Saturday, September 12, 2009

Windfarm Experience

Windfarm Experience (letter to the Millbrook Times)

At the Wind Turbine meeting on August 10th, it was mentioned by an employee of Energy Farming Ontario Inc that “Standing right under a wind turbine is the best way to judge how loud it is”. Also suggested was that we "Touch it and listen to it."

Well I cannot resist touching things so I went to the Wolfe Island wind farm to see, touch and hear it for myself. Wolfe Island is 5 km by ferry from Kingston and is comprised of flat farmland with houses and cottages along the shoreline. When I arrived, I asked a local where I could get up close to a wind turbine. “You can’t go near them, there on private property” he chuckled.

Disappointed but determined, I left the ferry dock and drove west to the see the first of 86 giant wind turbines scattered across the countryside. These turbines are about 125 metres high (over 400 feet) so when you first encounter one, you are overwhelmed by the enormous height and the size of the blades turning in the wind.
I continued up and down the narrow country roads, stopping and observing as many of the turbines as I could, being objective, taking pictures, and making notes along the way. I eventually covered the entire wind farm, and at one location, I was able to stand under one of the turbines. I was hoping to observe the flicker caused by the blades as dusk approached and the bright flashing red lights at night, but after several hours of investigating I had enough and was glad to leave the island.

I concluded that in certain locations, the continuous whooshing noise was loud enough to be a nuisance, even on a day with light winds. The wind turbines were quieter when you stood directly below them, and louder as you moved away from them. In addition, there seemed to be very little farming happening between the turbines. Wide private service roads and acres of gravel beside the towers, divided the parcels of farmland. The farmland seemed abandoned in some areas, as weeds had overtaken the soil.

I believe that the Wolfe Island project was set up as a “model” wind farm, as the island is predominantly farmland, with a small residential component. At times, I felt I was on an isolated, deserted island, which is probably where wind turbines belong. Unfortunately, for some residents, the turbines seemed too close for comfort.

(Post Note: Contrary to the Energy Farming suggestion to "touch it" (see above), I was just informed that touching of turbine towers can result in an electrical shock).

Brian Hall, Millbrook