A recent study that found communities are more accepting of wind turbines once they are erected within them doesn’t fly with opponents of the proposed wind farm on Amherst Island.
The study, conducted by Jamie Baxter of the University of Western Ontario’s geography department and published recently in the journal Energy Policy, found that 69% of residents within a community that was home to a wind-power project supported them, while that support dropped to 25% in a nearby, turbine-free community.
Peter Large, president of the Association to Protect Amherst Island, disputes several of the study’s observations.
Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. is proposing to erect up to 37 turbines on the island just west of Kingston.
For one thing, he said, the percentages allotted each of the rural communities – Shelburne, Ont., is home to a large-scale wind project, while nearby West Perth, Ont., is not – may be distorted since a number of Shelburne’s residents may have already packed up and moved away because of the turbines’ arrival.
“(The study) doesn’t describe the makeup of the residents’ sample, and it doesn’t describe the makeup of the control community, either,” Large suggested.
Large is also skeptical of the study’s sample size, which he feels is too small “to do any statistical validity.”
There are some observations the study makes with which Large does agree.
One of them is the rift that can be found within communities in which turbines are to be erected. In the two locations studied, the concern over possible conflict with fellow residents was 83% in Shelburne and 85% in turbine-free West Perth.
Some residents will sign up to have a wind turbine erected on their property while others will decline, thereby pitting neighbour against neighbour, Large observed.
“That is palpable here,” he said in reference to Amherst Island.
“Just the very threat that turbines are coming, that 17 families have signed (up) for them and the rest haven’t, puts up a very high barrier, indeed.”
This study, he feels, holds little value for communities outside of the two observed.
Large said there is a difference between the efforts of those opposed to a wind-power project on Amherst Island and the tact the UWO case study took.
“The arguments we have here are based on science, are based on observation, are based on clear measurements, and there’s nothing like this rather soft stuff that this person is talking about,” he suggested.
“Maybe this is a social study of some kind and not what you like to call ‘hard data.’ ”