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Turbine fight continues; Wellandport couple demands data from manufacturer

When Mike and Cheryl Jeffrey moved to Wellandport more than 13 years ago, they thought they had found a quiet country paradise for themselves and their young son. Cheryl, who always considered herself something of a country girl, was able to live a life she could barely imagine in when the couple lived in Hamilton. The Jeffreys keep livestock, their son enjoys ATVing, and they rent some of their property to a local farmer.

“We left the city to enjoy this kind of lifestyle. We raised our son here,” Cheryl said.

When they first heard of the wind turbines coming to their area, they were optimistic, and confused by all the local opposition. They are supporters of green energy. But, as they learned more about how the turbines were being rolled out, their support turned into opposition. The Jeffrey’s property is dotted with signs calling for a wind turbine ban, including one sign with a dramatic photo of a turbine on fire. They were disappointed with West Lincoln council’s unwillingness to follow Wainfleet in passing a bylaw requiring wind turbines to be at least two kilometres from a residence.

“The council can take action in pursuit of public interest. Recent court decisions appear to support this view,” said Cheryl. “They’re not even trying. They’re just saying it’s provincial.”

Cheryl said towns other than Wainfleet have been standing up to demand a two-kilometre setback. The municipality of Plympton-Wyoming, near Sarnia, passed a two-kilometre setback bylaw early in February.

“There are more municipalities saying this is too close,” she said.

The Jeffreys feel that council might be willing to take a stand if it becomes clear that the majority of residents desire a two-kilometre setback. To that end, in January the couple distributed a flier to every home in the township, asking people to email or write in their thoughts before Jan. 27. Cheryl presented these findings to council at the Feb. 11 meeting.

“We had a very large response. People were happy to be able to express themselves. Most of the people don’t want the turbines at all, but they feel safer with a minimum two-kilometre setback. Many feel it could be further. A lot of people in support of this said they were not against green energy, they are for the turbines, but they said they should further away,” she said.

Unlike some anti-turbine activists, who cite long-term health concerns as their primary fear, the Jeffreys are most afraid of injuries or property damage caused by a turbine failure. Mike said the Niagara Regional Wind Corporation (NWRC) is not providing them with all the information they need to feel at ease. He has requested that NRWC release the manufacturer recommended setbacks for the turbines they are building. They have yet to do so, though they acknowledge their own minimum setback distance is smaller than that recommended by the manufacturer of the turbines. Mike, who has a technical background, hopes to obtain a stop order from the township to prevent the construction of the turbines on these grounds.

“I’m trying to get a temporary stop order until they can provide the technical information that I need to complete my calculations,” he said. “We need the engineering destructive report. And I need to see the manufacturing setback.”

The couple has been collecting data on turbine safety for several months. Among the items they have received are a letter from an insurance broker on behalf of Western General Insurance, to a homeowner near Sarnia. The letter advises the homeowner that his insurance would be cancelled once a wind turbine was erected on the property.

“Once the units are erected, you, the owner of the property lost some control on people coming onto the property for repairs of maintenance, along with some injury risk the units could cause, leaving yourself and the Company open to potential liability losses,” the letter reads. “Your policy would therefore be cancelled.”

The Jeffreys feel that if an insurance company believes a turbine to be a risk, they should also have reason for concern. Mike wants to know how far turbines blades could travel in the event of a catastrophic failure.

“If you know something is unsafe and you install, it’s not longer a civil matter. It’s criminal. That’s why they play with the terminology, that’s why they tighten the setbacks… it was a tailored setback to accommodate an illegal build,” said Mike. “We need to see the recommended manufacturer setback, and the manufacturer’s destructive report.”