Ontario has so far approved thousands of green energy contracts, ranging in size from a few solar panels on the roof of a family home to industrial-scale projects, in which they agree to pay several times the going electricity rate for periods of up to 40 years. It has also signed a controversial $7-billion deal with a consortium led by South Korean giant Samsung that includes a massive investment in wind and solar electricity. The hope is that all the spending will seed a new green energy industry in Ontario (all projects must source a percentage of materials locally), creating some 50,000 new jobs in the process.
TORONTO — A farmer on a small island in Prince Edward County, Ont., who said he fears the constant swooshing of wind turbines will harm his family’s health launched a legal challenge Monday against Ontario’s wind power plans.
Ian Hanna said his application for judicial review, being called the first of its kind, is his latest appeal to the government after petitions failed to stop plans for five turbines about 900 metres away from his property on Big Island in the Bay of Quinte.
The community of about 100 homes will be overwhelmed by the turbines, he charged.
“My parents taught us when we were growing up that we should stand up for what we thought is good and right and whether that’s for my family or for my neighbours, I intend to do that,” he said.
The tricky business of going green in Ontario got more complex on Thursday as the McGuinty government introduced a mandatory ‘Buy Ontario’ component for new solar and wind projects.
The changes were part of a bundle of key new policies designed to spark home-grown green manufacturing, as well as the wide deployment of its products — everything from small, rooftop solar panels to industrial-sized wind farms.
But in trying to strike a balance between competing interests, the Liberals appear to have rattled all sides in the debate.
Opponents of new wind farms in Ontario are accusing Energy Minister George Smitherman of trying to duck protesters.
A group called Wind Concerns Ontario says Smitherman’s office hasn’t told anyone the energy minister will attend Thursday’s grand opening of the Wolfe Island wind project near Kingston.
The anti-windmill activists say Smitherman is “deathly afraid” he’ll face protests at Wolfe Island after he ran into about 50 protesters at a wind farm near Kincardine in April.
The government still had not put out an announcement late Wednesday afternoon indicating that Smitherman and Environment Minister John Gerretson would be at the Wolfe Island event.
Not a single wind farm project proposed in the past four years in Ontario has undergone an independent environmental assessment by the province, figures obtained by The Free Press show.
Despite requests from citizens’ groups for the assessments, 31 projects have been allowed to go through after a less stringent screening process undertaken by the wind farm proponents themselves.
“It demonstrates the process is a sham,” said John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of 33 smaller groups.
“Each of these projects is a foregone conclusion.”
Ontario is already North America’s friendliest jurisdiction for wind and other renewable energy projects, thanks to its recently proclaimed Green Energy Act, meant to speed along approval, and the establishment of European-style 20-year fixed-price energy contracts. (Power companies are now required to integrate all new green energy projects into their grids and pay producers 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour for onshore wind farms, 19 cents/kWh for offshore wind, and up to 80.2 cents/kWh for solar power, versus about six cents/kWh for both hydro and nuclear energy.) The province, which is committed to shutting down its coal-fired plants by 2014, will have 1,200 megawatts of wind power in operation by the end of this year, and there are 103 more “shovel ready” wind developments, totalling 3,263 MW, in the pipeline. The proliferation of giant turbines—80-m-tall towers with 40- to 45-m blades—is already nearing the 5,000 MW supply ceiling the Ontario Power Authority has said it can easily integrate into its aging grid. But soon, there will be no more limits. Smitherman is promising a series of major power infrastructure announcements in coming weeks that will not only make wind a much bigger part of Ontario’s energy mix, but open up vast new areas of the province to commercial wind development.
Wind energy, according to flyers handed out by some anti-wind activists, is a sham designed to exploit society’s inclination to go green.
Large wind farms barely have an impact on efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, they argue. They say utility-scale wind farms are uneconomic and make our electricity system unstable. The turbines also make people sick and cause property values to fall, not to mention the danger to bats, birds and butterflies, detractors say.
High-school teacher Sandy MacLeod is near tears as she reaches into her coat pocket and pulls out a plastic bag filled with a dozen or so orange earplugs.
“I wear these every single night,” she says, though occasionally she’ll “switch to headphones” to muffle the sound of the wind turbine near her home. “But it doesn’t matter. The noise still gets into your ears.”
And, she insists, it’s making her sick.