This is a copy of the Globe and Mail Newspaper
of September 7, 2010….
.and this is a photo in that edition of
some wind turbines grouped together in a windfarm.
At a meeting with the editorial board
of the Globe and Mail Newspaper
earlier this year,
Premier Dalton McGuinty was asked
whether he would consider putting a windmill farm
in Pigeon Bay, which is in Lake Erie.
This seems to be quite a harmless question
but it was actually …somewhat loaded:
Pigeon Bay is an ecologically sensitive area of Ontario
as it is a bay of Point Pelee, in Lake Erie
and as such it is located in
an important bird migration route.
As he started to answer this question
the Premier initially launched into
an enthusiastic promotion of
his government’s recent Green Energy Act of 2009
which pays heavy government subsidies
to promote the use of alternative energy sources
such as wind and solar power
as the province tries to move away from reliance
on coal and nuclear power.
However, about half way through his answer
the Primier paused, and considered for a moment,
and then rather candidly declared
that the newspaper editors had raised a specific issue
which he really had not thought very much about.
He confessed to the Editors:
“I’m glad you are not sitting on Opposition bench right now.”
Well, the Premier’s answer revealed
one of the biggest flaws
in the government’s promotion
of the use of Wind Energy in the province
which is….. the unseemly haste
with which it has proceeded.
The Green Energy Act was conceived
with the aim of creating power…..and jobs…
as quickly as possible.
However it seems that perhaps
the legislation has been written too broadly,
as it fails to distinguish between
good projects……and bad ones.
The Pigeon Bay/Point Pelee
is an example of a bad project.
In other areas of the province,
such as Prince Edward County,
there has been significant local resistance
to the introduction of wind power
both on land….. and offshore.
But in the Point Pelee area,
and Leamington, and Kingsville
which are in the southernmost part of the province,
in Essex county
the hundreds of windmills
that are appearing on local farmlands
have generally been warmly welcomed
by the local population.
However, the proposal to put as many as
150 turbines offshore, in Pigeon Bay,
has apparently struck a nerve.
Everybody there seems to be aware of the issue.
Many signs stating …“No turbines in our lake”
have popped up on lawns all over the region.
Objections to turbines in the lake are varied.
Some say: (aesthetics)
wind turbines are ugly, and noisy.
Other concerns: human health effects?
..drinking water quality,and commercial fishing.
However the biggest single source of objection
to offshore wind turbines…in Essex County
is… the effect they may have on
bird….and bat…migration, in spring and fall.
Migration of these wildlife
is a major tourist attraction to Point Pelee….
Some 300 species of birds
pass through the region each year.
One of the notables leading the resistance
is author Margaret Atwood, as well as her husband,
both are authors….and avid birders.
They own a property on nearby Pelee Island.
There argument is simple:
they say that ..Turbines have an unfortunate tendency
to make…. mincemeat ……of anything airborne.
So it doesn’t take much imagination
to figure out what happens to migrating birds and bats
when they fly through a windfarm at night
which is their usual migration time.
….Is Pigeon Bay about to become known for its
pigeon pie……rather than ecotourism?
Well, it’s a good point.
Although there are…. many proposals
for wind farms offshore…..on the Great Lakes,
none ….has so far actually been built.
So to start out by putting one
in the middle of a bird migration route
when the effects of doing so
are really not known
does not seem very sensible
if we think these wildlife populations
which we all claim to do.
In fact the only people in Essex County
who think that it’s a good idea
to put turbines in Pigeon Bay…..
is a wind energy company called….South Point,
which just happens to be
the company that stands to make a LOT of MONEY..
and I mean a LOT of MONEY,
due to the very generous subsidies
being paid through the Green Energy Act
to the wind and solar power industry.South Point first brought forward its proposal in 2006.
There was immediate resistance by local residents,
which led to a moratorium on such projects
the Province of Ontario by 2007.
However that moratorium was lifted in 2008
followed to the introduction of the Green Energy Act of 2009,
which simultaneously …increased financial incentives,
and reduced barriers…to wind development.
One way that the Act reduced barriers
is that it….greatly reduced
the power of municipalities
in the approvals process,
and so local citizens suddenly
had much less control
over the situation.
In June of this year,
two Essex MPP’s who are members of the Government
introduced a petition against the project
into the Ontario Legislature,
and they signed their own names to it,
rather unusual for two government members.
This seems to have had an effect:
Because, on June 25, the GO brought forth
an amendment to the Green Energy Act:
which was the 5 Km Rule:
any offshore turbines would now have to be placed
at least 5 km from the shoreline.
This new rule will certainly restrict
the Point Pelee project…
as well as a number of others
e.g. the Scarborough Bluffs proposal.
The amendment has the effect
of making offshore wind energy development
much more expensive,
mainly by limiting the turbines to deep
rather than shallow water.
And in fact, only one or two developers,
are still said to be confident that they can proceed
with offshore proposals
in the Ontario portion of the Great Lakes.
One of these which remains confident
is the Trillium Wind Power development
of 130 turbines offshore
of Main Duck Island in Lake Ontario.
Interestingly, the Ontario Minister of Energy,
Mr. Brad Duguid,
now says that he does NOT think
that development of offshore wind energy
is critical to energy supply in the Province of Ontario.
Which takes us back to where we started,
and that is, why did the Government
open the door to the possibility in the first place.
It seems that the Premier’s answer
to the newspaper editors
provides a clue:
apparently the Government ,
in its rush for alternative power
really did not give much thought
to the implications.