Wind energy is fairly new and controversial in this province with some saying it’s a much needed clean source of energy, while others — many of them in communities around Lake Ontario and Lake Erie — are saying ‘not in my backyard’. Considerations with wind turbines include the environmental mark they make and the environmental benefits they offer, as well as the financial implications.
There are five wind turbines in West Lincoln now but there will be many, many more as soon as they pass environmental approvals. Ontario Power Authority says wind is an important part of its energy portfolio — it’s expanding infrastructure for all the power Ontario produces and the province wants a mix of sources so they balance each other out — especially now that they’ve phased out coal. But in West Lincoln, people say their rural way of life is being destroyed, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it.
The wind turbines in West Lincoln don’t seem to make noise, but Zlata Zoretic has lived in their flickering shadow since they went up a year ago: “Just whomp, whomp all day. It’s terrible.”
The sound is on YouTube. People living near wind turbines complain of headaches, inability to sleep, ear ringing and diminished property values. Nellie Dehaans is terrified of this. For decades, she’s lived on the other side of Smithville: “It’s going to look much different. I’ve got turbines coming that way, that way, that way. West Lincoln’s getting 44, the whole project is 77 plus three extras in case.”
The wind farms are expected to stretch from Smithville to Wainfleet. And the turbines will be much bigger — the size of a 60 storey building.
Wind power can cost almost twice as much per kilowatt hour as gas or nuclear energy. But there’s no power when there’s no wind — like in a muggy summer heat wave.
Wendy Veldman lives next to a turbine: “They produce it when we need it the least. They are not reliable. The wind is blowing today. But, there are some days when they sit still. What are we going to do when that’s happening. But, there always has to be backup power.”
If there is too much wind, the power has to be sold off at a loss, or the companies are paid not to produce. But, we don’t pay when there’s no wind.
Shawn Cronkwright, Ontario Power Authority: “With wind turbines, you have to pay to install the equipment, but after the equipment is installed the cost of the fuel is zero. Wind actually is a key piece of keeping prices lower in the entire portfolio.”
Opponents also dispute that wind is clean energy — each tower takes up a couple acres of farmland.
Wendy Veldman: “What you don’t see is the soil is covering 40 trucks of cement loaded into the ground.”
The turbines are contracted to run for 20 years, with no plan to remove them after. Some opponents fear the landscape could eventually be covered with broken, rusting towers.
Shawn Cronkwright: “Not really likely because the companies that have invested have money at stake.”
He says the green benefit is that wind turbines need no fuel to produce electricity.
Shawn Cronkwright: “We are displacing a very significant amount of energy on a daily basis through the use of wind, that would otherwise result in burning some type of fossil fuels. So there’s absolutely a benefit there.”
You may have heard of the ongoing environmental challenges in court some wind farms are facing, opponents say that’s the only way they can be stopped, and they say they’re pitting neighbour against neighbour. The farmers who have agreed to accept the next wave of turbines will be paid, we’re told, 50 thousand dollars a year for 20 years — a million dollars. And that’s causing conflict with neighbours who don’t want them.