by SUSAN MANN
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture wants the provincial government to temporarily pull the plug on industrial wind turbine development until serious shortcomings with the program can be fixed.
Federation president Mark Wales says the developments are pitting rural residents against each other. In addition during the past few weeks, members have told federation representatives about health problems associated with the turbines, concerns over the loss of farmland, encumbrances on their properties and other issues.
But Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley says in a prepared email statement supplied by his press secretary, Jennifer Kett, that he’s disappointed and surprised to learn of the federation’s most recent policy statement. “Thousands of Ontario farmers are participating in Ontario’s clean energy economy.”
Bentley says many of the federation’s concerns will be examined during the government’s review of the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) and Micro Feed-in-Tariff programs currently underway. More than 3,000 submissions were received as part of the consultation process.
“We want to ensure that farmers can continue to prosper from the FIT program while contributing to cleaner air in Ontario,” Bentley says, noting the government’s clean energy policy is eliminating coal while building a new clean energy industry in Ontario that’s on track to create 50,000 new jobs and is attracting more than $26 billion in investment.
Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, the Progressive Conservative’s energy critic, says Ontario Auditor General’s Jim McCarter notes in his 2011 report released in December that for every job created in the wind and solar industries, two to four jobs in other sectors are lost because of higher electricity prices.
Fedeli says they’ve seen that first-hand in Northern Ontario. In Timmins Xstrata Copper shed 670 jobs in March, 2011 and moved to Quebec because of cheaper power.
The federation released its position on wind turbines Friday. Wales says it’s a follow up to the federation’s submission, submitted in December, to the provincial government’s FIT program review. Wales has already met with the agriculture minister about this matter and will be meeting with the energy minister next week.
Wales says the situation has become untenable and industrial wind turbines are occupying the rural agenda. “It’s tearing rural communities apart.”
Farmers need to focus on growing food, creating jobs and helping get the economy back on track.
“We’re clearly getting the message from our members that we need to come out very strong and remind government the issues must be dealt with now,” he says.
Among the federation’s concerns are:
• the price paid for wind power;
• the inefficiency of wind power - it can’t be stored for use during peak demand periods;
• setbacks and induced currents;
• health and nuisance matters; and
• removal of municipal input from wind turbine projects.
Reaction to the federation’s policy was mixed. Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a group committed to informing people of all matters related to wind turbines, says its great news for people who have talking about it for years now.
“People have been living with these things for years now,” says Wilson, a registered nurse from North Gower near Ottawa. “We’ve had people in this province who have been sick because of the noise. They’ve lost value in their property.”
Wilson also points out the Ontario auditor general’s 2011 report noted there has never been a cost-benefit analysis of the industrial wind turbine industry. “It’s causing electricity rates to go up, which also affects farmers very intently.”
She says Wind Concerns Ontario supports the federation’s call to suspend wind turbine development. “It’s just an amazing development today.”
But the Canadian Wind Energy Association, the Canadian wind energy industry’s voice, says by email it is extremely disappointed the federation has called for a suspension of wind energy development “at a time when farmers across the province are actively participating in, and actively seeking to participate in, wind energy developments throughout Ontario.”
Many of the concerns raised by the federation are already being reviewed through processes like the Ontario government’s FIT review process, the association’s email says.
President Robert Hornung says he’ll be requesting a meeting with federation leaders to better understand their point of view and to discuss their concerns.
In addition to the federation calling for a suspension of industrial wind turbine development, Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, the Conservative’s deputy energy critic (Green Energy Act), tabled a motion in the Ontario Legislature in December calling for a moratorium on further development until a third party health and environmental study has been completed. Thompson defeated former Liberal agriculture minister Carol Mitchell in the Huron-Bruce riding during the 2011 provincial election and she said previously that was partly due to the Liberal’s position on wind turbines. Thompson wasn’t available for an interview.
The Liberal government of Premier Dalton McGuinty last February halted development of off shore wind farms but said it is pushing ahead with land based wind turbine projects.
Wales says the federation supports the need for a reliable and affordable source of renewable energy for the future. “We must all work together to ensure green energy projects respect concerns for noise and community involvement balanced with the effective provision of energy.”
Fedeli says the Progressive Conservatives would cancel the FIT program. “We’ve seen the (economic) destruction it has caused throughout Ontario.” BF