Plympton-Wyoming backs turbine buffer zone
By PAUL MORDEN, The Observer
If Ontario municipalities ever get back the power to approve green energy projects, Plympton-Wyoming will require that wind turbines be built at least two kilometres from neighbouring homes.
Mayor Lonny Napper said council recently voted to change the town’s zoning bylaw to reflect the new distance.
“I’m not sure,” Napper said, when asked about the municipality’s ability to enforce its new setback.
Ontario’s Green Energy Act takes zoning control over wind turbines and other renewable energy projects away from local councils. However, earlier this week Premier Dalton McGuinty said local governments will get more say over wind, solar and other green energy projects.
In 2003, the Plympton-Wyoming setbacks were established at 400 metres, Napper said.
“We wanted to update that because a lot of the companies that were coming in were making reference to that . . . although it didn’t make any difference today.”
Ontario requires a 550-metre minimum setback for wind turbines.
Plympton-Wyoming is the site of several wind farm proposals and, Napper said, “There are some that could be going soon.”
Taking into account new information received since 2003, council decided to include a 2 km setback in its zoning bylaw to be ready if control over approvals for wind projects is given back to municipalities, Napper said.
“We’re more knowledgeable about what’s going on now, than we were in 2003,” he said.
“If it ever comes back, we’re all set there.”
Esther Wrightman, a member of Middlesex-Lambton Wind Concerns, said, “I would say Plympton-Wyoming council has guts.”
She said it’s a leader on wind power issues among municipalities in northern Lambton-Middlesex.
“A lot of the councils are just removing any reference to wind turbines from their zoning bylaws,” she said.
“Plympton-Wyoming could have done that but they decided to go the other way.”
Middlesex-Lambton Wind Concerns is opposed to industrial wind turbines and is fighting development of new wind farms across the two neighbouring counties.
“I personally would like to see a health study that determined a setback to wind turbines based on real life studies, that takes into account the increasing size of turbines, and these results used to create proper setbacks for the entire province,” Wrightman said.
Along with that, she said she would like municipalities to have the power to increase the setback in their communities, but not decrease it.
“Or,” she added, “the right to say not here at all. That’s the kind of local control I’d like to see.”
Chris Forrest, vice-president of communications for the Canadian Wind Energy Association said the group believes Ontario followed “a thorough and proper process” when it set its 550 m setback.
He added Ontario’s setback is considered the most stringent in North America.
“A proposed setback of 2 km is arbitrary,” Forrest said, “and would significantly limit the ability of municipalities to realize significant localized benefits from participating in wind energy development.”