John Miner – London Free Press – May 21, 2014
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After studying two Lake Erie communities, Western University researchers are calling on governments and wind farm developers to avoid feeding the war of words that has broken out between supporters and opponents of wind turbines.
In a study published in the journal Environment and Planning, the Western geography department researchers found people who have raised health concerns and other objections to wind turbines are denigrated, dismissed and ostracized by supporters of the developments in their communities.
They also endure shots by senior politicians, such as former premier Dalton McGuinty, who dismissed health concerns as “unreal.”
The treatment only makes the situation worse for individuals with concerns, said associate geography professor Jamie Baxter, one of the study’s authors.
“If you get right down to the micro level of the community, life is not good for these people,” Baxter said Wednesday.
It was in face-to-face interviews researchers heard supporters of the turbines making light of the problems of those opposed, with comments such as “A lot of people live to be annoyed” and “Well, you know, I guess if you stood here long enough you’d get dizzy looking at them . . . watching those blades go around.”
Health concerns reported by opponents included pain, dizziness, sleep deprivation and loss of balance.
The study found the majority of people in both communities supported the existing wind farm projects within the communities — 80% in Port Burwell and a statistically significant lower 63% in nearby Clear Creek.
But the researchers said the support was more “pragmatic” than “enthusiastic.” Most in favour said it was simply a “better alternative” than other energy choices. Those opposed were quite emotional, expressing anger, disappointment and frustration.
In addition to lowering the rhetoric, the researchers suggested the developers of wind farms could improve support for their projects if the financial benefits of wind farms were shared among households in the vicinity of turbines, not just the landowners with the turbines on their property.
A TALE OF TWO COMMUNITIES
Support for wind farms
- Port Burwell: 80%
- Clear Creek: 66%
Average number of turbines within 2 km of homes
- Port Burwell: 3.7 turbines
- Clear Creek: 6.8 turbines
Percentage claiming health impacts
- Port Burwell: 3%
- Clear Creek: 22%
ABOUT THE STUDY
In their study, the Western researchers looked at Port Burwell in Elgin County, home to 66 industrial wind turbines, and the Clear Creek area in Norfolk County, about 20 kilometres east, home to 18 turbines.
In addition to 152 responses to a questionnaire, the researchers gleaned information from 26 face-to-face interviews.
The questionnaires were distributed to people living within two kilometres of a wind turbine, while the face-to-face interviews were with participants within a two-kilometre radius.
What wind energy opponents say:
“I would say that’s not really a surprise,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, of the study’s findings. Wilson said the dismissive attitude toward opponents of wind farms were set almost at the instant former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty introduced the Green Energy Act. She said those who have concerns have even had their grip on reality questioned.
Among wind projects in Southwestern Ontario:
- Chatham Wind Farm
- Clear Creek Point
- Huron Wind
- Mohawk Point
- Port Burwell (Erie Shores)
- Proof Line
- Thames River I
Original Article: A call for calm | The London Free Press.