Misinformation fans fears of wind farms
The Hamilton Spectator
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
The you-know-what has hit the fan’ when it comes to skyrocketing electricity rates and West Lincoln is no different, except the fan is much bigger. A wind turbine actually, that opposers say looks more like a passenger jet bolted to a big pole.
Some residents are very upset about the project that will border Westbrook Rd. in West Lincoln and include five wind turbines generating enough electricity to power 2,800 homes.
Homeowners say they have been kept in the dark about the project and have had to gather details from neighbours and their own investigating.
Their fears range from health issues to property devaluation.
Talk among the community has included stories of residents near wind farms who have walked away from their homes due to the side effects and health issues of living near the 50-metre high towers. They also speak of “deals” cut with land owners who provide the property for the farms and then say they are sworn to secrecy or risk penalty.
I invited John Andrews, president of I.P.C. Energy (the company developing the site) onto CHML to answer some of the questions most asked over the last few weeks by anxious residents.
One thing both sides agree on, says Andrews is that, “the industry, developers, and the provincial government have done an absolutely terrible job of educating the public” on the issue.
As a result early in the New Year, I.P.C. will hold another meeting in the area (TBA) to try to answer the “hard questions” and provide more information.
And that is the problem: the lack of credible information that both sides consider balanced and accurate.
It’s a gap, Andrews says, that can be bridged with a joint facilitator and should be done for the benefit of all.
Are wind turbines bad for your health?
“No, not with the new set-back regulations in Ontario” he says. A wind turbine must now be at least 550 metres away from non-participating homes, and even further if noise is an issue. Turbines erected before the new regulations may be closer as they were grandfathered in.
When asked why the municipalities didn’t have any input on these projects I.P.C. said they did at one time but it was inconsistent. Some areas embraced them and built too many while others didn’t want anything to do with them stifling the industry, therefore the provincial government added more stringent regulations. I.P.C. says it does meet with the municipality as it wants everyone to be on the same page.
As far as “gag orders” so wind farmers will keep quiet? Andrews says his company contracts are “wide open” and it’s up to the wind farmer if he wants to show you his agreement and fee with I.P.C.
When asked about a drop in the value of homes near the wind farms, Andrews wasn’t as sure adding, more “properly conducted studies” are needed as many factors determine the price of a home. Educating the public and easing their fears goes a long way, similar to when nuclear power first came on line in the 1970’s.
That being said, he knows of no accurate information where one has walked away from their property because of a wind turbine and adds most people would feel more fear and anxiety if they lived near a coal generator or other fossil-fueled plant.
Some say wind turbines should be offshore. Andrews agrees citing Lake Erie as perfect for its winds and shallow water but asks, “Who’s going to pay for it?”
At this time there is no regulation on how many turbines can be on one lot but they need to be approximately 700 metres apart to be effective. With urban sprawl through southern Ontario quickly eating up land, there are not many sites away from development.
It is also more expensive to isolate the farms (like old power plants) and build the infrastructure needed to transmit the energy to populated areas.
Andrews says the future is small four-to six-turbine farms that provide “distributed generation” so the power is closer to the load. Meaning several small farms instead of one or two big power plants, which helps with reliability.
The entrepreneur says “the government introduced this program, waved the flag, and then went silent.” We need to have “open mic” sessions, he added, with all agencies on board including government, residents and experts from both sides.
Andrews is convinced it will succeed, “I’ve seen this in Europe and it works. Despite what some people say, it works” and can co-exist with residents better than fossil fuel. “It’s not radio active and there’s no horrible toxic sludge.”
What ever it is. It doesn’t need more hysteria and hearsay.
We have to keep talking.
The Scott Thompson Show airs weekdays noon-3pm on News/Talk 900 CHML.
Visit his website at www.ScottThompsonTalk.com