Wind Power Flaps

 Editor:
Elizabeth May is the leader of the Federal Green Party of Canada. She loves wind farms, even though she doesn’t seem to understand them particularly well. She is just now starting to  understand some of the realities. Credit to her for finally starting to listen to people. The people fighting wind farms are not NIMBY’S, they are citizens with real concerns that are not being properly addressed. The info in her letter about Ont. is completely  wrong. The wind farms that are being built in Ont. are sited just as improperly as the ones her friends in the wind industry say are improper in Nova Scotia. We also have people being driven from their homes here in Ont. I invite anyone who feels a wind farm, proposed or already installed, is improperly sited to give Elizabeth a call or send her an email. Link at end of story.

Wind Power Flaps
July 16th, 2007

This last week there have been a number of wind power related controversies. One played out through the blog pages of this web site; another continues to rage in the little village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia.

There is no question that the Green Party of Canada is unequivocally in favour of wind power. We need to catch up with the rest of the world, with the leadership of Denmark and Germany, to generate a significant amount of energy from wind.

The Green Party is also firmly committed to grassroots decision-making, local democracy, self-determination – however you want to describe the values of supporting the local in the face of global pressures.

What to do when these two commitments appear to be in conflict?

My approach is first to listen. To try and find out what the main objection is to a project that falls within our general mandate, in this case to promote renewable energy.

When I was Executive Director of Sierra Club of Canada, I was contacted by a Nova Scotia man, Daniel D’Entremont, who claimed his and his family’s life was being destroyed by the proximity of his home to a 17 turbine wind farm. He called me because he knew I had worked to help local residents impacted by the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens site. He thought I was someone who would care.

Helping someone against a wind farm was a real stretch for Sierra Club, but I asked the local Atlantic Canada chapter if they thought there was anything to his claims. I asked a friend who is in the wind energy business to look at the Pubnico Wind Farms and check out the proximity to the D’Entremont home. It was about 400 meters away and yes, their health was suffering. The kids couldn’t sleep well. The family had more headaches. No one helped them. Sierra Club Atlantic Canada Chapter publicly called for relocation for the D’Entremonts and proper siting of wind farms. Still, no one helped. In the end, they abandoned their house and moved.

Last week I had a call from a reporter wondering what I thought about Anne Murray being against a wind farm near Pugwash My first thought was not sympathetic. I think objections to wind farms based on aesthetics, not liking the look of the towers, should give way to the need to shut down coal plants and bring in wind. I disagree with the position taken by someone I admire enormously, Robert Kennedy Jr, who has been against turbines located off the shores of Cape Cod. With Bush’s smog policies (codenamed “Clear Skies”) it would be hard to see the turbines from the famous Hyannis port complex.

Nevertheless, before shooting from the hip, I called around. I went on the company website. I found that it was the same developer who had had conflicts with the D’Entremonts. And, once again, my contacts in the wind energy field in Nova Scotia said this was bad siting. So I stood up for Anne Murray, who is not guilty of NIMBY but is putting herself in the public eye to help a large group of community residents who don’t get the media attention one of Canada’s best loved singers can get.

(She phoned to thank me and said before she had done anything public, she had checked with David Suzuki to see if he thought it was the right thing to do).

Meanwhile, the whole controversy highlights the weaknesses of Nova Scotia’s renewable energy policy. There are no standard offer contracts, as in Ontario, to help bring in lots of smaller, better sited, projects. There are no standard set-backs agreed upon to ensure that renewable energy doesn’t destroy life for the neighbours.

Are there health effects when wind is too close to homes? The literature says yes. Should those of us who believe in wind energy forget the human element? Should local grassroots democracy only matter when we like the result?

Green Party of Canada

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One Response to “Wind Power Flaps”

  1. Tom Stacy Says:

    I praise Anne Murray and Elizabeth May for their candor and leadership in the face of the well believed idea that wind facilities can replace coal fired generation or substantially reduce the emissions from them.

    If these two brave women would now turn to the science in the matter, they could become of paramount importance to redirecting our energy and environmental dollars toward meaningful and dependable solutions and away from technologies that meet none of the litmus tests of electrical energy generation – economy, compactness, dispatchability when needed, reliability, proximity to load and high capacity. Missing the mark on all of these should be the kiss of death, but their iconic symbol of “doing something” rather than nothing, has the whole of North America dancing like a feather on the breeze.

    “Serious global challenges demand serious solutions, one of which is not wind energy.”

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