Some 60 people opposed to a four wind turbine development, known as Springwood, near Belwood made their voices heard at a public meeting held by wpd Canada on the project.
The meeting held at the library here Aug. 14 saw opponents, many armed with anti wind turbine placards and green t-shirts, raise questions with corporate management, corporate matters president Ian MacRae. However, many of the questions were not answered to their satisfaction during an, at times, noisy confrontation on issues.
Valerie Kitchell, the company’s renewable energy approval representative, said road construction for the project was expected to start Aug. 19. The project, she said, has been planned for a long time with measures taken to lessen the impact of the road construction on homes in the area.
The project consists of four wind turbines expected to produce 9.2 megawatts of power, enough to provide power to 1,980 homes. It is bounded by Sideroad 20 (in the old West Garafraxa) to the northwest, County Road 16 to the northeast, Second Line to the southwest and Sideroad 15 to the southeast. Its proposed connection point is at the Eramosa-Garafraxa Townline and County Road 29.
Opposition has come from Oppose Belwood Wind Farm Inc. (OBWF) which organized the rally in Elora.
Kitchell said the company was also seeking input on how to communication with residents as the project moves ahead.
“We want an idea of what kind of communication is best,” she said.
The issue drew heated comments from neighboring resident Bob Wright whose property is within 880 meters of one of the turbines. Wright operates a veterinary clinic and an airplane runway on his property. He and his wife have sent the company 75 letters of inquiry and most have gone unanswered.
“Nobody from this company has come and talked to me,” he said of concerns about his business and the
value of his property. “You’ve completely ignored my business.”
Wright complained the turbines could present a danger for planes flying into his runway or the 17 airstrips located throughout the area. He pointed to a Transport Canada ruling that eight wind turbines would have to be removed from a development in Chatham Kent because of their proximity to a registered airstrip.
MacRae said Wright’s airstrip does not fall under Transport Canada regulations.
“As long as the rules are followed, aerodromes are safe,” MacRae said of the development and the impact it would have on the airstrip. “We’ve gone through the accepted procedures and they said it’s not a problem.”
Wright said his business, which he has operated for 20 years, employs five people and with a turbine development nearby he has no opportunity of selling it at market value if he decides to retire.
“Nobody will buy this business,” he told the supportive crowd. “It will cost me $1 million.”
It was a similar issue raised by Stefan Preisenhammer who sold his house two years ago when he discovered a turbine development was planned. According to him the sale saw his $750,000 home depreciate by 22 per cent.
“It destroys the property value,” he said. “All these people have a huge stake in this.”
MacRae declined to comment on market value questions because of a legal issue with some property owners suing wpd.
“The property value is before the courts and I’m not going to talk about it,” he said.
County councillor Lynda White raised the issue of potential health problems resulting from turbines built close to homes. The federal government is undertaking a study to determine the health impacts of turbines which is expected out some time next year. However, turbine opponents contend health risks have already been determined in other studies done in other countries.
“People are having horrible times sleeping because of the flickering,” White said, referring to what she has heard from some residents living close to the turbines in Mapleton near Arthur. “I know when talking to people living close to the turbines, it’s affecting their health.”
Centre Wellington council has already declared the township an unwilling host which has had little impact because the provincial government has jurisdiction over approvals to turbine developments. County council has already called on the province to put in a moratorium on turbine construction, a resolution that has not been addressed by the provincial government.
MacRae said health concerns relating to Springwood should be brought to the attention of the ministry of environment which gave final approval for the turbine development. He said the company has met all the criteria set out by the provincial government and those with complaints should go to the respective ministry to lodge them.
Questions about liability should an accident occur or emergency arise related to the turbines were also brought up.
MacRae said the company has insured each of its turbines for $5 million a piece and he said wpd has agreements with the local fire department if emergencies arise. On a question about potential tornadoes damaging turbines, MacRae said “there’s never been an incident of a turbine taken by a tornado.”
“We do understand your concerns,” he told the crowd.
White asked what the company would do if power generated by its turbines isn’t needed.
MacRae said the 20-year contract the company has with the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) will stand.
“The OPA has never reneged on contracts,” he said.
He said the company also has plans to decommission the turbines at the end of the 20 years and has set aside $100,000 in blocked bank accounts landowners would have access to to decommission a turbine on their property should wpd fail to do the work.
In an interview with the Advertiser following the meeting, MacRae said the company is considering setting up a separate website to keep people informed about the work as it progresses.
However OBWF president Janet Vallery said her group will continue its opposition to the development. She declined to comment directly on what actions the group is planning.
The OBWF is also critical of the Liberal government for allowing turbine projects to proceed and took aim at the government’s Green Energy Act. “Through the Green Energy Act they’ve allowed industrialists to come in and destroy our communities,” she told the Advertiser. “The government has created an environment where people’s rights are marginalized and trampled on.” Installation of the four turbines is expected to take place early next year.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding