By Tom Collins
TOWN OF ESSEX —The Ontario government is expected this month to announce new wind turbine projects that could add 100 large wind turbines to the rural landscape where there are already more than 2,000 operating wind turbines.
Eleven Western Ontario municipalities could be home to the new projects even though eight of those municipalities voted against them. The province has said, however, that it will give priority to municipalities that want the turbines.
Chatham-Kent, the turbine capital of Ontario, could be affected by as many as eight new projects. There are an estimated 700 turbines built or already approved to be built in the municipality, which has at least three times more wind turbines than any other municipality in Ontario.
The Wallaceburg Courier Press reported that councillor Michael Bondy pondered when Chatham-Kent would reach its threshold for turbines.
“I don’t believe the public really is appreciating that we’re littering the landscape with hundreds of these things,” Bondy said.
Municipalities that could be forced to take wind turbines, even though they voted against them, include: Lakeshore, Leamington, Brooke-Alvinston, Warwick, Adelaide Metcalfe, Essex, Dutton Dunwich and West Elgin. Chatham-Kent, Malahide and Bayham are willing turbine hosts.
Wind turbine developers submitted proposals for 27 wind turbine projects that would produce 2,246.8 megawatts but the province will only approve 300 megawatts this year. That translates to about 100 turbines, 92 ft. tall to the hub, taller than the Peace Tower on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill.
Town of Essex Coun. Sherry Bondy said about 90 per cent of her community is against wind turbines.
“Every person that we got an email from in support (of wind turbines) was getting financially compensated,” she said. “There was no one who said, ‘Yeah, I don’t see a problem with it. Put them up,’ and wasn’t benefitting. Almost everyone who is not getting compensated (is against the project).”
Bondy said the town is already saturated with about 40 to 50 turbines up and running. There have been issues with setbacks on those currently installed, she said.
“It’s really pitting neighbours against neighbours right now,” she said. “We have brothers and sisters that live on a stretch of a road that used to have a whole bunch of family farms and now they won’t talk because one is getting a turbine and one isn’t.”
Ninety-one of 444 Ontario municipalities have declared themselves unwilling hosts to wind turbines, a designation without legal teeth. Bondy said it’s a flip of a coin as to whether or not Essex will get more turbines.
“I hope there’s enough projects out there that have community support so that ours isn’t given approval,” said Bondy.
According to numbers compiled by an Eastern Ontario municipality last year, 89 per cent of wind turbines are operating in municipalities that don’t want them. North Stormont Township found that 25 of 28 municipalities that have turbines voted against them.
It appears the wind turbine debate comes down to money. Crop farmer and West Elgin Coun. Richard Leatham said he has never entertained the idea of a wind turbine on his property. At a public meeting, 97 per cent of people voted against turbines and the eight in favour were farmers who wanted them, he said. A wind turbine can now net a property owner $30,000 per year.
“I have a hard job saying they want them because of climate change or anything like that,” he said. “I didn’t see anyone else that wasn’t going to have a gain from them actually come forward and say ‘we’re for wind turbines.’”
Leatham added that West Elgin is heavy on tourism with its picturesque landscape and he worries that wind turbines will affect that.
But the rural rage over wind turbines is not just pitting farmer against neighbour.
“There’s just a minute few (farmers) that would allow wind turbines on their land,” Leatham said. “By far the majority would not have them. It’s brought farmers against farmers. Farmers who have been friends for years are now no longer friends, which is unfortunate. I’ve heard first-hand from farmers, who said, ‘I could never look at this person in the same light again.’”
The Canadian Wind Energy Association says there are 76 Ontario wind developments across the province operating 2,150 turbines at 4,042 MW capacity. More than 2,000 of those wind turbines are operating in Western Ontario.
Brooke-Alvinston mayor and cash crop farmer Don McGugan said 80 per cent of farmers in his community are opposed to wind turbines, listing the top four reasons: ruins landscape, takes away agricultural land, imposes higher electricity rates and potential health effects.
But if the wind power company gets approval “we would have no choice but to work with them,” McGugan said. “We can’t stop it.”
McGugan said there was talk years ago of municipalities joining forces to fight the province on wind turbines but nothing ever came of it. In Eastern Ontario, South Dundas Coun. Bill Ewing said it’s too late for municipalities to join together in protest. “That would be like trying to stop the snow from falling,” he said about municipalities being able to stop turbines.
McGugan said that he now hears of wind turbine deals that attempt to placate neighbours by offering them money too. So far, there isn’t any ill will between farmers that support and oppose turbines in his community, he added.
The proposed projects mean there are 11 Western municipalities that could have new wind turbines. The projects include:
- Estimated 33-40 turbines for a 100-megawatt project in Chatham-Kent, Lakeshore and Leamington
- Estimated 33-40 turbines for a 100-megawatt project in Brooke-Alvinston
- Up to 50 turbines for a 100-megawatt project in Chatham-Kent
- Up to 50 turbines for a 100-megawatt project in Warwick, Brooke-Alvinston and Adelaide Metcalfe
- Estimated 25-30 turbines for a 75-megawatt project in Warwick, Brooke-Alvinston and Adelaide Metcalfe
- Estimated 23-28 turbines for a 70-megawatt project in Malahide and Bayham
- Estimated 20-24 turbines for a 60-megawatt project in Lakeshore
- Estimated 20-24 turbines for a 60-megawatt project in Essex
- Estimated 20-24 turbines for a 60-megawatt project in Dutton Dunwich
- Estimated 16-20 turbines for a 50-megawatt project in Chatham-Kent
- 10-15 turbines for a 38.4-megawatt project in Chatham-Kent
- Estimated 8-10 turbines for a 26-megawatt project in West Elgin and Chatham-Kent
- 6-9 turbines for a 15-megawatt project in Chatham-Kent
- 3-7 turbines for a 14.4-megawatt project in Chatham-Kent
- 3-4 turbines for a nine-megawatt project in Chatham-Kent