The Municipality of West Grey met with NextEra energy at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. As part of the approval process for the wind turbines planned for just outside of Durham, NextEra needs to make consultation with West Grey. This began on Monday.
Questions by council were answered by Derek Dudek, community relations consultant for NextEra, and Adam Rickel, project manager of the Durham project.
NextEra also hired a West Grey police officer to be present at the council meetings, to ensure the safety of all people at the meeting.
Mayor Kevin Eccles said to NextEra that council is elected to represent the people. He said that the vast majority of people within West Grey don’t want the turbines in their municipality. He said that was why West Grey passed a resolution saying that West Grey will not be a willing host to the turbines.
“We hope that we’re providing them with accountable information that will ease their concerns with respect to the centre,” Dudek answered.
Councillor Bev Cutting made it clear to the NextEra representatives that West Grey would be getting their own independent peer review done by West Grey, at a cost to NextEra. She said that all of those proposing a project have to have it reviewed by an independent peer reviewer and that the company proposing a project always pays.
The mayor questioned the company to do tests about stray voltage around the turbines.
“Would that not be a proactive thing for the company to do?” Mayor Eccles said he had heard stories of stray voltage in and around the Ripley wind turbines and the Kincardine ones.
Adam Rickel said that there is a lesser risk for stray voltage because the cables are buried underground. He said that “historically stray voltage comes from hanging lines.”
Rickel said that because the wind turbines aren’t built the same way as the above-mentioned centres and operated the same way as those centres, they lessened the problem by doing things differently in Durham.
When Rickel said that the residents who are concerned can do their own stray voltage testing, conducted by Hydro One if they are concerned.
Mayor Eccles reiterated the fact again that he believed that a reputable company that was trying to mitigate concerns would have done this to show the community there wasn’t a problem.
Cutting raised some concerns over the decommissioning of the wind turbines. She questioned the representatives that in their agreements there is NextEra throughout the contract when, in fact, in the area of decommissioning, it said the “project owner” not NextEra. This means the onus would be on whoever owned the wind turbines at the time.
Concerned with the residents of West Grey or the property owners having to worry about costly decommissioning, West Grey is requesting that NextEra has a $4 million bond for decommissioning. Although Cutting didn’t have any finalized figures, she said when all the research was done the bond would likely come at a cost of more than that. She said that this will be something that NextEra should expect.
“(Decommissioning) is not going to fall on the shoulders of the people of West Grey,” said Cutting.
Carol Lawrence raised a concern that NextEra wasn’t taking into account West Grey’s personal feelings towards the cultural heritage in West Grey. She said that although their landmarks were not officially registered, the history behind the area means a lot to West Grey residents, even if heritage landmarks aren’t officially registered.
Cutting further raised concerns about wording in the agreements which says that some animals may feel a slight a shock a result of the turbine. She said that in documents given to West Grey, it also said that some people, may feel a tingle as well. She said that in her speaking with people she knows of a dairy farmer who had wind turbines which ruined his farm. She said that it was “Defunct.”
Dudek said that it is NextEra’s hope that moving forward with the project, West Grey’s residents would have their concerns met with informative answers that explained their concerns. He said that moving forward, he had many comments all pertaining to certain questions of the wind turbines. He said that by answering direct questions and having public open houses they hope that they are relieving the residents of concerns about the wind turbines.
“Do you think by answering a few questions we’re suddenly going to have a light bulb go off in our heads? Do you not hear what we are saying? We have done our homework. We are still saying we are an unwilling host. We’re telling you to go away,” said Cutting.
The representatives did not comment.
Dudek said that he doubted they could change the minds of all individuals but that by answering questions and having educated and informative answers, it clears the unknown surrounding the wind centre.
“If we build a good project and manage a good project, we can ease a lot of concerns,” said Dudek.
They were told that West Grey is hiring their own person to be involved in the process of building and managing the wind centre which would be at a cost to NextEra if the project does meet Ministry standards and is approved by the Ministry.
NextEra has a planned public open house for January 15 in Durham. They will be available to answer questions in an open house format.
But that wasn’t all the Wind Turbine talk that happened in West Grey.
A group opposed to the wind turbines had an information meeting Saturday morning to bring some facts from their own experts as to what happens when turbines are built in a community. Two women at the meeting made presentations saying they were forced to move when the turbines created health issues for their families and themselves.
A Re/Max real estate agent who spoke said that property values do go down, and if you sell your home that is near turbines, it is documented that you could receive at least 20 per cent less for your home.