PERTH COUNTY — Groups looking to stop a wind turbine project need to act fast, said a member of a Western Ontario anti-wind group that successfully prevented 24 turbines from being constructed.
In 2011, Invenergy started leasing land in the Elma-Mornington area near Waterloo with the intention of building wind turbines. At first, 13 people signed up for the project. But residents in the tight-knit community started talking amongst themselves and discovered they didnt like the idea. After a community meeting, no one else signed up for a wind turbine lease, and nine of the 13 who did sign wanted out.
The project was cancelled just before Christmas last year.
“Your first line of defence is not to have people sign up for land leases,” said Tim Martin, who milks 40 cows at his dairy operation at Alma and fought against the project.
After that, the group was busy looking at every document possible to find mistakes in Invenergys plan.
“We looked for mistakes the company was making along the way,” he said. “There are things companies have to do to move ahead with their REA (renewable energy approval), and we found a lot of mistakes.”
One set of mistakes had to do with vacant lot receptors. Basically, for every piece of property purchased, land needs to be set aside to allow neighbours the space to do future construction. Invenergy missed some of that in their original agreements, said Martin.
The group spent about $150,000 in the battle, including $45,000 paid to retain a lawyer. Since the project was cancelled, 30 people who each paid $1,500 for the retainer will get a refund.
There are 1,916 turbines already up and running in Ontario, and there could be another 1,000 operating by the end of 2016. Eighty-seven of Ontarios 444 municipalities have declared themselves as unwilling hosts to wind turbines, even though the designation has no teeth,
Martin said people were concerned that once a contract was signed, the company could do whatever it wanted. Martin knew of a farmer in his region who signed up for one turbine but when the site plan was released, was shocked to discover there were plans for three on his property.
“These contracts are really one-sided,” said Martin. “They really protect the wind companies and not the landowners. You basically lose control of your land once you sign these land leases. The wind company (officials) can really do anything they want with it at any time and theres really nothing you can do to stop them.”