The Bruce County Federation of Agriculture’s (BCFA) new policy statement on wind energy speaks out against the “adverse affects” wind power is perceived to have on agriculture, from increased energy costs to potential health impacts on people.
The BCFA released the new official policy statement via media release Thursday, after making the decision at its Sept. 24 meeting.
“The Bruce County Federation of Agriculture (BCFA) recognizes wind energy as a contributor to green energy, and we are in favour of exploiting all kinds of green energy sources,” the policy reads. “However, the Feed-in-Tariff program seems to help promote the sale of wind energy technology, rather than develop wind energy technology, which was the intended spirit of the Green Energy Act.”
The organization’s policy said the cost to produce wind energy is not decreasing and due to inefficiencies in wind generation, the cost of energy continues to increase.
BCFA president John Gillespie, a Huron Twp. farmer, did note the policy is not “universally supported” by the 1,450 farm families they represent in Bruce County, as a few are landowners with wind turbines on their property.
He also wanted to be clear the BCFA isn’t against wind energy, but their board made the decision based on the frequency of issues that have surfaced in regards to existing and upcoming wind power projects.
“But we’ve talked to a lot of people and it was enough of an issue that people wanted to see questions they had solved before going forward,” Gillespie said. “We don’t think it’s a bad thing, but we also don’t need to be in such a rush as what’s been proposed.”
The BCFA has been made aware of the purchase of homes by Suncor-Acciona in the Ripley Wind Power Project due to perceived health impacts. Members neighbouring wind power projects have also struggled with impacts ice throw has on the use of their land, while others who have signed wind power leases have raised issues about the “fine print” contained in them, which has had an impact on their ability to build on their land, or use it during the winter when there is a potential risk of ice throw.
“There are some implications they didn’t fully understand before the turbines went up,” he said. “Some want to know if they can still build a barn and if it’s safe. Some neighbours who aren’t in the project are worried about restrictions on their properties and a lot of these issues haven’t been settled yet.”
With the current surplus of electricity in Ontario, Gillespie said there is no need for the additional capacity at this time. The BCFA is following the lead of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s call for a moratorium on wind power development until federal health studies are completed and outstanding issues have been resolved.
“Wind power could be good, but we have the time, so we should make sure it’s done right,” he said.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) responded to BCFA’s analysis by saying costs of wind energy are declining, with feed-in-tariff rates for wind energy reduced from 13.5¢/kwh to 11.5¢/kwh, adding it is lower than the rate for new hydroelectricity and is consistent with the rest of North America.
“While electricity prices have certainly increased in Ontario over the last several years, wind and renewable energy have not been a primary cause,” said CanWEA president Robert Hornung via e-mail. “According to an April 2012 Ontario Energy Board report, 45% of the increase in Ontario’s electricity generation costs since 2006 are directly attributable to the nuclear industry, while only 6% of the increase is due to green power.”
Hornung said wind energy is cost-competitive with other potential new sources of electricity, saying it’s “clearly cheaper than new nuclear power,” as well as new small hydroelectric or coal developments. He also added that natural gas markets are volatile, where the Feed-In-Tariff program is transparent.
The BCFA said since the cost of energy has a direct impact on farmer’s overhead costs to produce and grow food and livestock, it can’t support a program that adversely affects agriculture.
“Furthermore, many of the concerns outlined by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture regarding the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program, as well as the harmful effects of wind energy development, have yet to be addressed,” the policy reads.
Hornung said Ontario is rebuilding its electricity infrastructure, which costs money, so “electricity prices are poised to increase significantly regardless of what mix of new generation sources are used.”
Although CanWEA hasn’t spoken to BCFA officials, Hornung said they have staff working with Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) leaders, as well as other agricultural associations as part of stakeholder engagement.
Moving forward, Hornung said CanWEA wants “to ensure the industry continues to be a good partner as thousands of Ontario farmers participate in Ontario’s clean energy economy through FIT and microFIT programs.”
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