South Algonquin council made the right call
Editor’s note: In a letter to the editor carried in the Oct. 29 issue of Barry’s Bay This Week, Ontario Energy Minister George Smitherman was highly critical of South Algonquin council’s decision to place a 10-year moratorium on the approval of any wind turbine projects in the region. Following is a response to the minister’s letter from the anti-wind farms organization Save Our Skylines (S.O.S.).
Dear Mr. Deputy Premier,
I am compelled to respond on behalf of the residents of Madawaska Valley and Renfrew County who have been expressing their concerns about wind turbines through S.O.S. – Save Our Skyline.
We acknowledge that wind power is one of the “green” energy-producing choices being considered today. And we understand that you must take a position supporting wind turbines because your government has taken a stance supporting “clean and green” energy.
We believe that government loves wind because:
• Turbines are quick to build.
• They do not emit greenhouse gases.
• They do not produce radioactive products.
• They are perceived to be a free fuel.
• They are perceived to be strong, silent servants of energy.
• Turbines are very visible signs that government is responding to the desire for “green” renewable resources.
But are they effective? Once again we have a politician repeating the myth that industrial wind energy will replace coal or nuclear generators.
Industrial wind generation is a relatively new industry that has not been evaluated or monitored to ensure that people, existing business and the environmentally sensitive areas are protected. The emerging case studies and research indicate that government would be wise to move forward carefully, objectively evaluating the impacts of existing wind projects.
Your ministry and government have a responsibility to follow through on the information that has been discovered and researched to date. Without government subsidies, these turbines would not be built by private companies.
• As far as cost is concerned, turbines do not produce reliable power. They must be backed up and have never replaced “a dirty, coal-fired” generator or shut down an existing nuclear or coal-fired generation plant anywhere in the world.
• In terms of their environmental impact, they require clear-cutting and blasting, which impact upon aquifers and cause loss of habitat. The controls on wind turbines should reflect the same protection of natural habitat as is required of the logging industry.
• On health, the turbines create noise and cause shadow flicker and night lights.
• Their economic impact includes a loss of tourism and a lack of job generation.
• In terms of safety, turbines pose problems for fire suppression and lightning strikes. Their blades also throw ice.
• Maintenance costs. Blade failure in Ontario is four times higher than that recorded in Europe. This is partly related to: a greater size and height of wind turbines here, as well as to more severe weather conditions, especially in the northern regions of Ontario. Furthermore, there is a lack of reliability. When hydro demand is highest in summer, wind power generation is often at its lowest. Industrial wind energy cannot be stored and, most often, hydro electric dams are shut down to utilize the overproduction of wind energy.
• On decommissioning, the private leases do not protect neighbours.
Mr. Smitherman, this is just a brief overview of some of the issues. Clearly, further respectful discussion is required with all parties, including local councils and citizens affected by existing turbines.
In closing, we must also challenge your comments, which seem to be questioning the intelligence of our municipal councils and their powers of decision-making. The citizens of this area are proud of the council of South Algonquin. Its decision showed courage and insight into a complicated, important issue and councillors should be commended for their courage and foresight.
Yours truly, Lou Eyamie
President, S.O.S. (Save Our Skylines)
12 November 2008
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