Wind energy may be green, but opponents of a proposed wind farm on the Oak Ridges Moraine worry that five giant turbines will damage the environmentally sensitive area.
“There are conflicting values,” said Heather Stauble, a Kawartha Lakes councillor who represents the area where WPD Canada hopes to build its Sumac Ridge wind farm.
The provincial government has already approved the project, but the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal is scheduled to hear an appeal that begins Monday.
“They do not need to locate it on the Oak Ridges Moraine,” said Stauble, who noted the turbines would be adjacent to a conservation area. “There are other places in Ontario that have wind that (are) not the Oak Ridges Moraine.”
The Oak Ridges Moraine received special protection from the provincial government in 2001. Its gravel and sandy soil filter the rainwater and melting snow that feeds 65 rivers and streams – and those bodies of water directly provide drinking water to 250,000 people on wells. They slowly recharge the deep aquifers below ground, serving as the rain barrel of southern Ontario.
Stauble says residents in the community worry that if the wind farm goes ahead on these protected lands, it will be the beginning of the industrialization of the pristine area. Concerns included the need to build new roads, cut down thousands of trees and alterations to the elevations in the hilly landscape.
WPD Canada has won renewal energy approval from the environment ministry for its Sumac Ridge project, which will feed an estimated 26 million kilowatt hours (kWh) a year to the electricity grid – equivalent to the average annual power usage of 1,800 homes.
WPD Canada spokesman Kevin Surette said as part of the approval process, the company has conducted extensive studies into the area’s wildlife and natural features.
“Those have been thoroughly reviewed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment in approving our application,” he said.
The documentation takes into consideration the protections provided under the Oak Ridges Moraine Act, so “we feel the project itself won’t be detrimental to the moraine,” Surette said.
He noted that the turbines would be built well above the water table, and the bases would not be any deeper than a foundation for a typical home. Surette added that the company intends to use existing roads, possibly shoring them up to handle the turbines.
WPD is already operating two wind projects, one near Fergus and one near Orangeville, that are now hooked up to the grid.
Stauble said opponents to the Sumac Ridge wind farm are nervous, given the environmental review tribunal has only blocked one wind project to date.
However, she added the provincial government has the power to step in and stop it too.
“It’s never too late, so I say, ‘Get moving,’ ” Stauble said.
Also on Monday, a constitutional challenge is being heard against a proposed 140-turbine wind farm near Goderich.
The case focuses on claims by farm families concerned about the potential health effects of living as close as 500 metres to the turbines. Their lawyer, Julian Falconer, argues the law is rigged when it comes to official consideration of any harmful effects the turbines might pose.
“In wind, the fact that it may hurt you is not enough – you have to actually prove it will hurt you,” Falconer told The Canadian Press. “This is not how we manage health.”
Earlier this month, Health Canada reported that its study of 1,200 residents in Ontario and P.E.I. turned up no sign of health problems caused by wind-turbine noise. The noise might be annoying but had no link to sleep disturbances, dizziness, tinnitus, migraines, increased blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes, the agency said.
Critics, however, argued Health Canada had not released details of what they called a poorly designed study and said it had yet to undergo any peer review.
With files from Canadian Press
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