Driving through Haldimand County south of Highway 3, the farmland is flat and the smokestacks of the Nanticoke generation station can been seen from miles away. But now, as one approaches the shores of Lake Erie, new structures dot the horizon — wind turbines.

The pretty farming hamlet of Fisherville is largely unchanged over the years, but just outside of the community it is a different picture, as dozens of wind turbines are either going up or are already erected.

It’s all part of the Ontario Government’s Green Energy Program aimed at replacing carbon-based fuels with renewables like solar and wind power.

But recently, Ontario’s push for wind power has been running into increased resistance from rural communities across the province.

In Chatham-Kent the issue has crossed political lines where former Liberal MP Rex Crawford recently joined forces with Conservative MP Bev Shipley to denounce the turbines. Crawford says a deal to sell his home recently fell through when the purchaser found out a wind turbine was going to be erected nearby.

Last month, Grey County Council called on Queen’s Park to place a moratorium on turbines. Closer to home wind turbines are creating tensions in normally bucolic Haldimand County.

“There are neighbours who are not speaking to other neighbours [over turbines],” says Betty Ortt from Wind Concerns Haldimand. She says she can think of numerous examples of friction in the community over the turbines, including people being harassed, couples getting divorced, and even lawsuits.

Haldimand resident Jerry Van Velden says property owners who accept turbines do so at the expense of their neighbours. He says that farmers with turbines on their property can potentially earn $1.5 million over the length of their contract, while neighbouring properties are seeing a loss in value on their homes.“The provincial government has taken away $150,000 of my own investment in my property,” he charged.

There is a raging debate over possible health impacts from the noise and vibration created by the turbines. Reported health effects range from headaches, sleeping problems, ringing in the ears, to vertigo. A Health Canada study due next year will probably not end the debate as skeptics are already questioning its methodology.

Haldimand resident Linda J Rogers, a Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner, says the Health Canada study is already showing a bias in favour of wind turbines. She believes the study is looking at a too-narrow range of health-related criteria. “There’s going to be some definite gaps and in my opinion some very clear biases.”

Wind industry supporters say any potential health effects are mitigated by a regulation that requires turbines to be a minimum of 550 meters from the nearest residence. But Rogers says the bigger the turbines, the further the potential health effects can travel.

Haldimand wind opponent Ernie King says some of the turbines are massive – reaching heights as much as 425 feet. Concrete footings required for the largest turbines are 30 feet deep.

As for the setback requirement, Ortt says some farmers who are leasing their property for turbine development are putting turbines closer to their neighbours’ homes than their own, while still technically abiding by the rules.

“The farmers do have a say where the wind turbines go and how many. At community hall monthly dinners, church dinners, restaurants and at church at which I help or attend, many people are talking about and are upset about the turbine situation and you notice the friction when farmers who have signed for turbines appear at these events,” says Ortt.

Setting aside the health and property value issues, energy critics say the bulk of the power currently being generated is being shipped to the United States at a huge loss. Wind tends to blow at night and in the spring and fall when electrical demand is low.

According to the Society of Professional Engineers, the only way the wind power can actually be used in Ontario is to let our water power spill without generating power; however a source in the power industry says wind power will be used more effectively in coming years as several of the provinces nuclear reactors are taken out of service for refurbishment.

As of January 2013, the province of Ontario has 1,077 wind turbines, which generate 2,012,510 kilowatt-hours of electricity. This accounts to about four per cent of Ontario’s total electricity.

Canadian Wind Energy Association says they still plan to expand the number of turbines in Canada substantially, adding they still believe that wind energy can satisfy 20 per cent of Canada’s energy needs by 2025. If Ontario continues to add wind power as is currently planned, the total cost will be $14 Billion.

With Files from Shawn McGuire- The Bay Observer

John Best had enjoyed a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

8 Comments to: A fight for the skies

  1. Justin

    April 15th, 2013

    There is an awful lot of misinformation flying about in this article, and I feel it’s important to provide at least a bit of balance here, even if it is less well-read than your initial article.

    Firstly, you cite a “raging debate over possible health impacts from the noise and vibration created by the turbines. Reported health effects range from headaches, sleeping problems, ringing in the ears, to vertigo” – which overstates both a.) the extent of the debate and b.) the actual EVIDENCE being used to support those claims. The so-called “debate” over health effects of wind turbines is fueled by a few small groups of scientists using practices that do not fit within generally accepted scientific parameters (one study in the UK drew the conclusion that people were experiencing headaches, sleeplessness and nausea near wind turbines after placing an ad in the newspaper asking for subjects who felt that they had been adversely affected by wind turbines to contact the researcher – I don’t think you need a PhD to know that the sample there is quite biased). Of course skeptics will question the methodology of the Canadian study – skeptics always question data when it doesn’t conform to the questionable information that they have been propagating and profiting from (see – smoking, climate change), but that skepticism largely comes from a group that still thinks the Dr. Nina Pierpont is a reliable source of information. I could go on at length about the health impacts, but suffice to say that there is absolutely no conclusive proof of anything more than annoyance and hysteria causing these symptoms, which is not to downplay the fact that those ARE legitimate concerns, but the actual impact of wind turbines on the physiology of a human being is doubtful at best once examined with a bit more of an analytical lens.

    With regards to the property values issue, why not speak to the fact that farmers with a few turbines on their land see an increase in property value because of the guaranteed income for the next 20 years?

    Thirdly, I would invite you to deeply examine your own bias, which is obvious in your article even down to the misleading way you present the facts in the following except:

    “Wind industry supporters say any potential health effects are mitigated by a regulation that requires turbines to be a minimum of 550 meters from the nearest residence. But Rogers says the bigger the turbines, the further the potential health effects can travel.

    Haldimand wind opponent Ernie King says some of the turbines are massive – reaching heights as much as 425 feet. Concrete footings required for the largest turbines are 30 feet deep.”

    Let’s keep things consistent in our use of units, shall we? The tallest turbines are 129 m tall, and have a footing 10 m deep. When that’s compared to 550 m setback, it doesn’t seem so intimidating. Your switch to feet from meters, while perhaps not intentional, is highly misleading. Couple that with the fact that at 550 m, even sound that was loud at the source (~100dB) is now barely audible (~45dB) and you now begin to realize that the setback requirements are actually quite reasonable.

    I also really wonder what alternatives these wind opponents would offer up to the problem of generating power? We know that emissions from coal and natural gas are causing climate change and have SERIOUS health impacts on a population-wide scale, we know that nuclear power generates waste that nobody wants to deal with or talk about, and that it is more expensive over the lifetime of the facility than building an equivalent capacity in wind and solar, and we know that damming all waterways for hydro electricity is detrimental to the natural water cycle – so we have some tough choices to make. Would the wind opponents rather see a natural gas-fired power plant next to their house? There are drawbacks associated with every form of electricity generation, that much I will concede, by the drawbacks from wind, especially if it is done correctly (which I feel that Ontario is at least on the path towards – especially if new wind developments are banned in Important Bird Areas), pale in comparison to continuing along with the status quo.

    Reply
    • PumkinK

      April 16th, 2013

      Get your head out of the ground Justin and see what is really happening here would ya. Wind Turbines are a small portion of the BIG PICTURE ! SCAM AND CORRUPTION IS THE REAL ISSUE HERE. People have had enough of this crap. Smart people don’t leave their homes to find elsewhere to live just because they have nothing better to do – NOT; what rock, or should I say wind turbine, have you been living under ? cause your views are very messed up and that’s exactly what IWT’s will do to ya.

      Reply
      • Justin

        April 16th, 2013

        I would invite you to please clarify some of your points. What big picture are you referring to, and to what are you referring when you speak of scam and corruption?

        My views are backed by the evidence, both scientific (which I place a lot more value on) and anecdotal. My father lives in Pincher Creek, Alberta, where wind power provides the vast majority of their electricity needs. Their community is surrounded by turbines, and yet they manage to live, work, farm and play quite happily. I’ve visited Pincher Creek several times in the past year, spent a great deal of time near the wind farms, and have always been impressed by the beauty, utility and, importantly, the economic impacts of the structures. The people there appreciate the wind farms, which provide clean energy, jobs and financial gain for landowners. I would invite you to read this piece here:

        http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/david-dodge/living-near-a-wind-farm_b_1910707.html

        What “crap” do you feel that people are tired of? Because I’m tired of a society that relies on fossil fuels, on one where burning coal, oil and natural gas, which we know to have serious adverse health impacts, while constantly attacking technologies that have the capability to reduce our reliance on these dirty forms of energy. So I invite you, PumpkinK, to please present me with an alternative. I said that all forms of power generation have drawbacks, so what would you propose as an alternative? If you want to engage me in a meaningful debate here, I’m open to it. If you want to continue tossing out random conspiracy theories and accusations of my views being “messed up”, then I’m done here.

        Reply
        • Mike James

          April 23rd, 2013

          Justin is a moron. I will list a few points:

          The turbines being proposed for Niagara are 572 feet tall and that does not inlcude the blade.

          Turbines CANNOT supply the vast majority of power and I can’t believe you would say that. Ontario has 1100 wind turbines right now and they produce slightly less than 4% of our energy. They are completely inefficient because the little bit of power they produce cannot be stored.

          I for one, resent paying hydro increases for something so ineffectual.

          Someone said it earlier – GO DO THE RESEARCH.

          Reply
          • Justin

            May 17th, 2013

            First off, thanks for going after my intelligence right away. It really confirms that you thoroughly read and thought about my points before jumping to crazy conclusions.

            My point in my comment when talking about height is that the author of the article switched between feet and meters when it was advantageous to his bias to do so – stating the turbine height in feet and the setback in meters. That way the numbers presented when comparing height to setback makes it look like the turbine is almost as tall as it is required to be away from a home.

            I did not realize that the turbines in Niagara were slated to be nearly 200m tall. With a turbine that tall, I do believe that a farther setback distance is appropriate – I don’t think the 550 m rule was designed to accommodate turbines that size.

            Lastly, the storage technology may not be there right now, but t is developing. Do you think gas engines were perfect on the first drive? It takes years to develop more efficient, effective technologies, especially when it comes to energy. Storing the energy from intermittent sources is going to be the most important step in reducing our reliance off fossil fuels – it needs and very much deserves public money to help push the technology – it is arguably one of the most important technological fixes we can develop to help deal with our emissions.

            Also – you’re not paying hydro increases because of the 3-4% of energy that is being produced by wind. You’re paying hydro increases because ENERGY IS BECOMING MORE EXPENSIVE. It’s called supply and demand, and demand has been going up and up and up for decades without seeing pricing change according to the costs of infrastructure and maintenance of all these new systems we brought online. Now the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost. Building generation in any form is expensive, but people are not wiling to make do with less energy, so that’s why hydro prices keep going up.

        • Pam

          April 23rd, 2013

          Hey Justin….you might want to read this. Wind companies and landowner hosts are about to be held accountable for …wait for it. Loss of Property values and…wait for it…negative adverse health effects caused by turbines. To many of us know the real story behind this scam…..

          Ontario court allows lawsuits against wind company and landowners … just a matter of time

          Court Accepts 22% to 50% Loss of Property Values is Occurring Today; Court and Wind Company also Acknowledge Health and Noise Issues in Context of Motion

          http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1151369/ontario-court-allows-lawsuits-against-wind-company-and-landowners-just-a-matter-of-time

          DO YOUR RESEARCH!!

          Reply
          • Justin

            May 16th, 2013

            Well I forgot about this post and then come back to this. Being called a moron for pointing out a fairly significant bias in an article and some very dubious points in a comment. Good times.

            Before you tell me to do my research, do yours.

            http://www.cantechletter.com/2013/04/are-ontario-wind-farm-protests-about-health-concerns-or-property-values0423/

            Read past the part that confirms your bias – the fact that the court is allowing property owners to sue for property damage loss – and get to the question that asks WHY property values are declining in the first place when there is no peer reviewed, scientific data that they cause adverse health effects. Now again, I’m not downplaying the importance of proper setbacks, now am I downplaying the importance of proper community consultation – but when those 2 things come together add communities feel ownership and pride over the turbines, the health effects seem to “magically” disappear.

            My question to all of you who so vehemently oppose these turbines, then, is what is your answer to providing energy in a world affected by climate change? I care about future generations, about my ability to enjoy the kind of world that I grew up in, and I’d really prefer to leave my kids something better than the world I received..and if we keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere like there’s no tomorrow, that won’t be a reality. So what would you rather have near your town producing energy? A coal plant? A natural gas plant? Tar sands pipelines? Maybe a nuclear power plant. Would that be ok?

            Here’s the big difference – we KNOW the effects of all those plants. Asthma, heart disease and cancers all increase near coal, gas and oil facilities. That is scientifically backed up, by peer reviewed studies, by evidence. “Wind farm syndrome” and vibroacoustic disorder caused by low energy, low frequency vibrations like the swoosh of a wind turbine have no basis in evidence based research, no peer review, nothing. Sure, there might be some adverse effects, some risks, but those are inherent in any energy decision we make. We just need to ask ourselves if a continued reliance on a fossil fuel economy and all the KNOWN health and environmental impacts – which are no less that catastrophic, IMO – is more or less of a risk than switching to emerging technologies like wind. To my mind, it’s a no brainer.

  2. 16Road Wind Opponent

    April 23rd, 2013

    Justin, you might not be a moron, but you certainly are uninformed and have not researched the facts.
    The biggest problem is setbacks. 550m is not enough, especially in Niagara where we are such a heavily populated rural population. Alberta has less rural population, so even if they have the same setback rule, they will not have the same amount of folks living close to the turbines. (and yet, there are wind opposition people there too). If the wind company s were not so greedy they would simply agree to larger setbacks. In Europe the setbacks are much larger, and yet in Europe, the people do not live rurally, but in hamlets and villages far from turbines.
    And, have you ever considered the fact that the landowners are being given huge sums of money, so much that they can afford to move away from the problems but the rural populations have to put up with loss of property value, or needed to relocate but they were never included in the discussions which created the industrial wind installation in which they are forced to live.
    What is wrong with that picture and how does it fit into your view of the situation?
    Perhaps you are not a moron, but certainly a heartless and uncaring person.
    Where is your consideration for your fellow man?

    Reply

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