dudek with questions about the project and how the company was handling concerns by residents.
Questions ranged from the need for confidentiality agreements and further consultation with the community to how leaseholders can break their agreement and why the wind energy industry doesn’t conduct its own studies on the possible health effects of wind turbines.
In many cases Dudek didn’t have a ready answer and promised to get back to council with the information.
While she didn’t learn anything new from the presentation and question and answer session with council, she was impressed by the strong stance that West Grey council is taking with NextEra.
“I’m very proud of council for putting into words what we need to have said. I’m looking forward to the next town hall,” Hayward said.
The wind turbine planning meeting takes place Sept. 29 in the Durham town hall, starting at 2 p.m. For more information call Grant Pattullo at 519-369-6218.