Wind farm supporters this week fired the latest salvo in the ongoing battle over the controversial initiative.
Environmental Defence and the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association released “Blowing smoke: Correcting anti-wind myths in Ontario,” a compendium of previously published studies.
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding wind in Ontario in the last couple of months, and what we’ve noticed is that there is very little high-quality information available to people to make informed decisions about wind energy,” explained Adam Scott, the green energy program director for Environmental Defence.
“The anti-wind groups, in particular, have been actually spreading quite a bit of just blatant misinformation on the subject, particularly around health and intermittency and economic benefits of wind energy. So that’s why we felt that it was just really necessary to just get a bit of that information out there and available to people.”
While he admitted that there was increasing friction between groups in favour of wind turbines and those against them, most people weren’t on either side.
“The majority of the population have a lot of questions, and quite rightly, and we really wanted to be able to answer some of those questions with the facts at hand,” Scott said.
While Environmental Defence is certainly in favour of wind power, Scott said, it is not part of a pro-wind lobby group.
“We’re a charity doing environmental work, and most of our environmental work is related to human health and protecting human health, and we get lumped into this pro-wind lobby garbage all the time, and it doesn’t really make any sense,” Scott said.
Groups against turbines tend to target communities that are, for now, wind farm-free.
“I can understand why a lot of citizens would be apprehensive about this unknown change coming to their community,” Scott said, “but I really don’t think a lot of the stuff that they’re scaring people with is true.”
Amherst Island resident John Harrison, for one, isn’t buying what the study is trying to sell.
“It’s the usual pro-wind propaganda,” Harrison said after reading the report.
Harrison, a former physics professor at Queen’s University, first got involved in the wind-energy debate when it was announced years ago that one was proposed for the island the retiree calls home.
The report, he said, doesn’t address the effect turbines are having on people living nearby. There are more and more documented cases of people suffering, Harrison said, cases that are being ignored by those in favour of wind farms.
“I would have to say the pro-wind consortium is losing a battle here. In my view, they would have done better to acknowledge this to put the wind turbines further away from people and, in my view, they would probably be able to continue in business.”
Harrison believes that, despite what pro-wind groups are saying, the movement opposing the towering turbines is gaining ground.
“Although they talk about a small number of activists who are having some impact, in fact it’s a large number of rural residents, the number is growing as is the number of turbines, and while the pro-wind consortium buries its head in the sand on this, they’re going to lose the battle,” Harrison said. “And I truly believe that.”
Even though the Amherst Island project has already been approved through Ontario Power Authority’s feed-in tariff program, it’s still likely a few years before construction begins in earnest, Loyalist Township Mayor Bill Lowry said.
At this point, he said he isn’t for or against wind turbines, he just questions why they’re being built along what is a scenic vista.
“To me, they don’t belong where they are going,” said Lowry, who lives in Amherstview. “They belong in an industrial park or a prairie field.”
While his government won’t have much say on the project since it falls under the province’s purview, he said the issue has certainly been a divisive one on the island ever “since they started snooping around Amherst Island three or four years ago.”
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s split the island, this whole issue. It’s unfortunate,” the Amherstview resident said.
“I’ve got my own little saying, ‘It’s not only green, it’s greed.’ ”