“Bitter pill” as North Stormont residents watch turbines rise while other projects cancelled
“We’re big, you’re small”: community leader on fight for the environment vs huge developer
September 27, 2019
Residents of North Stormont, between Ottawa and Cornwall, are now seeing the reality of having lost their fight against a giant power developer. Citizens spent over $100,000 to bring forward their concerns about damage to the environment and human health over having huge wind turbines erected in their communities, only to have the Environmental Review Tribunal (operating under an almost no-win set of rules) turn against them.
The Nation Rise wind power project is going up.
Access roads have been built, foundations are being poured, and the massive turbine parts have arrived by ship at the nearby Port of Johnstown.
Many people in the community don’t want the project, Ontario doesn’t need the electrical power, and wind power is now widely seen as an expensive, unreliable source of intermittent power, produced out of phase with real demand.
The project is being developed by EDP Renewables, which had revenues of 1.8B Euro in 2018; it was purchased by Axium Infrastructure, a large portfolio management company with 100 projects in North America, including K2 Wind in Ontario.*
And it’s tough to watch this happen when several other wind power projects were cancelled early on in the new Ford government.
Veteran Ottawa Citizen columnist Kelly Egan visited North Stormont this week, and his story is here.
Concerned Citizens chair Margaret Benke, 63, a retired [school] principal and lifelong resident of the area, was asked if opponents felt like they were viewed as a bunch of “kooks” who just don’t get it.
“Of course,” she said Thursday. The attitude, she elaborated, is: “We know, you don’t, we’re smart, you’re dumb, we’re big, you’re small.”
What Benke and others know, however, especially, from experiences in other parts of Ontario, is that the noise from big wind turbines is often an annoyance, that there is suspicion that vibrations are affecting the soil and possibly livestock and that wells could be affected both by digging the infrastructure and a constantly humming terrain.
(It is, indeed, a deep rabbit hole: what about so-called infrasound, stuff we can’t hear?; or shadow flickers, ice tossing from the blades; the effect on birds, bats, cows; the leaking of voltage into the ground.) On top of which, opponents say, Ontario doesn’t even need more power production.
In an oft-cited study that is being read different ways, Health Canada reported in 2014 that 16.5 per cent of respondents were “highly annoyed” when the turbine noise was at its highest level, but the investigation found no links to major health impacts.
And there is another important consideration. The project has created divisions in the community. “It has created an incredible rift,” said Benke, “and it is only just beginning.”
Wind Concerns Ontario is in the process of acquiring the noise reports filed with the Ontario environment ministry for 2017 and 2018. The 2018 data is due to arrive shortly but the 2017 request has already been the subject of one appeal based on a refusal to comply, and WCO has just filed another appeal.
*K2 Wind was recently found non-compliant with Ontario noise regulations for wind turbines and is under a Director’s Order for noise abatement related to the operation of more than 80 of its 140 turbines.