OTTAWA —The same process that led to Ontario’s “gas plant fiasco” is being used for wind-generation projects with disastrous results, says the head of a group concerned about a proposed wind farm in rural southern Ottawa.
“The gas plants got all the attention, but the wind-power projects are more widespread – and causing real problems for communities in terms of health problems, social disruption, lost property value and harm to the natural environment,” wrote Jane Wilson in a submission to the Ontario Power Generation and the Independent Energy System Operator as part of a “dialogue” about the way the province locates large power projects.
The consultation process stemmed from the political controversy around the location, and cancellation, of planned gas plants in southern Ontario. The Liberal government’s handling of the costly gas plant issue is the subject of an inquiry and a criminal investigation.
Ottawa Wind Concerns, which Wilson heads (in addition to Wind Concerns Ontario) wants a new system for planning and siting all large energy projects, including wind, that gives local communities more control. The Liberal government’s Green Energy Act gave the province control over location of wind energy projects. In May, the provincial government announced changes that will make developers work more closely with municipalities.
Ottawa Wind Concerns says, however, that the province needs to go further and give municipalities full control over projects as well as treating them the same way an industrial project would be treated. So far 60 municipalities across the province have declared themselves not willing hosts to wind power projects.
“Local land use planning needs to be returned to communities as a start and power projects should be treated as any other sort of infrastructure, with residents having full input to decisions that will affect their community, their financial futures and their health.”
Although many people living near wind turbines complain about health effects, research into the issue is limited. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, in a 2010 report, concluded that “the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.” It also concluded that sound from wind turbines with common setbacks is not sufficient to cause hearing problems, although people might find it annoying. It also said there is no scientific evidence that vibrations from low-frequency wind turbine noise causes health issues. The report also said that “community engagement at the outset of planning for wind turbines is important and may alleviate health concerns.”
Health Canada has launched a major study into the effect of wind turbines on health. Meanwhile, federal cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre and Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod, both of whom represent the riding where the project is planned, are calling for a moratorium on the North Gower project until the Health Canada study is completed.
A spokesman for the company that is proposing to build the project, Prowind Canada Inc., said it is temporarily on hold until the province determines what the new process for awarding wind power contracts will look like.
Rochelle Rumney, environmental co-ordinator with the company, said – environmental coordinator said Prowind would “like to work with the community and try to have everybody be comfortable with the project.”
Meanwhile, during an ongoing July heat wave that has strained the power grid, wind power contributed less than one per cent to Ontario’s power needs this week, something that Wilson says underlines the need for a cost-benefit analysis of wind-power projects.
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