By ANTONY JOHN
A series of 490-foot industrial wind turbines (IWTs) are proposed to be built across Perth County, yet there has been little or no public consultation or information made available to the public. The development would seem to be further tainted by questionable business practices and clandestine protocol, incomplete and biased scientific research and unrealistically high projections of energy generation. IWTs seem to act as lightning rods for community division wherever they’re built. The companies that build them know this and go to great lengths to keep the projects out of public scrutiny until it’s too late.
Here in Perth County, some of the most productive and valuable farmland in Ontario is going to be taken out of production forever for a project that isn’t going to live up to its projections of energy generation. Each turbine, the equivalent of a 49-storey building, will require the equivalent of a movie theatre filled with concrete for a footing. This land will never again be used to grow food. Add in the infrastructure of access roads and a massive demand on gravel pits and quarries, the draining of water tables etc. and the fact that IWTs have a record of achieving just 30.3% of their projected generating capacity, and you have a lamentable scenario of irreversible damage and shortsighted, ill-advised land-use policy.
IWTs are also being recognized in the ecological research community as being significant mortality and displacement factors for birds, bats and Monarch butterflies. Since its inception a few years ago, the Wolfe Island IWT farms have claimed the dubious distinction of the highest avian mortality rates in North America, at 14.3 birds per tower, per day. This 86-tower project alone is killing up to a staggering 1,230 birds per day and NOT generating the electricity it promised. The projected capacity for the Wolfe Island project is 197.8 MW for 86 turbines. As I write this letter (Aug. 4), the entire output for Ontario’s 800 IWTs is a pathetic 17MW ( www.theimo.com).
Perth County, and indeed the entire Lower Great Lakes watershed, are at the convergence of two major flyways for migratory birds in North America. To make matters much worse, the IWT farms are situated perpendicular to the migration routes, causing maximum mortality and displacement. Long Point wind farm, in just a few short years, has already logged its first bald eagle kill. This species is making a comeback in Perth County, along the Avon and Thames watersheds. IWTs could have a serious impact on the success of this recovery.
Mounting health concerns, for both human and livestock, are being documented by people and farmers living close to IWTs. Currently the provincial officer of health, Arlene King, is choosing to focus her research on a report prepared at the request of the IWT companies.
Let me state emphatically that this is not merely a case of “not in my backyard.” Industrial wind turbines shouldn’t be in anyone’s backyard, or anywhere near livestock, wildlife corridors, avian feeding and staging areas or valuable farmland. In short, IWTs shouldn’t be up anywhere at taxpayers’ expense. They simply don’t live up to the hype the wind turbine companies are spinning. As I write this letter, 800 turbines in Ontario are providing 17MW of the province’s 20,807MW demand, or 0.08%. Based on this data, the projected 7,000 turbines in Ontario won’t even hit 1% of demand, and the coal plants will keep running to fill in power. Denmark has had 26,000 wind turbines for six years and hasn’t managed to phase out one single coal plant, as intended.
As it turns out, industrial wind turbines are better at harnessing apathy than wind, and the main products they generate seem to be dead birds, divided communities, sick people and livestock and political grist for the vote-getting mill. I think farmers in Perth County and elsewhere in Ontario work hard enough to produce lots of cheap food and biofuel for cities. Please don’t take our valuable farmland away and use us as sacrificial lambs for ineffective wind turbines.
There will be a public information meeting focusing on some concerns with wind turbines, with guest speakers, at the Sebringville Community Hall, Tuesday Aug. 9 at 7.30 pm.
Antony John and his wife, Tina VandenHeuvel, own Soiled Reputation, a certified organic farm and greenhouses in Sebringville, supplying gourmet greens and heirloom vegetables to restaurants, markets and homes in southwestern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area. He has a degree in wildlife biology.