Wind blows in Barrie open-mic era

In other parts of the province where large-scale wind farms have been erected, significant community opposition has arisen

It took an old issue to open a new chapter in the ongoing dialogue between municipal representative and constituent in Barrie.
The first of council’s new open-delegation format featured a lively discussion on the merits of putting a wind turbine at the top of the Sandy Hollow landfill site, where the towering 100-metre edifice would be seen from near and far as a testament to the city’s support of environmental efforts, said Peter Bursztyn, co-chair of the Barrie WindCatchers.
It’s not the first time Bursztyn has been before council pitching a wind turbine. It was 11 years ago that he first raised the idea with the council of then mayor Janice Laking.
As part of a general restructuring of council committees, how it conducts its business, and in an effort to provide a forum for open dialogue, those wishing to address council on any issue can do so, provided they say it in five minutes or less.
Bursztyn stayed within the five-minute frame, but his presentation generated many questions from council on cost, reported health effects, location, and other related matters.
Barrie WindCatchers wants to erect a two-megawatt turbine at the landfill, which, they say, will produce enough power to supply 350-400 houses.
Although the power represents a fraction of what the city needs and uses, it’s very presence will create goodwill for the city, allowing it to talk up its other environmentally-friendly programs, which says Bursztyn, are largely invisible.
“You (council) have the opportunity to highlight all of the many environmental initiatives the city has mounted over the years. The list is long and impressive … but these initiatives are largely invisible.”
Programs worthy of mention include using LED bulbs in all traffic lights through the city, he said.
The turbine, said Bursztyn, would cost $5 million, “ready to run.” Selling shares, and operating it as a citizen’s co-operative, would cover the costs. The city wouldn’t be asked to help fund the project, although it would be welcome to buy in, he said.
As to objections from nearby residents, Bursztyn said the group conducted a door-to-door poll in 2008, and found little to no objections from residents contacted. When asked about reported health effects, he told council studies have been done, including by the Ontario government, that found no link between the turbines and reported health concerns.
In other parts of the province where large-scale wind farms have been erected, significant community opposition has arisen. Wind Concerns Ontario serves as an umbrella group for dozens of smaller, local groups that have formed to oppose the development of wind farms in rural areas.
They claim numerous concerns, ranging from property values to health woes, and they also have studies supporting their positions.
One such group relatively close to Barrie is Wind Concerns Meaford; the Grey, Bruce, Huron region is home to hundreds of turbines in a number of large wind farms.
Critics also say the Green Energy Act, which mandates and legislates the development of wind energy, denies municipalities any input into plans to erect wind turbines.
The act requires wind-power developers to inform residents of their plans, but as long as a project meets the act’s consultation requirements, mandated setbacks (550 metres), as well as its other stipulations, and is awarded a FIT (feed-in tariff) contract from the Ontario Energy Board, it has a green light to proceed.

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