by PATRICIA GROTENHUIS
A confrontational ratepayers meeting in the town of Durham last night left Municipality of West Grey council with no doubts that residents are concerned about a wind farm proposal for the area.
By the time question period rolled around, uniformed West Grey police officers were circling the crowd, reminding everyone to keep their emotions under control, and representatives for Nextera Energy Resources, which has proposed the project, looked uncomfortable.
Correction and clarification related to the sentence above:
During the question period, officers with the West Grey Police Services were seen chatting with people at the back of the room who had been asking questions and making comments. “I’m quite sure it was cordial,” says Rene Berger, the police services’ chief of the exchanges. He says two police officers were assigned to the meeting at the request of the municipality. He says the officers told him that the meeting was quiet.
“This is a rather intimidating group to stand before,” said project manager Nicole Geneau, after being asked what it would take to make Nextera pack up and leave.
Nextera proposes to erect between 10 and 12 turbines with hubs 80 metres high, producing 18 to 23 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 5,400 homes.
The company, based in Juno Beach Fla, operates wind, hydro, natural gas, solar, oil and nuclear generation in four U.S. regions and two Canadian provinces.
No leases have been signed, although Nextera has signed an undisclosed number of options to use individuals’ land for wind energy generation. Nextera’s goal is to start construction in the spring of 2011, pending government approval.
West Grey has declared a moratorium on wind energy, and is asking for more in-depth studies to be done before proposals are approved. Mayor Kevin Eccles cited an overall lack of information. There’s frustration in West Grey because the province is seen to be encouraging wind power and residents don’t feel there are enough regulations protecting them.
“Maybe we should put (a turbine) in front of (Premier) Dalton McGuinty’s cottage and see how he feels about that,” said Mike McMurray, West Grey resident and real estate agent.
McMurray asserted demand for properties has fallen since the proposal was made public. People move to the area for the unobstructed views, rolling hills and quiet, which turbines would affect.
“So far, analysis has not shown an impact from wind turbines,” said Municipal Property Assessment Corporation municipal relations representative Chuck Egener. Egener cited a study in the United States showing no overall property value decline in several areas after wind farms were introduced. The crowd verbally rejected his statement.
According to McMurray, most of the areas studied were undeveloped and uninhabited. He says there were two areas similar to West Grey where property values were lowered.
The health debate was just as controversial and argumentative.
“We need to get it right because we’re talking about real people,” said Carmen Krough, a retired pharmacist.
Krough acknowledged that a Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) and American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) health study found no effects from wind turbines. She believes an independent third party study would have markedly different findings.
Krough says the United Kingdom National Health Service has rejected CanWEA and AWEA study findings. Japan is doing a four-year health study before allowing more turbines to be erected. France has begun shutting turbines down in specific areas overnight to avoid sleep interruptions.
Geneau claims there are no adverse health affects from living near wind turbines and current regulations are sufficient. Local residents aren’t so sure.
“This is a scary situation. We need definitive answers before installation can continue to proceed,” said West Grey resident Dick O’Brien. BF