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Groups wants moratorium on industrial wind turbines

Curiosity about some clearing on nearby property has led a Powassan couple on a journey of discovery.
Industrial wind turbines near Tiverton, On., tower above a farmer's field.

Curiosity about some clearing on nearby property has led a Powassan couple on a journey of discovery.

After extensive research, Anne and Kevin Smith found out that a proposed industrial wind turbine project is to be built on Maple Hill, just off from Highway 11. That prompted them to form STOMP (Stop Turbines on Maple Hill Powassan).

“We did a lot of research and found that Anemos Energy had leased 400 acres. We asked for a meeting, with about a dozen neighbours, since no one knew anything about it. We educated ourselves and now we are horrified,” Kevin said.

The clearing on the property was presumed to be for a house but then a meteorological tower was erected to measure wind speed.

“What will be going up is 10, 400-foot wind turbines. We didn’t know anything about them until we were driving by another community. When we saw these monstrosities, we nearly went off the road,” he said.

The research led them to others in the province who are fighting the establishment of wind farms.

“The more we learn, the more upset we get so we had to get involved in the fight,” Kevin said.

Their opposition goes beyond the NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude. They question the province for supporting green initiatives, like turbines and solar panels, which require huge subsidies.

“Why do we spend so much money across Ontario in order to bring in a product that can’t run without being subsidized?” Kevin said. “Financially, it is not a sound investment.”

Currently, the government’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) programs pay well over the market value per kilowatt hour (kWh) for wind, solar and other green energy producers.

The province’s global adjustment charge, included on all energy bills – commercial, residential and institutional – is the difference between what the government pays for energy and what it sells it for. Over the past few years, the global adjustment charges have been more than what customers pay for consumption.

“Our global adjustment charge is double our actual hydro bill so now we realize what the Green Energy Act actually costs,” Kevin said. “We had to start knocking on doors and educating people around us and that is how STOMP started.”

The Smiths contacted MPP Vic Fedeli (Nipissing – PC), who also serves as his party’s energy critic.

“The province wanted to be a green leader but it turned out to be anything but,” Fedeli said.

“The first thing the province decided is that it will overpay for the green energy. They came out with 80 cents a kilowatt hour for power that sells for eight cents.

“The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. But they give the producers a contract for 20 years that pays them whenever they make it, even if we don’t need it.”

Wind, he said, blows predominately at night and in the winter. Consumers need energy mostly during the day and in the summer.

“It is absolutely counter-productive to what we need.”

Fedeli said the Green Energy Act strips the municipal-decision making powers.

“You need a zoning meeting to put up a Tim Hortons but now you can’t have one for a 400-foot wind tower,” he said.

The Smiths also found out the act also supersedes the Endangered Species Act. Bald eagles and bobblings, both protected species, are found in the area where the turbines are to be erected.

“We thought we had a way around the turbines because a project for an industrial park here was not allowed to go ahead because nesting bobblings were found in the area,” Kevin said.

“But recently the government passed legislation that exempts the Green Energy Act from the Endangered Species Act. The government doesn’t want to listen because a lot of money is involved.”

A wind turbine project is also planned for the neighbouring community of Trout Creek and STOMP has been lending its support to opposition there.

In addition to the financial issues, the Smiths have been researching the health effects of the wind turbines and have had speakers address those issues at meetings.

Flickering from the blades can project for more than 10 kilometres and Powassan is only four kilometers away.

Effects from vibrations and intrasound – below ear hearing – have also been common complaints from those living near the turbines.

STOMP wants a moratorium on the turbines until the federal government completes a study on the health effects from them. The results are expected in 2014.

The group also wants the provincial government to look at bigger setbacks for the turbines from neighbouring homes. Currently they are at 550 metres while other jurisdictions, such as in Europe, are one to 1.5 kilometres.

“We phoned McGuinty’s office and asked where that number came from. There was no response. We think it is because the way concessions and lots are set up in Ontario. It is not based on health but the ability to access properties,” Kevin said.

STOMP also received the backing of Powassan’s municipal council to request a wind turbine moratorium until health and other concerns are addressed.

“Powassan and other communities are not getting anything out of this,” he said. “There might be some tax benefits but they aren’t getting rich.”

When it comes to suppliers getting the best return on kWh, Ontario offers the most.

“It’s like a life insurance policy, an annuity, for the suppliers. It is a fabulous business, if you want to be part of what is bankrupting Ontario,” Fedeli said.

“In Europe, governments are retracting from green energy because of the cost. But here, we are expanding it.

“It is just killing the province right now.”