Farmers vs communities over wind turbines
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.