The debate around a proposed wind farm in Falconbridge is heating up.
Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo attended the meeting of the planning committee on Monday and told members that he and his colleague, Deb McIntosh of Ward 9, ardently support the project, which would include 30 to 50 wind turbines generating as much as 150 megawatts of hydro power annually (enough to power as many as 50,000 typical American homes, according to online research).
The farm would bisect the Garson-Coniston road and spread northeast, split almost evenly between wards seven and nine. In addition to the turbines, it would include a transformer substation, low-voltage electrical collector lines, access roads, a high-voltage line, as well as work areas.
Jakubo laid out the benefits of the project and referred to the mountainous lands as ideal.
“This development wouldn’t hinder any of the recreational users, such as ATVers or snowmachiners,” he said.
He admitted there would be disruptions to wildlife corridors and habitats during construction, but added studies have shown those disturbances are temporary.
“By about six months following construction, all wildlife returns,” Jakubo added. “They’ve seen antler scratchings at the base of these turbines.”
Chris Dougherty sees things differently. The Thunder Bay-based resource and industrial engineer has long opposed wind farms and was actually involved in stopping a project near his Lake Superior base. His family has lived on the Garson-Coniston road for nearly a century and he does not want to see the Falconbridge farm established.
For one thing, the farms are subsidized, creating a lot of “smoke and mirrors” around energy savings and financial incentives. Dougherty called them “economically unviable.”
“The truth of the matter is that these undertakings cost Ontario taxpayers enormous amounts of money. The auditor-general of Ontario estimates we’ve lost $2 billion already in generating this energy and then dumping it in the States, because we don’t need the energy,” he contended. “But it is a lovely election platform issue to say we’re doing this.”
The municipality could reap financial benefits. Through a community benefit contribution, Greater Sudbury could receive $2,500 per megawatt of power over 20 years – as much as $350,000 annually for the 150-megawatt project.
Dougherty also poked holes at the renewable and environmental arguments.
“We’re actually not doing anything positive (for the environment),” he said. “The environmental costs of building these turbines, in terms of the metals used and the costs of production are huge.”
He also expressed concern that opening up the lands could have detrimental environmental impacts, especially since the city undertook massive regreening efforts over the past few decades.
“These areas, which have been in isolation for 75 or 80 years – they’re finally getting rehabilitated and we’re going to cut 60 kilometres of road through them, giving everybody access to every pond, stream, lake and hillock all the way through,” he argued. “What’s that going to do to the environmental process?”
Finally, Dougherty, an advocate of nuclear power, laid out his views on low-energy noise, which is generated as the turbines turn and which he argued can cause health problems, including impaired sleep patterns.
Ward 11 Coun. Lynne Reynolds, who referred to the turbines as beautiful, also expressed her support of the plan near the end of yesterday’s meeting.
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