Making the television documentary, Wind Rush, changed filmmaker Andrew Gregg’s point of view about Ontario’s leap into wind energy.
The film, narrated by Doc Zone host Ann-Marie MacDonald, airs Feb. 7 on CBC.
Gregg, a veteran documentary writer, director and producer, spent two years working on Wind Rush after the CBC brought the subject to the production company he works with.
“There was so much in the media a few years ago about opposition to what looked like such a benign and green form of energy,” Gregg said.
Gregg said he started out skeptical of health claims being made by wind turbine opponents.
Plus, he said he grew up on a farm and could see how lease income from turbines could help farmers out.
“There seemed to be a lot of pluses and not a lot of negatives.”
And then, the filmmakers began looking more closely at the issue and found the complaints they were hearing “were surprisingly consistent,” Gregg said.
They also talked to specialists and scientists, including Hazel Lynn, the Grey Bruce medical officer of health.
“She didn’t have a dog in this fight, one way or another,” he said.
But, Lynn saw how consistent symptoms some residents living near turbines were reporting “and then started to think, ‘OK, we’ve got a problem here,’” Gregg said.
“It was a very rational way of looking at things.”
And, Gregg said, the same problems were showing up across Ontario where wind turbines were being built.
There are 14 wind turbines in Lambton County and about another 150 could be built in the next year or so if the Cedar Point and Jericho wind projects go ahead in north Lambton.
The documentary starts out in Alberta where wind energy has been a success because wide open spaces on the prairies allow them to be built greater distances from homes.
It moves then to more densely populated rural Ontario where the reception to turbines hasn’t been as welcome, and then to Denmark, once a poster-child for wind energy, where the relationship between residents and turbines has soured.
The high cost of placing turbines offshore in Denmark led developers to begin building them close to homes onshore.
The documentary shows comments from residents upset by wind turbines in Ontario and Denmark that sound very much the same.
“You could go to England and get the same thing,” Gregg said. “You could go to Japan, you could go to Australia, different places in the world where it’s happening.”
Gregg said the film’s name is a take on gold rush, but more than just that.
The Ontario government’s Green Energy Act was a “laudable thing to do, but I felt they rushed into it,” he said.
“I don’t think that they really did enough research before committing to so many turbines.”
MacDonald asks at one point in the narration, “In the rush, have people who live among wind farms been forgotten?”
Gregg said he feels there’s much more to learn about the science of wind farms and their impact on residents.
“Right now, were just essentially taking the manufacturer’s word for it that there’s not a problem,” he said.
“But, obviously, there is a problem.”
And, the problems are likely to get more intense as the turbines get larger and more powerful in the years ahead, Gregg said.
While wind energy is the subject of the film, it’s really about science, he said.
“And, what you sort of unleash on the public without doing adequate testing.
“The fact that they stuck these giant things in fields next to people’s houses is pretty incredible, when you think of it in those terms.”
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