The steel poles couldn’t look more out of place.
They’re industrial-looking monoliths, currently equipped with pulleys to hoist the power lines into place when a 230-megawatt industrial wind farm is completed in rural west Niagara this summer.
The poles are being erected along 45 kms of quiet country roads feeding into wind turbines located in Wainfleet, West Lincoln and Lincoln.
And hundreds of trees, including some that are more than 100 years old are being chopped down to clear the way for them.
There’s no other way to put it. Those poles are ugly.
Even typical wooden telephone poles would have been preferable. They would have better suited the rural setting.
But the poles that are being erected are a blight on the countryside, devaluing property and infuriating property owners – some of whom have watched helplessly as hundreds of old growth trees have been chopped down to accommodate them.
There must have been alternatives.
In a few cases, the township has managed to preserve some of the trees that were marked for chopping. But far more trees were felled than saved.
In Lincoln, Mayor Sandra Easton said there was some tree trimming done as part of the project, but to her knowledge no 150-year-old healthy oak trees were chopped down.
Instead, she said Niagara Region Wind Farm buried its major transmission lines underground.
In Wainfleet, I have heard estimates that about 800 trees were cut, as well as untold hundreds more in West Lincoln. We can only guess at the number because Niagara Region Wind Farm won’t say how many trees were chopped for the transmission lines.
Easton wrote in an e-mail that Lincoln has a “comprehensive agreement with the wind company, which requires frequent monitoring.”
Wainfleet too has a comprehensive agreement with the company. But it didn’t save trees in that community.
Many of the trees that were spared in Wainfleet were the result of property owners fighting back, putting up fences, no entry signs and locked gates in the path of the chainsaws, while working with Wainfleet’s engineering manager Richard Nan to advocate on their behalf.
While the provincial government’s Green Energy Act has been the target of a lot of derision – particularly in rural communities like Wainfleet that have fought tooth and nail against it, there have been supporters too.
Those supporters are rightly concerned about the environment and greenhouse gas emissions, and see the move to green energy production as a sound solution.
In many cases, support has been undermined by government policies that have greatly reduced municipal control of how green energy developments proceed.
And now, chopping down old growth trees seems to be further alienating the dwindling number of allies green energy developers still have.
Part of the Green Energy Act was supposed to create jobs, thanks to domestic content policies included in it. And it did create jobs – for a while.
We’re now starting to see how fleeting even that aspect of the legislation is proving to be.
Two years ago, a German company opened Power Blades on Rusholme Road in Welland to manufacture huge wind turbine blades.
It was to be here for the long term, with ambitious promises of expansion and plenty of good paying jobs.
This community, desperate for any economic investment after being pummeled by factory closures, welcomed them with open arms.
Just four months ago, the company announced the plant was closing immediately.
And the once abandoned factory was abandoned again.
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