“Why us?” was one of the questions raised, as more than 125 people gathered in the North Stormont Community Arena Hall in Finch on a fine spring evening in the middle of busy planting time, to hear a panel discuss various aspects of wind power in Ontario.
Speakers for the Lions’ Club event were: Tom Levy, Director of Technical and Utility Affairs, for the Canadian Wind Energy Association/CanWEA, the industry lobby group; Jane Wilson, president, Wind Concerns Ontario; and Don McCabe, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
Tom Levy went over the numbers for wind power in Canada and showed wind power development is growing as a source of power; Ontario currently has over 4,000 megawatts of installed wind power. Wind is cheaper than other forms of power generation, he said, fast to build, emissions-free, and–because power contracts are for 20 years–provides price stability whereas prices for other forms of “fuel” such as natural gas, can fluctuate, he said.
Wilson called for balance in the approach to wind power development in Ontario communities: “If a community wants a wind power project, that’s fine,” she said, “but you have to be assured that no one single person is going to be harmed by it.” Wilson said the recent Health Canada study showed health impacts (“annoyance” is a medical term meaning distress, she said) and called the Ontario setbacks of 550 metres into question.
Quoting a document from CanWEA, Wilson said, “You have a right to ask questions, you have a right to have concerns, and –based on what you learn–you have the right to oppose.” Wilson also mentioned the charge of lease possibility in wind power contracts which meant developers can obtain financing based on the leases on farm properties for turbines.
OFA president Don McCabe pounded the lectern with his fist on the contract issue, saying, Get a lawyer, get a lawyer, get a lawyer. It is up to each property owner to obtain proper legal advice before signing contracts, he said. His view was that farm owners contemplating leases need to get an agreement that will get the most benefit for them.
Mr McCabe made no mention of farm communities, or the effect of farmers’ decisions to lease on their neighbours.
The issue of Ontario’s power supply and electricity bills came up through the evening as Wilson asserted Ontario does not need more power, and has already sold off surplus power cheap in the first quarter of 2015, for a $450-million loss for ratepayers.
McCabe joked that he didn’t think there was excess surplus power at night, and that there was no real surplus of power, only mismanagement “in Toronto.”
The question, “Why us?” was answered by Levy and Wilson. Levy said it was a number of factors that motivated developers to choose an area for power development, including access to the power grid, willing landowners, available wind resource. “Mr Levy hit the nail on the head,” said Wilson; “willing landowners. The real question is, why are power developments not located closer to cities like Toronto where the power is being used?”
The power developer proposing a project for Stormont Dundas and Glengarry, EDP Renewables, will be holding an open house tonight in Crysler at the Community Centre, between 4 and 8 PM.