Breaking Wind: The Odd Culture of Wind Farm Protests

Wind EnergyWind farms are popping up all over the world with the lure of cleaner electric generation and a lessened dependency on fossil fuels. Renewable energy, including solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass, is all the rage in the race to combat climate change. So why is wind so often contested amongst the general population?

Ontario citizens are fighting back, Tie Domi style.

There has been a recent spike in reports concerning communities and their disdain for wind projects being implemented in their towns. Residents in Goderich, Ontario are protesting a 140-turbine project currently being built in southern Ontario by K2 Wind, a partnership of three energy entities in Canada. They are standing up to what they say was a project in which they had no involvement, and they are now complaining about possible adverse effects such as noise pollution, lower property values, and subjective eyesores. Shawn and Tricia Drennan are plaintiffs hoping to halt the project’s construction in a court case that commenced on Monday, September 22. Two additional families, one of which is concerned about its eight-year-old daughter’s hearing hypersensitivity, are also fighting back against a wind farm. The Dixon and Ryan families are protesting a 15-turbine project near Seaforth, Ontario. The collective grievance partially states,

In effect, our government has relegated the appellants to guinea pigs in the name of green energy. The fear and anxiety with being a guinea pig is only further heightened by the knowledge that the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has placed a moratorium on off-shore wind turbines because the environmental impact on the fish is not known.

Though the residents note that Health Canada is currently conducting a study to learn more about any ill effects that wind projects may have on a locale, the builders of the wind farms stand by their safety and insist they cause no harm. K2 Wind and St. Columban Energy argue that an injunction against construction of the projects would harm the companies financially. They maintain that they have the required permits and that the wind farms are environmentally-friendly and create economic advantages.

I love New York, but New York doesn’t love wind.

In nearby New York, two communities are also putting up their best fight to stop the continuation of wind projects. In Orangeville, residents recently filed a $40 million lawsuit against energy company Invenergy. The case states that the firm is violating the town’s 50-decibel noise ordinance and is causing sickness, soreness, and disability. Invenergy installed a total of 58 turbines, each nearly 430 feet tall, at the Stony Creek Wind Farm.

As is the case in Ontario, concerned residents are complaining of lowered property values and health issues due to noise and vibration. They claim the issues are caused by turbines in close proximity to their houses. Invenergy is staunchly fighting back against these claims with a statement that partially asserts,

While support for renewable energy is strong across our country, we take seriously any concerns of those who live in a project host community. That is why we took great care in developing the Orangeville wind farm in accordance with all local, state, and federal laws and regulations. The lengthy authorization process was open and inclusive, allowing extensive opportunity for citizen input. Numerous studies – conducted in countries all over the world – have found no evidence to support a link between sound emitted from wind turbines and adverse health effects. The Orangeville wind farm will vigorously defend itself against the unfounded claims set forth in these complaints.

Additionally in New York, Chemung County residents are at odds with a proposed NextEra Energy wind farm that would create nearly 30 wind turbines in the town of Catlin. Resident Patricia Collins claims that this should be on a ballot as a public referendum in November; however town officials say the issue doesn’t merit one due to state law requirements.

NextEra Energy already has 30 signatures showing residential support in favor of the project, and is close to passing a law that would let the building begin. Not all residents are in agreement, though. Vicki Petris states,

They make a lot of noise, they throw ice, in the winter time they can. One of the other things is it can make property values go down too.

Town officials are concerned about a potential loss of $209,000 starting in 2018, but claim the $200,000 in revenue it would receive from the wind project could prevent the town from going into debt. Town Supervisor LaVerne Phelps states, “If the wind company goes forward, the turbines will be in the town of Catlin, generating revenue going back to the town which will help to offset the loss in sales tax revenue and help stabilize the tax base.”

Is hate for wind just a lot of hot air?

Electricity from wind generation is poised to become a leading source of renewable energy in the years to come. So why do so many people not want it? Is it simply a fear of the unknown and not based on facts? There are studies for both sides of the argument that “prove” property values will or will not go down, that wind farms do or do not cause health issues, and that birds are in more or less danger from wind farms. With the rapid growth of this industry and the numerous backlashes from groups who oppose it in their backyards, this issue appears here to stay. Whether or not people will ever find common ground on wind energy is still in question.





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