Today's date: Wednesday July 23, 2014 Vol 47 Issue 29
   
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Residents express concerns about NextEra plans for 12-turbine wind farm

by Chris Daponte

MOOREFIELD

About 100 people came to the Moorefield Community Centre on Dec. 2 to hear about the Conestogo Wind Farm Project proposed in northeast Maple­ton Township.

It seemed many of those in attendance are opposed to the NextEra Energy Canada plan to build an 18 to 25.3 megawatt farm consisting of 12 wind turbines, each measuring 80 metres in height and able to collectively generate enough electricity to power more than 5,400 homes.

“I don’t want these anywhere near our home,” said one Mapleton resident who lives near the corner of Sideroad 18 and the 16th Line.

The resident, who lives with­in the study area - bounded in the north by Highway 6, in the east by Sideroad 18, in the south by  the 14th Line and in the west by Sideroad 16 - was among many who did not want to provide their names.

Another, who lives on County Road 12, said she is “definitely opposed” to the wind farm because there have been no studies showing turbines do not cause adverse health effects.

She is also worried about trees, wildlife, and tributaries of the Conestogo River in the study area, as well as decreased property values. Plus, she was not impressed with the lease payments fromNextEra officials, who came to door to door in the summer with offers.

“They offered us a pittance for access,” she said.

But development manager Nicole Geneau said NextEra, which is owned by Florida Power and Light Company (FPL), is making what it considers fair offers for the land leases, based on acreage.

She told the Advertiser there are 25 to 30 landowners in the study area who have been offered five-year “option” agreements.

“That’s where we are right now,” she said, adding those who sign option agreements will be approached later for 20 to 25 year lease agreements.

However, citing privacy concerns, she would not relay how many of the owners have currently signed on.

NextEra spokesperson Josie Hernandez said the company plans to adhere to the timeline unveiled at the public meeting, which indicated construction will begin next September, with the wind farm becoming operational a year from now.

“This is a great location for a renewable energy project,” Hernandez said.

While the layout is not yet decided, Geneau said all the turbines will be located south of the 16th Line. She explained the portion of the study area closer to Highway 6, some of which is actually located inWellington North Township near Arthur, is included only because NextEra plans to connect the wind farm to the transmission grid along Highway 6.

But that did not stop those living in and around Arthur from expressing their concern.

“I don’t want anything to do with it,” said Clayton Tait, who lives near the corner of County Road 12 and Highway 9.

Despite being told the format of the meeting would be an information presentation with opportunities for one-on-one questions - and not a public question period - several in attendance, including members of the group Wind Vigilance for Ontario Communities (WindVoice), started a brief,  impromptu question period.

Among the leaders of the session was WindVoice member Lorrie Gillis, of Grey Highlands, who wants to raise awareness about the alleged impacts turbines can have on human health.

“Most people in this room do not want these industrial turbines in their community,” Gillis said in an interview.

According to her, 600 turbines operating inOntario have led to about 100 surveys re­turned to WindVoice by nearby residents citing health problems. She said there are many more who “suffer in silence” because disclosing their health problems would prevent the sale of their homes.

“Expropriation would actually be much kinder than the hell people are going through now,” said Gillis.

She does not blame land­owners or even municipal governments, which have very little control, if any, over the location or approval of wind turbines. Gillis said it is the province’s Green Energy Act that allows wind farms to proceed despite what she sees as a lack of adequate study.

That has caused Wind-Voice and many groups across the province - including Wind Concerns Ontario - to call for a  moratorium on wind farms until alleged connections to health problems can be properly studied by an independent third party.

Very little research on the matter has come out of Ontario, or evenCanada for that matter. Some literature from Europe does draw a correlation between turbines and adverse health effects such as head­aches, dizziness, nausea, nose bleeds, constant ringing in the ears and trouble sleeping.

Yet many health experts, including Rob Thompson, Dir­ector of Health Protection with the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) Unit, have questioned the impartiality of such studies.

In May WDGPH officials asked the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promo­tion to investigate the potential impact of wind turbines on human health.

But until such an investigation is completed, both sides seem to be caught in a catch-22. Wind energy companies and proponents claim there are no studies conclusively linking turbines to adverse health effects, and those opposed say there are no studies proving turbines are safe.

NextEra officials say they understand the health concerns, but stress that considering the turbine-type, the development process, the 550 metre setbacks and the acoustic regulations, there should be no problems with the Mapleton project.

“Safety is our number one concern,” said Hernandez, add­ing NextEra will “certainly mitigate any issues that we find.”

Added Geneau, “Ontario has the most stringent noise regulations in North America  ... and the science is growing and improving.”

She noted NextEra, which  owns about 8,400 turbines in North America, hires external experts for environmental and other studies.

She said NextEra began investigating the Mapleton site as a possible location in 2006 - and the company’s environmental studies since then have shown no real concerns for local forestry, watercourses and wildlife.

“Every issue we’ve studied is low risk,” she said.

Hernandez acknowledged local residents have concerns about the project and said NextEra will consider very seriously all the feedback it received at the public meeting.

“We do hear a lot of negative comments ... our job is to provide people with all the information we can,” she said.

“We will do our best to fit in to this community ... and we encourage everyone to learn more about the project.”

For more information, visit canadianwindproposals.com, nexteraenergyresources.com or contact environmental manager Thomas Bird at 1-877-257-7330 or conestogo.wind-@nexteraenergy.com.

 

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