Opponents of wind turbines cheered last week when Health Canada announced it would study the effects turbine noise may have on human health.
Turbines in Essex and Chatham-Kent counties in southwestern Ontario have become a fact of life.
In Chatham-Kent alone, for example, there could be more than 500 turbines turning by 2014.
But not if Chatham-Kent Progressive Conservative MPP Rick Nicholls has anything to say about it. He and his party want a moratorium on the development of wind farms while Ottawa completes its study.
"When I heard [Health Canada] decided to conduct a study, I was very, very pleased. It tells me there is more to local issues with regard to health," he said. "When the federal government decides to look at it, I believe there is something more serious out there than we’ve known to exist in the past."
Nicholls said, "turbines are popping up everywhere" in his riding.
Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope said his municipality was approving turbines long before the Green Energy Act, which eventually took control of wind turbine approval away from the municipalities. He said his community wanted to be a leader in green energy.
As a result, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) presented his community with a leadership and best practices award. More recently, Hope began appearing in print ads for CanWEA.
CanWEA is a non-profit trade association that promotes the appropriate development and application of all aspects of wind energy in Canada, including the creation of a suitable policy environment.
More on the way
Pattern Energy is part of a joint venture with Samsung, a company Ontario's Liberal government renegotiated a $7-billion green energy deal with two years ago. Pattern plans to erect another 124 turbines in Chatham-Kent within a year.
The project would mean jobs for Windsor, where CS Wind would build the towers for turbines to be used in the project. CS Wind employs more than 200 people.
The wind farm would also mean a cash injection into Chatham-Kent. The municipality gets $12,000 per turbine erected. It’s the same fee that applies to a grain elevators and other similar structures. The money goes back into the building department's budget.
Nicholls, though, isn't sold on the efficiency of wind power, number of jobs the industry creates or the safety of wind turbines.
Nicholls said he's flooded with calls from complaining about health issues they say are caused by wind turbines.
Nikki Horton is one of the residents who claims she's affected by turbines. She said she suffers from fatigue, nausea and headaches and that her husband can't sleep.
"Anytime the turbines are going, we’re having symptoms," she said.
She claims her family has spent $100,000 on renovations, including thicker insulation and glass and special vinyl siding, to stop the vibrations and noise she said it caused by two wind turbines that are less than 1,000 metres from her house.
Horton said she feels better after being out of town for 24-48 hours.
No complaints, company says
Beth O’Brien, community relations manager for Pattern Energy, insists her company hasn't received any complaints about its 30 projects in 10 years.
"If we had an operating project where people complained to us about having some problems, we absolutely would investigate and do everything in our power to rectify the situation. We do not want to create any harmful impacts on people," she said. "We don’t believe our project will create any type of health concerns. But, we’re open to the federal government studying it.
"We want this project to be a win-win for the community and everyone involved."
Horton, though, also wants a moratorium.
"Chatham-Kent is beyond ridiculous. They just continue to okay them to go forward," she said. "Whether wind turbines are a good thing is up for debate. But there’s definitely too many of them in Chatham-Kent."
"More studies are always welcome ... but personally, I don’t believe it’s needed.," he said. "To come out and call for a moratorium is unnecessary."