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Ontario Wind Push Triggers Residents AND Industry

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A great short piece in Canada’s esteemed Maclean’s magazine from early August highlights the aggressive push being made by provincial minister of energy to open up the province for wind power.  George Smitherman, the self-styled “Mr. Wind,” may be on to something, because his initiatives are stirring up both anti-wind activists concerned about noise and health effects AND the industry itself, aghast at new setback requirements for large wind farms.

A combination of requiring utilities to enter into long-term, premium price contracts with wind farms and a massive upgrade to the distribution grid has spurred plans for 103 new “shovel-ready” windfarms in the Province, especially along its extensive Great Lakes shorelines.  This has locals worried, after hearing tales of woe from wind farm neighbors elsewhere.  Dr. Robert McMurtry, a former dean of medicine at the University of Western Ontario, says that  “When I first read about the side effects I thought that they didn’t sound very convincing. But then I did my homework, and I became alarmed.”  Based on surveys he has done, and others in Europe, McMurtry estimates that 25 per cent of people living within 2.5 km of turbines experience disruptions in their daily lives, especially sleep disturbances, which often balloon into other health problems. He thinks that there are enough problems, in wind farms worldwide, to justify a serious epidemiological look at the industry. “You can assume that all these people are liars,” says McMurtry. “But many of these folks will tell you that they welcome wind turbines. They just want someone to turn them off at night, or move them further back.”

New provincial set-back standards issued in June may well be just what this doctor ordered. While not going all the way to 2.5km (about 1.5mi), the new standards call for increasingly large setbacks for larger windfarms, peaking at 1.5km (just under a mile) for wind farms of over 26 turbines; smaller wind farms can be 550m away, loud small ones 950m away.  The Canadian Wind Energy Association claims that these new rules will require changes in 96 of the projects, with 48% of their turbines out of compliance; 79 of the projects are now either “non-viable” or require “back to the drawing board” redesign.

Smitherman is not phased by either side’s reactions.  “I totally understand that there aren’t many people out there looking for more electricity infrastructure in their backyards,” he says. And if somebody has to go back to the drawing board and redesign some projects, “I apologize that it will be inconvenient in some circumstances. But bigger setbacks are part of the Green Act.” But he’s unapologetic about the larger goal, one that would be truly revolutionary: to eliminate coal-fired electricity by 2014—only five years away.

One Response to “Ontario Wind Push Triggers Residents AND Industry”

  1. » Blog Archive » Ontario Wind Projects Lack Independent Environmental Analysis Says:

    […] the province of Ontario appears to be onto something promising with its new Green Energy Act (see recent AEInews post), local wind skeptics point out that in recent years, the province has taken wind developers’ […]

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