Residents from Haldimand County were given a platform to discuss their concerns or support for industrial wind turbines (IWTs) being built in the county.
It was a full house in the Dunnville Secondary School cafeteria Friday, September 30 as people came to listen to the opinions of two professionals from both sides of the IWT issue.
Dr. Jose Etcheverry, assistant professor at the Faculty of Environmental Studies of York University, took a more general position, pointing out the benefits of renewable energy and included solar and hydro into his argument along with wind. Etcheverry then went on to point out the flaws of the oil and coal industries and the rising death rates and health problems associated with the non-renewable energy sectors.
Once the opposing speaker, John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, took over the podium, he was quick to point out the flaws in Etcheverry’s presentation stating that the debate is about IWTs and not renewable energy in general.
“Eleven hundred acres of land will be taken by Samsung,” said Laforet. “You create dead zones that (aren’t) not safe to live in.”
“There are adverse effects being reported and ignored by the government,” said Laforet. “
Etcheverry, who often used cases in Denmark and Germany to rebut Laforet’s arguments, said his friends in Denmark who live near wind farms don’t understand the concerns Ontario residents have.
“It makes a complimentary source of income and there are no health concerns,” said Etcheverry.
The three-hour debate was a heated discussion where the speakers threw remarks back and forth at each other, often having to be reminded by the moderator to stay on track.
It was hard to tell where the audience was leaning more towards, as both speakers seemed to have equal support from the crowd.
Community members raised additional concerns including icing on the blades during the winter months and having to turn off the turbines several times to clean them.
The Ontario Ministry of Environment requires that the minimum setback of wind turbines be 550 metres away from a house and 120 metres from a road.
Laforet said that wind turbines are still too close to homes.
The debate came to an end with many members of the audience leaving with the same mindset that they came in with.
“Wind energy is the lowest risk for humanity. That is the honest truth,” said Etcheverry.
“It’s unreliable. It’s expensive. It causes you harm and we’re forced to participate in them,” said Laforet.