More meetings planned for Brinston Wind Farm

The Prowind Public Meeting at Matilda Hall in Dixon’s Corners on September 29th is no longer “the final public meeting” for the proposed South Branch Wind Farm in  Brinston. 

Cathy Weston, Managing Director of Prowind Canada, told the Leader that there will be a few more meetings. Prowind, who has a strong “commitment to the community” feels it’s necessary to slow down and give the community more time to process.

Weston, who has “been friends with some of these landowners” feels very strongly about moving forward at a pace that is comfortable for residents of South Dundas.

According to Prowind Canada information, “the South Branch Wind Farm is proposed as a 30 megawatt (MW) renewable energy generation facility. Once constructed, the facility will be able to produce enough renewable electricity to power approximately 7,500 homes per year.”

“South Branch Wind Farm will use wind turbines  to harness kinetic energy from the wind and, by means of an electrical generator, convert to electricity.”

“The commercial scale turbines proposed for the South Branch Wind Farm will consist of three main components: foundation, tower, and nacelle/rotor. Modern turbines self-regulate, optimize, and monitor output parameters using a variety of sophisticated instrumentation.”

The turbines haven’t been decided upon or purchased as of yet because, Weston pointed out, “(we are) trying to leave our options open (in an) economic sense (due to) domestic content rules (that say a product) needs to be 50 per cent Ontario based.”

Aside from the creation of jobs and the expected renewable energy, in terms of benefits to the community, Weston refers to the estimated $70,000 per year tax benefit. She also mentioned that Prowind would be donating $25,000 for a community fund, “provided each year following commissioning of the project, and through to the end of the 20 year contract.”

The Prowind project officially got underway in South Dundas in early 2008. Weston, who has a background in project management, joined Prowind in 2008 after learning about a similar initiative in her neighbourhood in the southwest of Ottawa.

“It’s a transparent company,” said Weston. They don’t hide information, they’re honest and open with the public. She went on to say that “what I want to do, we do.” It’s “a push for green energy.”

According to opposition group, Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO), green doesn’t always equal good.

WCO state that they’re “a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to protect the health, safety and quality of life of the people of Ontario from industrial wind turbines.”

The group’s main concerns seem to revolve around the mass production of wind farms without adequate consultation with local landowners. With the great number of public meetings and the open door policy of information sharing, Prowind Canada doesn’t appear to fall into this category.

In addition, WCO voice concern about the effects of wind farms on property values, public health, wildlife health and habitat, as well as noise and esthetic issues.

When questioned about WCO’s concerns, Weston pointed to the vast studies and experts that Prowind has brought in to help determine what, if any, issues exist or may arise from the project.

Prowind’s experts are chosen based on their accreditation and references. For example, the archaeology expert is “accredited by the Archaeological Society of Ontario.”

She referred to the “scientific evidence” where there was “nothing to show link” between wind farms and ill health, saying that the Chief Medical Officer for Ontario found “no link.”

Weston went on to say that Ontario has the “strictest laws” set up and that Prowind does “follow all the guidelines.”

Information, documentation, related studies, plans and so forth were in abundance at the meeting. Questions, suggestions, opinions and discussion were all welcome.

One such available study, “The Health Impact of Wind Turbines: A Review of the Current White, Grey, and Published Literature” for Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit in June 2008 had the following statement by Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Acting Medical Officer of Health at the time: “In summary, as long as the Ministry of Environment Guidelines for location criteria of wind farms are followed, it is my opinion that there will be negligible adverse health impacts on Chatham-Kent citizens. Although opposition to wind farms on aesthetic grounds is a legitimate point of view, opposition to wind farms on the basis of potential adverse health consequences is not justified by the evidence.”

A report on the “Impacts of Windmill Visibility on Property Values in Madison County, New York” by Ben Hoen suggested “the possibility that effects are more myth than reality.”

The report, which claims there were “no effects” on property values, gives reasons for the findings: “The windmill array fits the landscape; wind farming fits this community’s ‘sense of place;’ the payments the community received ‘balanced’ any adverse impacts.”

 In terms of further opposition, the Leader questioned Weston about the current political situation. 

Premier Dalton McGuinty’s decision to shut down the gas-fired power plant in Mississauga recently resulted in a call to Liberals by Progressive Conservative candidate for MPP of SD&SG, Jim McDonell on September 26th “to listen to families in Brinston and stop the proposed industrial wind farms in their backyard before it reaches the construction phase.”

While Weston admitted that some people are feeling a “nervousness about change” where the wind farm is concerned, she feels that the overall public feedback has been positive.

When asked what Prowind would do in the event of a political change affecting their project, she said that it would be “really disappointing to have to go back to the drawing board again.”

The South Branch Wind Farm is a “great step forward in renewable energy” and, in addition, it would “be a shame for a lot of manufacturing plants (because there are a lot of) jobs right now that would be lost.”

In any case, “we (Prowind Canada) remain committed to this project.” She added that “it’s been developed responsibly.”

The project originally called for 15 turbines, but due to some questions about impact to the location of one of the turbines, Prowind decided to drop the number.

The 14 left have all been mapped. Only two houses in the area come within 600 metres of a turbine. The rest are at least one kilometre away from residences.

According to Weston, the average wind farm project achieves completion in about “the four year range.”

In terms of project time from start to completion for the South Branch project, she estimates that it “is between five and six years all together.” The extra time is due to the fact that the government “regulations changed and the project was put on hold at one point. Also, more notably, Prowind “want(ed) to do things properly.”

While there are large wind energy companies in Canada, Prowind Canada is just one of a very few small-sized wind energy companies in Ontario.

Mayor Steven Byvelds attended the meeting. In speaking with the Leader he said the project “has its merit – as long as everything is done right.”

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