Action group targets Watford open house
By Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer
Opponents of a 92-turbine wind farm Nextera Energy is proposing for north Lambton say they want the company to know they’re not going away.
Members of the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group and its supporters protested Wednesday evening at a public meeting Nextera held at Watford’s Centennial Hall.
It was the first of three the company is holding this week.
“We continue to protest, mostly just to show Nextera they aren’t welcome here,” said Esther Wrightman, with the wind action group, joined by about 25 other protesters.
She said there’s “extreme opposition” in the community to the company’s plans.
“If we don’t protest, it’s as if we say, ‘We give up, come on in,’” Wrightman said.
“And that’s not how anybody feels.”
Nextera’s meeting was the part of a final round of open houses the company is holding before submitting its project for provincial environmental approval.
The Jericho Wind Energy Centre already has a contract to sell power from the proposed turbines into Ontario’s electricity grid.
“There’s a lot of information out there about wind energy, and about this particular project specifically, so this is a good opportunity for people to get Nextera’s side of the story,” said Lindsay Broadhead, a consultant for the company, on hand at Wednesday’s open house. “Everyone has different opinions — some people are against it, and some people are for it.
“In our experience, there are many people who are for green energy.”
Wrightman said the Jericho centre is part of “a big mass of Nextera projects” in the area.
She lives in Middlesex County, just a short drive east of Watford, where Nextera is planning its 37-turbine Adelaid wind farm. The company’s proposed 45-turbine Bornish wind farm sits to the north of her home, Wrightman said.
“They’re everywhere in our communities.”
Nextera officials have said they would like to have environmental approval in time to begin building the Jericho wind farm by the end of the year.
The company is also holding an open house Thursday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Alisa Craig Community Centre, and one Friday, 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Legacy Recreation Centre in Thedford.
The Thedford meeting is a new location for the company’s meeting. It had originally been scheduled for Forest’s Kimball Hall but members of the wind action group rented the hall out from under the company.
Marcelle Brooks, a wind action group member who lives in Lambton Shores, said it’s members plan to out at each of the company’s open houses.
“More and more, people are becoming vocal about this,” she said.
“For us, education is power.”
The action group is also holding its own community meeting Friday, 7 p.m., at Kimball Hall.
Brooks said the topics to be discussed that evening include a boundary setback reductions process allowed under the province’s green energy rules.
It can be used by wind companies to place turbines closer to property lines than set out in the provincial rules, she said.
Brooks added Nextera has reduced the boundary distances for several of the turbine sites proposed in the Jericho project, a move the wind action group argues could impact the safety and use of neighbouring properties.
–With files from Tara Jeffrey