Friday, August 5th, 2011
Jutta Splettstoesser, President, launched the Friends of Wind Ontario information meeting series at the Legion in Clinton, Ontario on Tuesday, July 26.
The Friends of Wind Ontario are organizing community meetings to provide information about wind power generation and engage communities in supporting wind power generation. There were about almost 100 people at the meeting. In her opening remarks, Jutta said the following. “I am a full-time farmer from the Kincardine area who supports wind energy development. I am not paid or supported by the wind industry, but I volunteer my time and efforts in supporting the diversification of our energy supply. This is important to me and my family. I believe that it is important to stand up for our beliefs and set aside emotions.” Jutta said she receives phone calls and e-mails from people telling her they are either too busy or are afraid to contribute their views in support of wind turbines. She hopes Friends of Wind Ontario public events will positively influence public perceptions of wind power through fact-based material provided in a non-confrontational manner with plenty of opportunity for questions. Another speaker, Kate Dietrich from Teeswater, described her family’s experience with people who are opposed to wind. She said her family often feels intimidated by their treatment and their unwillingness to listen to other views supported by facts. Kate believes that public meetings where people can hear and discuss information about wind power are essential. As Jutta does, she believes that farmers and wind turbines can live in harmony close to each other. Wind power is a free and unlimited resource that is emission neutral and doesn’t require large amounts of water resources. As Jutta said, “If Ontario communities want to keep the agriculture industry enticing for the next generation, we need to be innovative and sustainable in terms of energy sources, uses, and applications.” Another speaker was Tim Weis. He is director of renewable energy and efficiency policy at the Pembina Institute. He and his colleagues at Pembina recently completed a study of the future of Ontario energy prices (http://www.pembina.org/pub/2238), Behind the switch: pricing Ontario electricity options. The study finds that Ontario consumers would see virtually no relief from high electricity prices if the province cancelled its support for renewable energy under the Green Energy Act. In fact, the study indicates that investing in renewable energy today is likely to save Ontario ratepayers money within the next 15 years, as natural gas becomes more expensive and as the cost of renewable energy technology continues to decrease. Dr. Weis says: “Whether Ontarians choose to keep or kill the Green Energy Act, electricity prices will continue to rise in this province because of the serious – and costly – refurbishments, repairs and replacements required to fix Ontario’s energy system.” Ontario needs to replace the majority of electricity generation within the next 10 to 20 years, Dr. Weis said. “You simply cannot replace assets that were bought and paid for in the 1970s with new facilities today, and expect to pay prices on par with those four decades ago. “Cancelling the Green Energy Act would make very little or no difference to Ontario ratepayers, because to meet electricity demand, the amount of energy that’s currently planned from renewable sources would have to be replaced with other options – which would likely work out to be more polluting, and less sustainable, and in the long-run more expensive.” Ultimately, Dr. Weis’s research shows that Ontario’s ratepayers stand to lose more than they would gain in the short term by cancelling the Green Energy Act, because doing so would lead to higher costs and more risk in the long run. The final speaker was Toronto environmental lawyer Diane Saxe. She is one of the world’s top 25 environmental lawyers, a Certified Specialist in Environmental Law and has a Ph.D. in Law. Dr. Saxe discussed the recent decision by Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal concerning Suncor’s Kent Breeze Wind Farm Project (Erickson v. Ministry of the Environment). This is an important decision since it was the first challenge of a project approved under Ontario’s Green Energy Act (http://envirolaw.com/erickson-appeal-decision/). The Tribunal found that wind turbines can be built in Ontario despite opponents’ claims of adverse health effects. Specifically, Dr. Saxe said that the Tribunal found that there is no evidence that wind turbines sited according to the rules established by the Green Energy Act directly cause health effects. The Tribunal found that there is some evidence that wind turbines might have some “indirect” health effects but these are not sufficient to harm human health. An “indirect” health effect is one that is not directly produced by an operating wind turbine such as noise, shadow flicker or ice. For example, some people might find wind turbines or even the idea of wind turbines so annoying that they experience stress symptoms such as loss of sleep and headaches but there is no evidence that these indirect effects cause serious harm to human health. The Tribunal bases their findings on detailed consideration of the studies that wind opponents say prove that wind turbines harm human health. Effectively the Tribunal’s findings establish that there is no basis for wind opponents claims of health impacts. The Friends of Wind next public meeting is planned for Chatham Kent on August 18 at 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM in Chatham Banquet & Conference Centre, 280 Merritt Ave . The speakers will be Jutta Splettstoesser, President, Friends of Wind Ontario, Dr. W. David Colby, MSc, MD, FRC PC, Acting Medical Officer of Health-Chatham/Kent, Rudy Zubler, Ridgetown, dairy farmer and John Kourtoff, President & CEO of Trillium Power Wind Corporation. – Robert Knox, Collingwood, Ontario