by DAVE PINK
Seventy-eight per cent of Ontario residents believe wind energy is among the safest forms of electrical generation, according to a just-released poll conducted for the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
“There’s been a lot of public debate and discussion concerning wind energy, and one of the issues people have been speaking to is a concern about health,” says Robert Hornung, president of the Ottawa-based association. “We commissioned this poll to determine what Canadians are thinking, and to get people thinking of wind in the context of other forms of electrical generation.
“It’s important to remember that we can’t look at these things in isolation.”
The association, CanWEA, represents more than 420 members, including many in the wind energy business, and actively promotes sustainable wind energy projects throughout the province.
“The poll reaffirms numerous studies showing wind generation to be superior from both a health and an environmental perspective,” says Hornung.
The industry has encountered pockets of resistance to new wind developments in several areas of the province, raising such issues as the yet-undetermined health risk of living to close to the turbines, of environmental damage, of the cost and distribution of the profits, and even the safety of birds that might fly into the blades.
“There’s a broad range of issues that vary from community to community,” says Hornung. “It’s important that we do a good job of public engagement. We want to the public to know they were heard, understood and responded to.”
But, “the poll makes it clear that an overwhelming number of Ontario residents believe wind generation to be safe.”
Close to 2,000 megawatts of wind-generation capacity – enough to power more than 600,000 homes – has already been built in Ontario, most of it adjacent to lakes, where the wind conditions are most suitable. Hornung says there is also great potential for wind-energy developments in northern Ontario alongside James Bay.
CanWEA is also citing a report by Clear Sky Advisors which concludes that Ontario is likely to develop a further 5,600 megawatts of wind-generating capacity by 2018, creating 80,000 person-hours of employment – much of it in the erection of the towers, with additional, long-term jobs in manufacturing. That would see $1.1 billion go to the landowners and rural municipalities in the form of taxes and lease payments over the 20-year life of the projects. BF