(MANVERS TWP) When Ward 16 Councillor Heather Stauble wanted to talk wind turbines with Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli last month, she wasn’t about to be blown off.
While attending the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) conference on Feb. 25, she and deputants from Cavan-Monaghan in Peterborough seized the opportunity to discuss wind energy projects with the minister.
At all such conferences, she noted in an interview on Tuesday (March 11), there “are lots of ministers and deputy ministers, and you get your two to five minutes” to network.
Coun. Stauble said she previously met with the minister last November and was promised another meeting.
“Instead, in December, the Province approved Sumac Ridge.”
At the November meeting, she said, the minister said he would not break the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) contracts (the applications wind energy companies submit to the Ministry of Environment for approval).
Sumac Ridge is a wpd Canada wind energy project of five industrial wind turbines near Bethany. After its FIT was approved, Manvers Wind Concerns and the Buddhist Association of Canada’s Cham Shan Temple launched an appeal with the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT). That hearing is set for sometime in April.
The Cham Shan Temple has made it clear that if the turbines are built, the remaining three Temples will not be.
The Temple mirrors the four great meditation Buddhist Temples in China, recreating a spiritual pilgrimage in the City of Kawartha Lakes. One is almost complete and three more are planned for the area, an investment of about $60 million and planned for the last 20 years. The Buddhists maintain wind turbines would discourage people coming to the Temple for a meditational experience.
At the conference, Coun. Stauble said she and deputants from Peterborough spoke with Minister Chiarelli.
“We discussed the very good study Peterborough County did on the impact of wind turbines, the investment of the Buddhist Temples and the [concerns] about the Peterborough airport on the height of the turbines possibly affecting planes,” she said.
“The Minister asked, ‘what do you expect us to do’, and I said, cancel the contracts,” Coun. Stauble laughed.
Last week, Stoneboat Community Wind Farm cancelled their plan for five wind turbines in the City. That project, according to MPP Laurie Scott “represented the greatest threat” to the Cham Shan Temple.
While the Stoneboat project has been cancelled there is still the outstanding FIT contract that needs to be terminated, Coun. Stauble explained, because they are transferable to a new location.
Coun. Stauble has worked on the wind turbine issue since 2009, and she emphasized she and those fighting them are not against green energy, including small-scale wind turbines.
What they are fighting, she said, is the “monster” industrial wind turbines, which, at 476 feet high, pose a real threat to human health because of the low frequency noise emissions. She added the Province is ignoring its own rules on the setbacks (of 550 metres from any noise receptor, including homes.)
“There’s 40 years of research on low frequency noise. It’s so low, you can’t hear it. So, you don’t know the damage it is causing, which [ultimately] affects all of your organs. The waves from the blades are what create the low frequency noise…it’s like the waves from a big boat.”
Coun. Stauble said the wind turbine opponents are not against all green energy; they simply want due diligence in making the decisions.
“Many of the people in Manvers Wind Concerns have experience with small scale wind and solar energy projects,” she continued. “The objection is to the industrial turbines.
“The Province has ignored its own regulations about setbacks for the turbines, which are larger than most buildings in Toronto.”
She said the turbines only generate power “at night and in the winter, and the demand is in the daytime in the summer.”
The proposed sites also pose a threat to the Oak Ridges Moraine, she added, “which provides source water to 250,000 people…the Province doesn’t know what the impact will be on the Moraine.”
Coun. Stauble said whether energy is nuclear, wind or solar, there are three requirements that must be examined.
“Does it work, is it reliable and does it impact health, the environment and the social [aspect], like the Buddhist Temple and First Nations…looking at those properly in the first place would have resulted in better decisions.”
She said the wind turbine issue has “eroded public confidence in how the Province makes decisions.” And, she said the way the Green Energy Act is set up, municipalities and community input is ignored.
Along with Sumac Ridge, there are two more wind projects planned in the same area. Coun. Stauble said none are welcome. “I can see these all across southern Ontario at the expense of agricultural land,” she said.
Kevin Surette, manager of communications for wpd Canada, said the company has no plans to withdraw its project and will proceed with the ERT hearing. He noted Stoneboat did not have its FIT approved yet when it cancelled the project, while wpd Canada is in “a different position” because Sumac Ridge’s FIT was approved.
He said the company fulfilled all of the Province’s requirements and will proceed with the ERT hearing.
“We did our due diligence and the Ministry of Environment must have agreed, because they approved it in December,” he said. “The ERT gives the chance to appeal that decision and we will wait for the decision by the independent panel.”
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