Opinion: The case against industrial wind turbines

7

By Michel Chevalier

To be green, or not to be green? That is the question! The answer my friends, is not blowing in the wind, as many residents of rural Canada and elsewhere around the world are finding out – the hard way – by living next to giant industrial wind turbines (400 to 500 feet tall and growing).

How does this relate to ‘tax’ you ask? Well, it’s a little off the topic of some of my previous columns that relate to individual tax matters, but I can say it impacts us all in that our governments are spending hundreds of millions of our tax dollars funding mostly multinational corporations in the construction of industrial wind farms. The huge cost associated with wind farm development is a major reason for the projected huge increases in electricity costs in my home province of Ontario.

I live in rural Amaranth Township just north of Orangeville, Ont. In this township we already have 20 or 30 industrial wind turbines scattered on farms in the northern portion of the township and many more just across the town line in Melancthon. We have direct knowledge of and contact with people who have been driven from their homes; who suffer from some of the extremely debilitating health effects caused by audible, inaudible and low frequency noise; and from the strobe-like effects of sunlight flicker from the blades. There are people who can’t sell their homes and are forced to rent other living accommodation; and people who sell their homes to the wind energy companies at much reduced prices and then are ‘gagged’ from talking about any of the negative health effects.

Most of us used to think that green is good, and that wind energy is renewable and green so it’s good, without doing any research and with limited knowledge. Last fall we were made aware of a proposed project planned almost next door to us. One of the turbines, if erected, will be less than a kilometre away. This is legal, as the minimum setback in Ontario has been legislated to 550 m. Legal does not make it right and it does not make it healthy; and yes we are NIMBYs but, as we learned, with far more reason than simple esthetics.

What we discovered, along with our friends and neighbours, was absolutely shocking to all of us. In spite of several years of mounting evidence pointing to serious problems with industrial wind energy installations in terms of health, property values, water quality, wildlife, and agricultural land degradation, the Government of Ontario continues to pursue, at breakneck speed, the approval and development of these projects – to  the huge detriment of many of its rural citizens.

While Ontario is not alone, it is the most aggressive jurisdiction. Similar situations have arisen in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Alberta as well as all over the U.S. and in other countries. The countries that have the most experience with industrial wind power generation are finally starting to pull back and re-evaluate. Denmark now only allows new wind turbine installations in the ocean. France is reversing course by drastically cutting funding to wind energy companies, as is Spain and one of the provincial governments in Australia; and there are indications that Japan will be slowing down and re-evaluating as well. We’re not there yet in Ontario and the other provinces. Some of our politicians have painted themselves into a ‘green’ corner that ain’t so green.

I’m writing this column to inform real estate agents across Canada and if needed to provide information, contacts and resources. Agents and brokers whose business lies mainly in towns and cities are most likely generally in favour of wind energy, as were most of us and most people initially. Everyone needs to be better informed about this subject. It is becoming extremely political in many jurisdictions as a strong groundswell of opposition continues to grow and it would be a shame to have an uninformed rural/urban split on the issue.

Wind energy per se is not bad. Forging ahead and consciously ignoring mounting negative evidence is seriously irresponsible. As a society we need to direct our governments to take a “precautionary” pause to re-evaluate how industrial wind energy can best fit into energy policy in terms of where wind farms are sited and how much of a contribution and at what cost wind will make to overall energy generation.

Here are links to websites that provide a tremendous amount of information about industrial wind energy and will serve to open the window on what is happening in Canada, the U.S. and around the world. I encourage you and/or your clients to make use of the contacts and resources. I am happy to exchange experiences and information and/or to dialogue on the comments section below.

Wind Concerns Ontario (http://windconcernsontario.wordpress.com) is a coalition of some 54 local community action groups that have come together to exchange information and help each other in the push to call a moratorium on further development until further studies have been completed and guidelines established.

The Society for Wind Vigilance (http://windvigilance.com/page002.aspx) is an international federation of physicians, engineers and other professionals that promotes the development of safe and authoritative industrial wind turbine guidelines.

WCORHE (www.wcorhe.org/) is the local group I am with and is an example of a small community group coming together.

There are two extremely important legal challenges soon to be heard in Ontario. The Ian Hanna case will be heard from January 24 – 26, and the Kent-Breeze Appeal from February 1 for at least seven days. You will find links and information about both at Wind Concerns Ontario.

Michel Chevalier, a newly minted wind activist, has many years of business experience combining over 20 years managing multiple trade associations representing several dozen industries, building his own small business from the ground up and more recently as a consultant specializing in helping individuals and small business significantly reduce taxes by implementing legal business strategies. He also represents clients in audit and other difficult situations with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Email: [email protected]; www.taxaction.net 

7 COMMENTS

  1. Denmark, the world’s most wind-intensive nation with more than 6,000 turbines generating 19% of its electricity, has yet to close a single fossil fuel plant. It requires 50% more coal-generated electricity to cover wind power’s unpredictability, pollution and carbon dioxide emissions have risen (by 36% in 2006 alone). This is what we have to look forward to, people! The ONLY people these projects benefit are the power companies. In the States, there are huge government subsidies that are necessary to make the projects viable…not my words…words from the power companies themselves.

  2. I research professionally renewable energy sources and I recommend to everyone not to believe the trash talking (mostly organized by the widely networked oil industry in an attempt to slow down their competition – renewable energy. Sure they have proof for their claims, just like the tobacco companies had 'scientists' proving that smoking is not a health concern.

    Scientist can be bought too, you know. Best to use your own common sense. Besides that wind turbines might be noisy and an some people might find them ugly (I personally find cell towers and smoke stacks way worth), their negative impact is minuscule compared to conventional energy production.

    I know, you can't believe everything on Wikipedia either, but I find this article sums it up nicely and is consistent with what I know: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_effect

    Go as green as you can when buying a new home. If not for environmental reasons then for your wallet and even your own comfort. We life in an area with lots of power outages – now they don't have to concern us anymore. :)

    Cheers – Peter

  3. Hello Everybody:

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    Mike I agree with what you say about Rockefeller…lots of money, power, the right contacts and the right timing and 'presto' you have a 'fait accompli' with far reaching and long lasting implications.

    We don't want this to happen with wind. There is lot's of government money available right now and wind energy companies are going like mad to sign up as many farmers/landowners as they can anywhere there is enough wind so they have places to put the turbines. There is no plan…it's wide open. I reminds me of the Gold Rush days when prospectors were wildly staking claims.

    We have to pause here and take stock and take the time to think this through as a society…or we could end up with thousands of giant industrial wind turbines over great swaths of prime agricultural land and beautiful countryside and we don't know enough about what this could mean in terms of human health, agricultural land health, animal health, water table health, wildlife health, property value health, property tax health and so on.

    As you say…Europe has 25 years experience. Based on that experience a good many of the European jurisdictions are rethinking the whole wind energy thing. Some are even completely reversing course as in France and Spain and severely cutting back on government funding. Some like Germany continue to build and plan for more coal generating plants because wind is unreliable as a source of energy…how green is that?

    Do we have to wait for 25 years for our governments to figure this out? Our government in Ontario and governments in other provinces need to take a 'precautionary pause' and stop the headlong rush. If they don't they are doing us all a great disservice.

    Very few if any of the so-called anti wind folks are against wind energy per se or green energy…we just want a planned and structured approach.

  4. http://www.no-tiree-array.org.uk

    Hi Mike,

    How is it that Europe has embraced wind energy for at least a quarter century without creating health issues, genuine or otherwise amongst the people who co-exist with their many wind turbines?

    Don't be fooled…we have a cart before the horse scenario in Europe.
    Best regards Karl

    Scottish Hebrides (Isle of Tiree)

  5. As Mr. Chevalier points out, many are uninformed as to what wind energy is about these days. Certainly the 49+story high wind turbine being erected here in Ontario and in now in some European countries has NOT been around for 25 years. Our equally uninformed Minister of the Environment, John Wilkinson, yesterday told Perth County that these turbines have been around for 40 years which is a ludicrous statement at best.
    There are a number of health complaints coming from England, Denmark, Japan, Spain and Australia with the advent of these new industrial wind zones into communities.
    There is no reason good enough to harm rural families with the province's aggressive 'damn the torpedoes' approach of shoehorning turbines into the countryside.

  6. How is it that Europe has embraced wind energy for at least a quarter century without creating health issues, genuine or otherwise amongst the people who co-exist with their many wind turbines?

    Perhaps Europeans a heartier breed than we are here in Canada, or so it would appear. What ever the affliction is that we have on this side of the pond has consistently stifled innovation in the areas of green technology. Meanwhile that technology has allowed for an industry that provides over 100,000 jobs and has also allowed high speed mass transportation to flourish, positioning Europe years ahead of North America in the field of green technologies.

    In the early part of the 1900's Henry Ford's preferred prototype engines for the new automobile ran on alcohol or through a simple carburetor adjustment, gasoline. The thinking being that farmers would be the first to embrace the new technology and they could make the fuel themselves in their barns by fermenting their agricultural wastes after harvests.

    Around the same time John D. Rockefeller, owner of Standard oil which controlled most oil of the production on the planet at the time, began making millions of dollars in donations across the United States to chapters of Womens Temperance League, a group who's mission was to ban the private consumption and production of alcohol in the US. Money that helped to strengthen the movement and enhance and perpetuate grass roots fears across the country.

    His contribution to the outlawing of the production and sale of alcohol worked when prohibition became law. Gasoline became the only available fuel for the new automobile and Rockefeller's donations continue to pay healthy dividends.

    Be careful of which wagon you choose to hitch your horses to.

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