Wind opponents demand Ontario reveal density of turbines

Opponents of wind energy in Ontario say the government's refusal to provide a map showing the precise locations of the thousands of turbines in the province is obscuring the scale of the impact the industry is having on rural communities.

Critics say no map of turbine locations exists but energy minister insists information is out there

Ontarians interested in quickly finding the location of wind turbines in the province have their work cut out for them.

The province doesn't make public a consolidated map of its thousands of turbines. The Ontario Power Authority, which approves wind turbine contracts, doesn't have one; neither does the Ministry of Natural Resources nor the Ministry of Energy.

Even the Canadian Wind Energy Association, an industry group, doesn't have a map showing the location of all turbines.

That's a concern for opponents of the industry.

"Whether you live in the city, the suburbs or even rural areas, you don't have an understanding of how massive this undertaking is," said Jane Wilson, president of the citizens group Wind Concerns Ontario.

"I don't think they realize how the landscape is going to change ... tourism, the economy, everything."

All wind contracts public: minister

Energy Minister Chris Bentley said the locations are public information. He isn't aware of a central, consolidated map and said plans to make one aren't in the works.

"The contracts are publicly posted," he said. "They're available. Who has the contracts is public information. Every company establishing wind turbines has to go through public consultation.

"It's out there for the people in the community and municipality."

But Wilson says the government isn't being as open as it could be.

"The government says they are transparent and open about all this, but people don't know where they are going to go until it's too late," she said.

The province does have a map of Ontario's wind farms, but they are represented by a single dot that doesn't indicate how many individual turbines make up the site and where precisely they are located.

Scanning site plans only way to root out location

That information isn't always easy to find, as Wayne Gulden of Wind Farm Realities, another grassroots group opposing wind energy, found.

"The only way I know how to get the locations is to root out each project's site description, plan or noise study, with the noise study being the preferred source as it almost has to have the turbines' [geographic] co-ordinates," Gulden wrote in an email to CBC News.

"Unfortunately, the noise study usually isn't published until fairly late in the process. Most often, I end up relying on the site description plan, which may or may not have the co-ordinates."

Wilson also said that during the application process, the companies only list the number of turbines proposed and not the precise location.

Ontario Power Generation, a Crown corporation that runs hydro-electric dams and nuclear power plants in Ontario, lists the location and size of each of its wind power-generating sites on its website.

Chatham-Kent ahead of the curve

The only municipality in the province to make the location of every turbine public is Chatham-Kent. Its turbine map appears on the city's website and lists the co-ordinates of more than 300 wind turbines.

Pat Bruette, wind farm co-ordinator for public works in Chatham-Kent, said the map put an end to people calling the municipality inquiring about turbine locations. He said home buyers and sellers use the map, as does the community's 911 dispatch service.

"They do have workers around the towers for services after," Bruette said. "They become a serviceable site where emergency services have to attend if someone gets hurt after that.

"There were some questions planning people were handling through phone-ins. It just made a lot sense to get the map running on our website and hopefully reduce some of the questions we're asked."

Chatham-Kent has more wind turbines than just about any other municipality in Ontario. It has more than 300 up and running and another 124 slated to be erected by 2014.

Maps reveal scale of industry

Wilson said the map is a tool that can help residents determine what effect turbines are having on rural Ontario.

Whether that effect is good or bad is up to each person to decide, Wilson said, but she believes the latter.

"When I first saw the map, I thought, 'This is a vision of hell on earth'," she said. "It's just astounding, the number of turbines being squashed in there.

"It will become apparent to people that it's not a lone turbine lazily turning in the breeze. These are industrial machines, and they are turning our communities into industrial power plants.

"Maps would go a long way to helping people understand what's really going on in Ontario."

Chatham-Kent, in southern Ontario, is the only municipality to make the location of each of its more than 300 wind turbines public, in the form of a map on its city website. (CBC News)