Wind opponents generate dissension
Pembina Institute presenters got an earful from Ontario residents opposed to wind turbines
GRAND BEND – It was a chilly wind that blew through the Alhambra Hall Monday night for a pro-renewable-energy event hosted by the Pembina Institute. The majority of the 80 or so people who showed up were wind opponents and they spent most of the evening shouting their disapproval. At one point, two OPP officers showed up, walked into the back of the room where many of the wind opponents stood and left without incident.
The event, intended to share views about wind energy from a landowner in Alberta and learn about Ontario issues around wind turbines, was the first of three. A second meeting is planned for 7 p.m. tonight (Tuesday) in London at Aeolian Hall and a third in Chatham at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Sunset Lounge. In spite of Monday’s reception, Tim Weis, director of renewable energy and efficiency policy at Pembina, a not-for-profit sustainable energy think tank, says they will go ahead as planned. Alberta horse rancher Heidi Eijgel, who brought a pro-wind view to the meeting, said she does not plan to alter her presentation tonight. The presentation includes slides and videos of her ranch, especially of her horses.
Anti-wind demonstrators first appeared outside but moved into the hall as the 7 p.m. meeting was about to begin, some of them with their signs. A large group stood at the rear of the small hall but many others were scattered among the crowd. It was hard to tell who was who.
Eijgel’s presentation drew calls for her to return to Alberta as well as calls for her to leave the horse part of the presentation out and get to wind turbines. On that issue, she had little to say that resonated with the crowd. The turbine closest to her home is 700 metres away and her pictures showed vast open spaces with no homes or development of any kind in sight. About the only contentious issue in her wind-turbine experience was the threat of overhead transmission lines. In the end, the company that developed the project in her neighborhood agreed to bury transmission lines, something she said she and her neighbors fought for.
Weis, following the event Monday night, said he was not fazed by the experience. He said they had come to Ontario partly to learn about issues around wind development in Ontario.
While the crowd was at times loud, there was nothing physical. The most effective anti-wind speaker was Norma Schmidt who lives near Kincardine. She said she and her husband welcomed the idea of sustainable wind development when it was first proposed. However, when their 13-acre property was surrounded by turbines – none on their land – she became ill and was hospitalized, something she attributes to the wind development.
“Our life is hell,” she said. “We don’t have a life. Thirty-three years of hard work is all misery now. There is a madness going on in Ontario now. They are destroying our lives.”
Dave Griffiths, a southwest Huron resident who is president of Bluewater Against Turbines (BAT) told the presenters just before the end of the meeting that wind opponents in Ontario used to be more respectful. He said later that people have become more frustrated after going to a lot of meetings and writing MPPs with little result. “It is getting to be quite a heightened mess,” Griffiths says.
Although many in the crowd Monday said they didn’t believe him, Weis told the meeting that the sessions are being funded by the institute, not with wind industry money.
The Pembina Institute was started in the ‘80s in Alberta and is described on its website as a “Canadian non-profit think tank that advances sustainable energy solutions through research, education, consulting and advocacy.” BF