Friday, November 26, 2010

Opinion Letter From Rob Cordell - Meaford

Amount of information coming out about wind energy is overwhelming. (Own Sound Sun Times)

There has been a good deal of coverage in the paper recently about the proposed Silcote Corners industrial wind turbine development, in the former township of Sydenham, now Meaford. My wife and I live near Leith, close to the proposed development area.

For the average person there seems to be an overwhelming amount of information about wind energy, making it difficult to distinguish between what is factual as opposed to "fear-mongering," We have five major areas of concern.

1. Unresolved health issues. There appears to be great controversy about the adverse health effects of wind turbines. Having said that, the landmark reference for virtually all who claim there are no such ill effects, is the 14-page Chief Medical Officer of Health report (May 2010). In critique of this, though, a convincing 55-page document written by an impressive list of credentialed professionals (June 2010), casts considerable doubt on both the appropriateness of methodology used and the accuracy of conclusions drawn in the CMOH report.
Whatever your personal take is, the very fact that there is such a great division of opinion from so-called experts, supports the notion that more evidence-based peer-reviewed research is required. In addition, there are over 100 documented cases in Ontario already and numerous others worldwide indicating potentially serious adverse health consequences.

With that degree of uncertainty we cannot support this or any other wind turbine development until such time as reliable independent third-party studies have been completed. Similarly, further research is necessary with respect to the impact of low-frequenc y noise on animals and livestock.

2 Setback allowances are inadequate.

In Ontario wind turbines only need to be 550 metres from neighbouring homes. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a buffer zone of 2,000 metres from residents, and the French Academy of Medicine suggests no less than 1,500 metres due to health concerns.

In a January 2010 a Request for Proposal document from the Ministry of Environment indicated "the MOE guidelines do not contain a measurement method for assessing the actual noise impact." That begs the question -- if they don't have a method for measuring noise impact why are they proceeding with any more wind turbine developments before proper studies are completed? In fact, how did they arbitrarily arrive at a distance of 550 metres to protect from noise? This is a serious problem that is only exacerbated when more turbines are added in the future. Perhaps the setbacks in Ontario are based on economic efficiencies for the developers not the health and safety of residents?

3 Future expansion of initial (proposed) project.

Will this truly be a development of only 29 wind turbines? Or, will it follow the example of the Shelburne area which was introduced as a 25-wind-turbine development that presently sits at 133?

What about the boundaries indicated on the initial map -- will they be expanded in the future and, if so, how far will they extend?
We would like not only full disclosure of this information, but written commitments at the very least as to both the designated area and the maximum density of turbines for the length of the project.

This must be clearly spelled out in advance in this and any other turbine development in the municipality of Meaford.

4 It does not make economic sense.

We examined our most recent hydro bills and compared that to publicly available information about the less reliable, intermittent power of wind turbines. How can it possibly make sense for our government to pay wholesalers a price that is more than double what we can buy at a retail level? Can you think of any business model where that would succeed in the long run?
A recent economist study (Oct 2010) demonstrates that if the objective in Ontario is to reduce carbon emissions, wind turbines are not the solution. If the project as outlined were to proceed, the municipality of Meaford would not be adequately compensated over the first 20 years (based on extrapolating what was paid in other parts of Ontario).

Furthermore, we understand that the municipality would be forced to incur additional costs for wear and tear on roads, refurbishing of power lines from the site to main power grids, and potentially the decommissioning costs in the future.

Our view is that all of these incremental costs should be borne by the developer(s) since this form of power for our municipality is economically inefficient to begin with.

5 Loss of local authority and decision making.
This is not a criticism directed at the developers as much as it is a reflection of dissatisfaction with the provisions of the Green Energy Act.

Local municipalities have been stripped of their rights to ensure that the best interests of its residents are served, and this is wrong.

Hopefully the Hanna lawsuit against the province will resolve this next January.
Much of the literature being circulated trivializes this valid concern as a case of NIMBY (not in my backyard).

Naturally, residents of large cities tend to support wind turbine developments under the guise of being "green," so statistics commonly quoted show overwhelming support generally.
Apparently, though, surveys of neighbouring residents tend to show the exact opposite -- just look to our neighbours in Bruce County.

It seems ridiculous that local residents have multiple restrictions on something as straightforward as a roadside sign or billboard, yet they have no control over the erection of a 300-foot monstrosity . . . multiplied by 29 in this case.

The Green Energy Act needs to be either abandoned altogether or modified to restore a sensible amount of input for local decision makers.

We have no objection to renewable energy but it should only be built where it is wanted and welcomed, and at costs that are reasonable to municipal ratepayers.

Rob Cordell