New community group opposes wind turbines in Oxford County

“Pulling no punches”: citizens oppose use of prime agricultural land for wind turbines, and are concerned about inadequate setbacks for health and safety

Photo: East Zorra-Tavistock

February 9, 2024

A group of residents in East Zorra-Tavistock or EZT, a community that is part of Oxford County west of Kitchener Ontario, has formed a new citizens’ group to fight off a proposed wind power development.

Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO is planning to announce another request for proposals soon, which will include wind power.

In a report published in the Wilmot-Tavistock Gazette, spokespersons David Cunningham and Rick Hommes said the community is concerned about two proposals by Germany-based Prowind Canada: one is to revive an earlier, failed project at Innerkip and the other to build turbines in the Cassel area.

Prowind already operates a wind power project in Oxford County called Gunn’s Hill. It was one of several proposed by the company after the Green Energy Act but the only one to proceed. (Prowind did develop Nation Rise south of Ottawa but sold it to EDPR which built and now operates the project.)

East Zorra-Tavistock is one of the dozens of Ontario communities that named themselves “unwilling hosts” to wind power when the Wynne government was in power, as Premier Kathleen Wynne claimed she would never force wind power projects on communities that didn’t want them. (She did anyway.)

Members of the new citizens’ group say they are most concerned about the loss or “deterioration” of prime agricultural land, which is some of the best in Ontario. If the turbines go ahead anyway, Cunningham told the Gazette, then the prime concern will be “setting these (turbines) far enough back so that we don’t impact people and livestock.”

Cunningham adds that Ontario’s current setback regulations between giant, noisy wind turbines and homes “don’t make sense,” and Ontario has not kept up with other jurisdictions around the world.

Mr. Cunningham also told Wind Concerns Ontario that members of his group know residents living nearby the Gunn’s Hill power project—“they are not happy,” he said.

The group is not opposed to renewable energy, he says, but believes there may be better, more efficient methods of generating emissions-free power. “It’s not the Wild West,” he told the Gazette.

Another concern for the group is the nature of the lease agreement being circulated to prospective leaseholders by Prowind.

This week, Prowind sent out an email to clarify a few points about the lease document. The original lease stated that the landowner would not be able to plant any trees within 500 meters of a turbine. Prowind president Helmut Schneider said Prowind agrees this is not reasonable and has changed the requirement. He also said in his email that the company encourages landowners to get legal advice on the contract: “We expressly give you permission to talk to and [sic] legal advisor and to any landowner about this agreement.” (Helmut Schneider email, Subject “Cassel lanowners” [sic], Februrary 9)

[Editor: “permission!”]

The new community group has already held one meeting and plans another February 15th.

Citizens also plan to appear at an upcoming meeting of East Zorra-Tavistock Council later this month.

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