The mostly positive feelings that greeted pioneering wind turbines on the Bruce Peninsula have been replaced by opposition as proposals for hundreds of the machines come to light.
It was a cold and blustery day in late November 2006 on the wind-swept Ferndale Flats, but a good crowd had gathered to mark the completed construction and startup of two more commercial wind turbine on the Bruce Peninsula.
The big Danish-made Vesta turbine blades throbbed deeply overhead. Nobody was bothered by them. Nobody covered their ears and ran away screaming. On the contrary, all seemed well and when the crowd of well-wishers gathered at the Rotary Hall, everyone was in a celebratory mood.
Glen Estill, founder and president of Sky Generation, the company that erected the turbines thanked the local community for their moral and financial support that began before the company’s first turbine at Ferndale began producing power in 2002.
How times have changed.
The Bruce Peninsula, like many other parts of Ontario where large-scale industrial wind farms – with turbines numbering in the hundreds – have been built or proposed, has become a hot-bed of anti-wind turbine sentiment along with other parts of Grey-Bruce.
“Stop the Wind Turbines” signs are tacked up on fence posts and even highway signs in steadily growing numbers.
The local news from the top of the peninsula to the southern end of these two counties is full of stories about people packing local municipal and board of health offices in hopes their local representatives will do something, anything, to stop the development of yet more wind farms.
The answer in so many words is invariably the same: There’s not much, if anything, we can do because the Ontario government and its Green Energy Act are in virtually complete control of wind turbine development.
Our area medical officer of health, Dr. Hazel Lynn, vented her frustrations last week when two anti-wind turbine groups from Kincardine and Grey Highlands asked the Grey-Bruce board of health to help them fight further wind-farm development. Lynn said she’s not empowered by provincial legislation to act on environmental issues. She also expressed sympathy with the health worries of wind turbine opponents and annoyance that provincial legislation does not allow people to choose whether or not to have a wind turbine “in their back yard.”
“Really, there is not much in our jurisdiction anyway in regards to the Green Energy Act,” Northern Bruce Peninsula Mayor Milt McIver, said after a delegation from the Bruce Peninsula Wind Turbine Action Group came to last Monday’s council meeting. The anti-wind turbine group was looking for a motion opposing the large-scale development of wind turbines on the peninsula. That will be considered at the Oct. 9 council meeting.
A similar crowd has been pressing South Bruce Peninsula council to get on board the anti-turbine movement in a big way.
Three wind energy companies have wind farm proposals for the Bruce Peninsula before the Ontario Power Authority for approval under the province’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program. They are Preneal Canada, Tribute Resources and Windstream Bruce Inc. They are proposing to build in the neighbourhood of 270 turbines, from the Mar area to the former Lindsay Township, south of Tobermory. That’s in addition to the three already built and feeding electricity into the Ontario power grid near Ferndale, in the Lion’s Head area.
Three turbines are one thing. Standing tall and white not far from Highway 6, they look benign enough and don’t overwhelm the surrounding agricultural landscape.
Thirty years ago, when I first moved to the peninsula, this was cattle country. Now cash crops seem predominant on this broad section of very fertile flatland. Just 150 years ago the Ferndale Flats was a vast cedar swamp halfway up the peninsula, before it was cleared and drained, like much of southern Ontario, under the powerful provincial Drainage Act.
We can only imagine how plentiful and varied the animal life must have been in and around that swamp in the thousands of years before those drastic changes, especially the cedar-loving deer at certain times of the year. Anishinabek and perhaps other Aboriginal people who tracked that rich hunting ground and fished the bountiful waters on either shore of the peninsula considered it a special, even sacred, place for that and many other reasons.
The former Saugeen, now Bruce Peninsula, has survived a lot of big changes and events including a huge fire that burned off what remained of its forest cover about 100 years ago. But it has recovered and is rightly regarded today as one of southern Ontario’s jewels of natural beauty and an emerging international tourist destination.
Grant Patullo, spokesperson for a group opposed to expansion of a wind farm in the Priceville area, was talking about West Grey when he spoke of the “spiritual” impact of wind farms.
“We don’t think it’s healthy spiritually to have man-made structures dominating the landscape.”
No offence to the scenery of West Grey, but I dare say I think that’s perhaps an even more relevant point to make about massive wind farm development on the Bruce Peninsula.
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