Frustrated Dutton/Dunwich residents pepper wind turbine reps with barrage of questions and criticism
Proponents of industrial wind turbines stood tall last week after surviving a barrage of questions and criticisms at a public meeting at the Dutton/Dunwich Community Centre.
For than more than two hours, representatives of Invenergy fielded questions from a full house of frustrated residents who have made it clear over the past two years they are not in favour of industrial wind turbines in their community.
Invenergy, which has negotiated leases for turbines with approximately 100 property owners, has said consistently it wants to place 20-25 turbines in Dutton/Dunwich to produce 60 megawatts of power which will be exported to a nearby high-voltage transmission line.
It is one of several firms ready to submit its bid to the Ontario government for the right to generate the power.
James Murphy, vice-president of development for Invenergy, estimates if successful, the Strong Breeze farm would represent a $180-million investment, with each turbine valued at approximately $3 million.
But aside from those who signed leases, residents of Dutton/Dunwich remain opposed to allowing them in the municipality.
Residents have listed a number of issues including a belief they devalue property, cause health-related side effects from phenomena such as light flicker and noise, are an eyesore on the landscape and are not efficient as a form of green energy.
Invenergy claims it has countered all the residents’ claims and at the public meeting brought a panel of its own experts to address questions on topics like health effects, impact on wildlife and engineering concerns.
Last week’s meeting used a format where residents submitted written questions from the floor which were read by a facilitator.
In a lot of cases, residents jeered responses or groaned in disgust.
Last year Dutton/Dunwich passed a resolution declaring the municipality an unwilling host to industrial wind turbines and later backed that up with a business plan.
Council asked residents to respond to a survey if they were/were not in favour of industrial wind turbines. Approximately 84% of those who responded said they were not.
Murphy told the meeting projections are Ontario will need more energy by 2020 and applications like Invenergy are designed to meet that.
Asked about whether turbines produce adverse health effects, Lorne Knopper of Stantec Consulting said when turbines are sighted properly, they don’t produce adverse health effects.
“The overwhelming weight of evidence suggests wind turbines are not related to health effects,” Knopper advised.
Responding to a question, panel participants disagreed with a suggestion there would be a loss in property value from locating turbines in Dutton/Dunwich.
Murphy said Invenergy has agreed to set back turbines one kilometre away from settled areas like towns and hamlets. The minimum setback from a turbine in a rural area is 550 metres.
“We all know a 550-metre setback is not adequate,” one resident said.
Industrial wind turbines are approximately 100 metres high with a rotor diameter of 45 metres and have an estimated life expectancy of 20-25 years.
Several questions were raised about the effect of turbines on bats, birds and, in particular, species like bald eagles.
Bats continue to suffer higher than acceptable mortality rates around turbines,while the audience was told mortality rates for birds are within the “threshold” or limit allowed by provincial regulations.
The audience was told the number of bald eagles or related species killed is already low.
Several times, questioners asked why Invenergy wants to erect wind turbines in a community where a majority of voters who responded to a survey said they did not support them being there.
Murphy said in spite of that sentiment, which the company respected, Invenergy does have a duty to serve the 100 or more landowners who signed leases to allow turbines on their land.
“There was no requirement for us to come here and answer questions,” Murphy said. “There are going to be answers I can’t provide.”
Murphy said Invenergy would have staff available 24 hours a day to respond if needed.
He hinted the company may be able to help residents with enhanced, high-speed internet connections if it is allowed to construct the turbines. Those turbines would require fibre optic connections and there is a chance other users could “piggyback” on those new lines.
Murphy said local fire departments won’t have to upgrade to provide fire protection for turbines, which have fire suppressant features.
Invenergy paid for the meeting including the rent for the community centre.
It wants to make its final bid by Sept. 1.
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