Fears about declining property values, health concerns, and environmental protection were among the hot topics discussed at two meetings, a combined meeting of North Frontenac and Addington Highlands Councils on May 11, and a packed public meeting in Denbigh on the afternoon of May 30. The meetings concerned the Northpoint II Wind Energy Center, a proposal by Nextera, a subsidiary of Florida Power and Light, to install approximately 100 wind turbines in Addington Highlands and 50 wind turbines in North Frontenac.
A common concern for many of the folks in attendance at both meetings was property values.
Local realtor Chris Winney spoke about her fear that building a wind farm in the area would drastically hurt real estate values.
“It can be on somebody else's land and still have an effect on your property. It just cuts down on the number of people who are going to be interested in buying it. If there are fewer people interested in buying it then the value goes down” Winney told council.
Construction on the proposed project, if their bid is successful, is expected to take less than a year to complete, following a longer permitting process that Nextera would have to go through. Ben Faiella, a representative from Nextera was in attendance at the Flinton meeting and explained how Nextera had built a 92 turbine wind farm in Southwestern Ontario last year in about 6 months.
At the Flinton meeting, Dave Winney, a local resident, inquired whether council should hire on a consultant to “look at what has happened in other areas...” and to offer advice.
Addington Highlands Councillor Bill Cox said, “No, this council has not. It costs money and we don't have it...We don't have money to give consultants.”
Dan Carruthers, a cottage owner on Ashby Lake in Addington Highlands, then offered his assistance.
“I will personally pay for both a referendum, legal counsel, and any consultants. I will write you a cheque because I see this as an investment in protecting the property investments already made in this region for multiple generations.”
Carruthers went on to say “the only compelling reason I'm hearing for approval of these wind turbines is the 'community vibrancy fund' which is a bribe by any other name...it's a small amount of money relative to what I think is gonna be the negative offset on this place being an attractive area for investment... 90 communities...across Ontario declared themselves 'not a willing host.' They've gone through this process.
North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins suggested that for them it was too early to bring a consultant into the discussion as they were still waiting on some crucial information.
Councillor Tony Fritsch brought Carruthers $50,000 offer to the Addington Highlands council meeting on May 19. The idea was rejected by a vote of 4-1.
Sarah Miller, an outspoken opponent of turbines, who said “the only control these councils have is right now. Right at the very beginning. If you declare yourself not a willing host you have the control. After that you have zero control. These companies move in and they will do whatever it takes. They are bulldozers. They are steamrollers.”
Another resident said “these cottage people pay the majority of the taxes. If these turbines come, there will be no cottage people.”
Helen Yanch, Councillor for Ward 2 in Addington Highlands spoke about some of the positives of the proposed project. “I know that there are some seniors that have signed up to have one, or two, of these [turbines] on their property and maybe they were thinking of it being an income for them”
A concerned lady in the audience said “I'm interested in property value because I too am a senior and I'm looking at probably in the next while, while all these shenanigans are taking place, having to sell and re-locate and I know, that because of what's going on, my property value is going to go down...”
Paul Issacs made a request to council to “please, please don't make your decision based on 'it's gonna happen anyway'...I think if you do that you've abandoned your responsibilities to represent us.”
“We're listening.” Reeve Hogg said.
“Personally I don't have a feeling for what the community thinks yet...” Councillor John Inglis from North Frontenac said.
There was little doubt about what the segment of the community that gathered in Denbigh last Saturday thinks about the project.
Two different speakers, Carmen Krogh and Parker Gallant, took to the microphone to help offer some insight and clarity to a discussion surrounding the possible negatives of having a large wind farm in the area.
Krogh, a retired pharmacist with over 40 years of experience in the health studies, detailed, via an elaborate presentation, some of the possible health effects that residents should be aware of when living close to wind turbines.
“We have got some pretty strong evidence that concludes that our noise levels and our distances [setbacks] currently in Ontario aren't working very well” Krogh stated.
She explained that both children, and adults, are vulnerable to noise, especially children born pre-term or with a low-birth weight, and that not enough research has been conducted yet to determine what the long-term effects on people living by wind turbines are.
She then spoke about the controversial study published in April of this year by the Council of Canadian Academies stating that the only adverse health effect they could prove connected to wind turbines was 'chronic annoyance'. Krogh presented articles and studies that defined symptoms such as heart effects, vertigo, headache, sleep disturbance, and other issues that she said are connected to annoyance.
Krogh's presentation went into detail on the science connected with amplitude modulation, which is the “swishing noise that people hear”, and how it tends to be the main source of the annoyance, along with light flicker from the towers. She also referenced a few accounts of people leaving their homes because of vibrations caused by wind turbines.
Krogh suggested that taking children into consideration is important when trying to find a solution. She also advocated for the government to do vigilance and long-term surveillance monitoring like they do in the pharmaceutical industry and concluded that more research is needed on possible health effects before approving wind farms.
Parker Gallant, a retired banker who had a 33-year career with TD Bank, dissected how we pay for energy in Ontario and suggested that in the last 15 years we've seen hydro rates almost triple. He explained how Ontario is currently generating more electricity than it can consume and that the excess power is sold to New York and Quebec and that even when it's not sold off HydroOne still has to pay the companies that are generating it for the electricity, regardless if the province is using it or not.
Gallant explained that in the first 4 months of this year “Ontario exported over 8 terrawatts of energy that we didn't need” and how that much energy would be enough to provide “over 900,000 households in Ontario with power for a full year.” His presentation was aimed at the flaws in HydroOne and the Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) that NextEra's proposal falls under.
The wind turbines that Nextera are proposing for this project can be as tall as 110 metres to the hub, with the blade extending even higher. For comparison, as someone at the Denbigh meeting pointed out, these would be significantly taller than Bon Echo Rock.
The deadline for Nextera to submit their proposal to the IESO for this LRP is September 1st 2015 but they are seeking support from the townships by July 20. The project, if successful, is expected to be up and running by 2019.
Nextera is hosting open houses this coming weekend in Addington Highlands and North Frontenac to explain more about their projec.t The projects are awarded based in part on which company brings in the lowest price to the IESO. There is a 100-point system as part of the bidding process that discounts the proposal price by having support from the local council and a local Aboriginal group.
The Addington Highlands meeting takes place on Friday June 5th at 5pm at Denbigh Hall and a North Frontenac public meeting will take place Saturday June 6th at 10am at Harlowe Hall, followed by a presentation from Nextera.