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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Wind Farms proposed in Innisfil - 5th Line

Trouble swirling over wind farm

Group says location of proposed wind turbines in Innisfil is all wrong

Opposition is blowing strong and hard against a proposed wind turbine farm along Highway 400.

The Innisfil Wind Watchers are trying to whip up interest about the project, which would build five, 390-foot-high turbines on 200 acres of agricultural land on the highway's east side.

Group members say it's the wrong location for a project of this size.

"It is not a wind farm, it's an industrial wind power plant," said Mike Escheli of Wind Watchers.

"It's huge, and it's going to be there for a long time," said Isabelle Wagner,

another Wind Watcher.

"It's just too close to where people live," said Jim Roberts, an organic farmer with 300 acres of land.

"This does not make good business sense," said Gaye Trombley, also of Wind Watchers. "If a wind-turbine project is built, that will block long-term commercial or residential development (along the Highway 400 corridor)."

Wind Watchers' members have also expressed concerns about the noise from turbines, the shadow flicker from its blades and how it will affect area property values.

Nearby businesses say it will hurt their bottom lines, and there are also safety concerns.

"The location of the wind turbines couldn't be worse," said Joe Chow of Skydive Toronto, which operates out of nearby Cookstown Airport. "It's an accident asking to happen."

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"People will not want to jump out of an airplane with a wind turbine around," said Trombley, who operates nearby Avalon Orchards.

This project is being proposed by Schneider Power Wind Turbines, and Sarah Reatsen, one of its environmental planners, says opposition has been minimal to this point.

"I think it's just been from a few individuals we have heard negative comments from," she said. "Wind energy is such a positive thing for the world, not to mention Ontario and Canada."

Reatsen said Schneider intends to meet with Wind Watcher officials later this month.

Wind power is a clean, renewable source of energy and turbines reduce the need for electricity generated by fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.

If approved, Schneider's project would connect to a 44 kilovolt grid on Innisfil's 5th Sideroad. To do this it would require feeder lines and a substation.

But local residents might not see any direct benefit from the electricity from the wind turbines, expected to generate a total of 10 megawatts annually.

"We may never see the hydro that this project generates," Escheli said. "It will go somewhere else."

The Wind Watchers also say the proposed turbine locations don't get much of a breeze.

"There are a lot of problems with that site because of the lack of wind," Roberts said. "It isn't going to be very effective in producing energy."

But Reatsen says Schneider has done wind testing and studies, and that it expects the turbines to be turning 98 per cent of the time. She said 75 per cent is normal.

So Schneider believes there will be enough wind.

"We wouldn't be going ahead if there wasn't," Reatsen said.

The Wind Watchers are also concerned that allowing one turbine farm could lead to others.

"Once you have one (wind turbine farm), there is no incentive for the others not to put up one," said Roberts. "You could be looking at wind farms all down the 400 highway."

Schneider would strike a long-term easement ag reement with the landowner, paying an undisclosed amount of money for the right to place turbines on the land -- which could still be farmed.

The company has asked the town to rezone the land, and amend Innisfil's Official Plan, to allow turbines to be built. A public meeting is expected this fall, perhaps as early as September.

The wind turbine farm could be operational by the summer of 2010.

In Barrie, Bob Jackson of Jackson's Toyota on Mapleview Drive wants to build a 400-foot wind turbine at his automobile dealership, which would produce enough electricity to power about 500 homes.

City planning staff are considering Jackson's plan, then it will go to Barrie councillors.

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