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Neighbours unite against hasty wind-power development

On Thursday, September 16 at from 7 to 9 p.m. in the cafetorium at Alexander Henry High School, there will be a public meeting and information session on wind energy.

On Thursday, September 16 at from 7 to 9 p.m. in the cafetorium at Alexander Henry High School, there will be a public meeting and information session on wind energy.

The meeting will be hosted by Sault MP Tony Martin and by a newly formed citizens' group called Save Ontario Algoma Region (SOAR).

Joanie McGuffin (shown) who lives in Goulais River with her husband Gary and daughter Sila, is worried about a massive new wind-power development proposed for our area by Confederation Power.

Joanie, a well-known local adventure paddler, photographer, writer, activist and environmentalist, has looked deeply into the issue of commercial wind energy developments.

She says they are not nearly as green as developers want people to think.

She and other members of SOAR were at Martin's office this morning to announce the September 16 meeting and air some of their concerns for members of the media.

"The Goulais I & II Wind Project is located approximately 20 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario," says Confederation's website. "Confederation Power is proposing to construct, operate and maintain up to 40 MW of wind power capacity on the site, to be built in two phases: Goulais I - 25 MW; and Goulais II - 15 MW."

SOAR members Marilyn and Rob North, also of Goulais River, hope a lot of people will come to the meeting, ask questions and raise concerns.

Marilyn says she's been doing her own research and has seen a disturbing trend in that large multinational companies take advantage of government programs to build and operate wind farms without adequate public consultation or regard for public safety and concerns.

McGuffin agreed, saying that Prince Township is one of 48 communities currently living under the shadow of wind turbines in Ontario and soon there will be many more.

"When we ask the government what the hazards might be, it has no answer. It says no studies have been done," said North. "We're the guinea pigs."

Therese LePage, also a resident of Goulais and a member of SOAR, said she doesn't want the development in Goulais to go ahead by 2013 as proposed, only to find out 10 years down the road it was a mistake.

North said that many studies are being done that demonstrate clear health, social and environmental problems being caused by large commercial wind farms.

She pointed to information on wind turbine syndrome, a term coined by U.S. medical doctor and environmentalist Dr. Nina Pierpont, saying it's becoming clear that we need to slow the current rush to development and really look at the possible consequences.

And for what? asked McGuffin.

Wind energy is inefficient, unreliable and actually increases our greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

To build large developments like Prince Wind Farm and the Horizon Energy Inc. development proposed for the Thunder Bay area, McGuffin said, areas of the forest need to be cleared for towers, roads and transmission lines.

The nature of wind energy also means it isn't always there when there's a demand for electricity so it doesn't reduce our dependence on other energy sources presently being used in Ontario.

"What do you think happens when we need electricity and the wind isn't blowing?" she asked. "Those coal-fired, nuclear and hydro plants need to stay ramped up and ready to run any time the wind drops off."

The nature of Ontario's hydroelectric grid means that power generated can't be stored.

If more power than is in demand is generated, it's dissipated.

So if the wind is blowing when Ontarians aren't demanding electricity, the power generated from the wind farms is lost.

Ontario's power grid is part of a larger grid that includes parts of the United States and the power goes whereever there's a demand, McGuffin said.

The best way to ensure an adequate supply of green power in Ontario is to offer incentives to reduce demand, said Bob Moore, another member of SOAR.

Tony Martin agreed, saying the Green Energy program should be more focused on rebates designed to reduce demand than putting money in the pockets of large, multinational corporations looking to cash in on not-so-green energy.

Martin and members of SOAR recommended the Wind Concerns Ontario website for those seeking more information on this issue and invited all interested members of the public to come learn more on September 16.