Convincing landowners to turn down wind companies is the best way to keep Enniskillen Township free of wind turbines, says its mayor.
The rural township that surrounds Petrolia has been targeted by wind energy companies, leading to the forming of a citizens’ group opposed to wind turbines, as well as plenty of concern in the community.
Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott said he’s encouraged by the number of farmers and large landowners who have already told him they won’t sign leases with wind companies.
“I’m not leasing my land,” said Marriott, who farms in the township.
“It’s still possible to stop these projects in Enniskillen, but the landowners have to be willing to not sign.”
Marriott said he believes a community information meeting township resident Chad Burke and his family organized earlier this month helped make the case against signing leases with several landowners who attended.
“If enough people can say, ‘No,’ then it stops them in their tracks.”
The meeting attracted about 250 people and Burke said the citizens’ group that has since formed – Conservation of Rural Enniskillen (CORE) – plans to attend an upcoming township council meeting.
“We do have some questions that we want to ask, just to see what Enniskillen’s going to be doing moving forward.”
Marriott said, “The municipality can only do so much, at this point.”
Ontario’s Green Energy Act took away municipalities’ planning approval power for wind and other renewable energy projects.
Marriott said some residents want township council to pass a bylaw similar to neighbouring Plympton-Wyoming that calls for a minimum two-km distance between turbines and neighbouring homes.
That bylaw, and others in Plympton-Wyoming, are being challenged in court by wind company Suncor Energy Products.
“You don’t want to instigate a legal battle, unless you need to,” Marriott said.
“It’s better if you target the landowners, at this point.”
Enniskillen has set higher building permit fees for turbines, and rules requiring $200,000 security letters of credit per structure.
Unlike Plympton-Wyoming, where Suncor already has leases and a contract to sell the province energy, wind companies are still knocking on doors in Enniskillen looking to lease land for turbines, Marriott said.
Burke said CORE is planning to organize a fundraiser for Plympton-Wyoming’s legal costs in its fight with Suncor.
A representative of Mainstream Renewable Power, one of the wind companies active in Enniskillen, recently said it’s taking a new approach to selling the community on its plans by proposing to share some revenue from wind projects with all landowners who sign leases, and not just those who end up with turbines on their land.
The company also says it will set up a community energy co-op other residents in the project area can invest in.
Burke said he doesn’t believe that will change the minds of wind turbine opponents.
“It’s not about the money.”
Marriott said he also has doubts about Mainstream’s approach, particularly if claims about the health impacts of turbines are accurate.
Mayor Don McGugan, in neighbouring Brooke-Alvinston Township, called it a unique concept, but added, “It will be a hard sell because there’s so much negativity about wind turbines.”
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