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80th municipality opposes wind farms

The anti-wind farm movement has notched up another win in its battle to stop industrial wind turbines from spreading across the province.

After surveying its residents, Dutton-Dunwich council became the 80th municipality in Ontario to pass a resolution opposing wind turbine development on their turf.

“This is pretty amazing,” Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, said Saturday.

Wilson said there are about 90 municipalities in Ontario that are vulnerable to having big wind projects located within their boundaries. To have 80 come out officially opposed is an achievement that will carry weight.

“I remember back when we hit 30 and we thought, wow, this is going somewhere,” Wilson said.

The impact of the campaign can be seen in recent statements by Ontario’s Energy Minister that in the future it will be virtually impossible for wind farms to be located in a municipality without an agreement with the local council, she said.

“I think that’s a sign they are having to listen,” Wilson said.

When Ontario first introduced its Green Energy Act, the Liberal government stripped local municipalities of planning powers over energy projects.

That move sparked a backlash that lead to the defeat of several Liberal Cabinet ministers in a subsequent provincial election. Last year the government announced a review of the Act and promised to return some control to local municipalities.

Dutton-Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam said he believes his municipality is the first in Ontario to actually survey residents on whether they wanted industrial wind turbines located in the municipality.

More than 50% of residents replied to the survey and 84% said they opposed the wind turbines.

“We felt it was time to say to the province we aren’t interested in a project,” McWilliam said.

The resolution passed by Dutton-Dunwich council on March 12 requests the province not sign any contracts for industrial wind projects within the municipality. The resolution also instructed municipal staff not to sign any agreements.

Wind farm developer and operator Invenergy has approached landowners in Dutton-Dunwich to lease properties for a 90 megawatt project that would mean the installation of 30 turbines.

Invenergy is headquartered in Chicago and has power generation facilities in North America and Europe. It has 42 wind farms.

McWillian said there were some land owners were interested in signing contracts with Ivenergy and that is understandable from a business point of view, McWilliam said.

People opposing the wind farm have cited concerns over health, property values and whether wind turbines are an efficient source of green energy.

While the council passed a resolution opposing the wind turbines, Dutton-Dunwich is not opposed to green energy, McWilliam said.

A number of solar energy projects have already gone ahead, he said.

While Dutton-Dunwich has moved to put the brakes on wind farm development, other large scale wind farms are rapidly progressing in Southwestern Ontario despite vocal opposition, including the Adelaide and Bornish wind farms in Middlesex County.