Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.
Prince Edward County farm owners Doug and Janet Murphy, have written a letter to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, asking a question that exposes a serious conflict between the Environment and Agriculture ministries, regarding the placement of wind turbines.
According to documentation from Agriculture, farm owners are advised NOT to erect wind turbines near routes for migratory birds. And yet, say the Murphys, the Ministry of the Environment is not only allowing the siting of the White Pines project in Prince Edward County, it is encouraging it.
The Murphys are demanding an explanation and further, that plans to approve the project by wpd Canada be halted.
This news story is doubly interesting when you consider that the maps associated with the new large renewable power projects procurement process show a “green light” for Eastern Ontario.
Farmers not sold on wind turbines, survey says
By Brandy Harrison
OTTAWA — While farmers are among the few who can directly benefit financially from hosting wind turbines, Eastern Ontario farmers are more likely to oppose than support them, a Farmers Forum survey shows.
In a random survey of 100 farmers at the Ottawa Valley Farm Show from March 11 to 13, nearly half — 48 per cent — disapproved of wind turbines. Another 29 per cent approved and the remaining 23 per cent said they were neutral.
But positions on the issue weren’t always clear cut. Even when farmers threw their lot in with one side of the debate or the other, their reasoning was peppered with pros and cons.
It’s in stark contrast to a Farmers Forum survey of 50 Western Ontario farmers at the London Farm Show in early March, where 58 per cent were strongly opposed to wind turbines. Farmers opposed outnumbered those who approved by nearly three-to-one.
The number of turbines reveal the difference: Of the 67 wind projects representing more than 1,200 turbines province-wide, almost all the turbines dot the landscape of Western Ontario. Only two projects are in Eastern Ontario, an 86-turbine project on Wolfe Island, south of Kingston, and another 10 turbines near Brinston, south of Winchester, which were completed in January.
Wind power is so controversial that 13 farmers polled at the farm show wanted to remain anonymous, unwilling to come out publicly as a supporter or a critic.
Nearly three-quarters of farmers who disapproved liked green energy in theory but panned turbines — and sometimes the Green Energy Act as a whole — as a too-costly, inefficient electricity source that’s driving up their power bill.
Eric VanDenBroek doesn’t mind the look of the turbines that are only a short drive from his Winchester dairy farm but isn’t a fan of the way the program was rolled out.
“A financial disaster”
“Financially, it’s already proving to be a disaster,” said VanDenBroek, who turned down a chance to get in on renewable revenue. “It’s costing taxpayers money and we don’t have a say in it. Anytime the government gets involved in something, the costs inflate.”
Doug Armstrong agreed. But the North Gower crop farmer may put one up on his own land, particularly if neighbours are considering doing the same.
“I’m not allergic to money. But to be quite honest, as far as I’m concerned, they’re a total and complete waste of money,” said Armstrong.
Turbines are ugly, said Elwood Quaile, who joked that Wolfe Island may one day levitate out of Lake Ontario. But his biggest beef is the expense compared to the return. “Especially when you have a whole lot of gosh-darn water generators sitting idle,” said the Navan crop farmer.
Higher per kilowatt costs make even less sense when excess energy is sold south of the border for less than it costs to produce it, said Bill Seymour.
“It’d be like me buying a Lamborghini for my farm. It’s really nice and sharp, but do the cost on it. Why would I do that?” asked the Lunenburg crop farmer.
Other reasons farmers disapproved included their appearance, adverse health effects, conflicts between farmers, lost farmland, decreasing land values, and that people have little say in where they go.
Among farmers ready to give wind turbines the go-ahead, just over two-thirds reasoned that there is a need for renewable energy.
“The wind blows. It’s free. How else can we make power out of something that’s free?” said Ivan Petersen, who runs an Osgoode crop, dairy, and elevator operation. Petersen has solar panels and also likes the additional income.
It’s a good idea but there are challenges, said a Peterborough-area farmer, who didn’t want to be named.
“For the farmer whose farm they’re on, it’s a great thing. For the farmer who’s next to him and gets nothing, it’s a bad thing,” he said, proposing a tax rebate to homeowners based on distance from the turbine. “Everybody wins. Then it’s not neighbour-against-neighbour.”
The debate isn’t rational and people are misinformed, said a Dundas County farmer, who approves but requested anonymity.
“People are willing to fight wind energy and still have a solar panel in their backyard, which is kind of hypocritical. You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” he said.
Other farmers approved in hopes of additional income, seeing a break on their energy bills, or out of a feeling that people can do what they like on their own property.
Many of the 23 farmers who remained neutral on the issue said they didn’t have enough information to take a firm stance, but they’d definitely heard the pros and cons.
“If it was making me money, I’d love ‘em. If it was keeping me up all night, I’d want to knock it down,” said Scott Kinlock, a Martintown crop farmer and custom operator.
Wind power approval ratings were high, however, in another Farmers Forum survey three years ago, where just over half of 200 Wolfe Island (pop. 1,200 in summer) residents polled approved of turbines. But nearly one-third of respondents said community spirit had plummeted since the turbines went up in 2009.
Here from the current edition of Farmers Forum, a story on the differing views of farm owners on having turbines on their property. One farmer interviewed reacted to the concerns of the community, the other persists in believing that community opposition is wrong.
Farmers face off over wind turbines
Wind farm at Brinston will be test case for others
By Tom Collins
PETERBOROUGH — As 10 new wind turbines were to start spinning at Brinston — about an hour south of urban Ottawa — the tide of public opinion about wind farms is changing, pitting farmers against one another.
The Brinston wind farm has been controversial, so much so that South Dundas council has since passed a resolution that it will not support further turbines until it sees a need for it. Some wind power supporters have seen communities turn on them.
When M.K. Ince and Associates Ltd. decided to build five wind turbines in Cavan Monaghan Township near Peterborough, Don Winslow immediately jumped on board. In spring of 2013, he signed with the wind company to allow them to build a wind turbine on his 500-acre cash crop farm. Three months later, after immense public pressure and hostility, he told the company he couldn’t do it anymore.
“It relieved our stress tremendously (to cancel the contract),” said 70-year-old Winslow, who estimated that less than five per cent of the community is in favour of wind turbines. “We don’t have to sneak around the neighbours hoping to not run into them.
“There is always an element of society that is going to go overboard,” he said. “But people I respected were just as upset as the real radicals.”
Winslow is still a big believer in wind technology. But many Ontario municipalities are not. As of late January, 78 of 444 municipalities have declared themselves unwilling hosts of wind turbines — along with 33 concerned municipalities — despite the fact the designation has no teeth.
Five or six years ago, wind companies were offering farmers an agreement where they could earn $10,000 or more per year to allow a turbine to use up a half-acre of land. Now that price has almost doubled, Winslow said. A farmer signing an agreement today could make about $400,000 on a 20-year agreement.
Winslow said his neighbours were concerned about property values, health risks, and a flicker effect caused by shadows from rotating blades in the setting sun.
These wind turbine issues are still hotly debated. While the Ontario Superior Court of Justice said last April that wind turbines do reduce property values, many of the health issues have seen studies that support both sides of the argument. Health Canada has been studying the issue and expects to release the results this year.
Ed Schouten of North Gower: “I will host a couple…”
Ed Schouten has long wanted wind turbines on his dairy farm in North Gower. He doesn’t believe turbines are as much trouble as some make them out to be and would host a couple if a wind farm company decided to build in the area.
“I’m not afraid of them, let me put it that way,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to harm the farm. I never thought in my life people would be against this.”
Schouten thinks the Brinston turbines will be a good test case for the rest of the area. If wind farms are done right — like the one in Brinston — then no one will complain, he said. The trick is to keep the wind farm small. If there are a few turbines, they look nice, but if there are hundreds, they become an issue.
Winslow said the negativity in the news media has played a big role in people shifting away from wind turbines.
“You don’t hear much except for negative publicity,” he said. “It’s hard for the average citizen to take anything but the view they keep hearing over and over in the press. There’s far too much emotion into it now.”
Editor’s note: despite Mr Schouten’s claim that keeping the “wind farm small” would avoid issues with the community, the truth is, the proposal for his property and one other that is now on hold, was for eight turbines that would have been the largest in North America, and would have affected more than 1,000 homes. As for “small,” the 20-megawatt wind power generation project would have cost the citizens of Ontario $4.8 million a year, had it achieved a Feed In Tariff contract, or $96 million over the life of the contract.
A summary of the appeal of the Environmental Review Tribunal decision, on the Ostrander Point wind power project. Ostrander Point is an Important Bird Area and home to several endangered or at-risk species.