Strange move on wind farms

TORONTO, ONTARIO - In Ontario, there are wind turbines operating – and meeting provincial noise guidelines – 400 to 500 metres away from homes.

Yet, the government is now proposing a greater minimum setback of 550 metres and other regulations to keep the turbines back from roads and property lines.

Wind farm developers have "grave" concerns that those changes would kill many planned projects. They have until July 24 to provide feedback to the government before the regulations become law.

Since the government is committed to increasing our supply of renewable green energy sources like wind, why would it propose these restrictions, which seem ungrounded in any science? They appear to be trying to placate an alarmist, anti-wind lobby.

This is exactly what Premier Dalton McGuinty said he would not do earlier this year when he introduced the green energy act to streamline approvals for environmentally friendly projects. "NIMBYism will no longer prevail," McGuinty vowed.

The regulations flow from the act and are supposed to replace a patchwork of municipal rules on setbacks. Right now, developers and residents routinely battle each other on a project-by-project basis before bewildered councils. This delays projects and drives up their costs.

There's a good argument to be made that uniform provincial rules would simplify the process, reduce openings for NIMBYist opposition and ensure good projects get quick approval. But instead it appears that the province has landed on uniform regulations that will undermine some of the wind energy projects already on the drawing board while further emboldening their opponents.

Indeed, Wind Concerns Ontario – the major anti-wind group in the province – initially called the proposed regulations a "promising move." Now the group is saying that they are "appallingly inadequate" and that a minimum setback of two kilometres is needed.

The group believes the turbines disturb sleep and make people sick.

Wind energy is not the only answer to our electricity needs. But the government has rightly determined that wind and other renewables must be an increasing part of the mix, along with nuclear reactors.

If the government now introduces restrictions that make wind energy projects much more difficult to site, will it also give in to those who oppose solar energy? Or nuclear energy? Then what? Do we just keep burning dirty coal?

Wind opponents say that coming up with alternatives is not their responsibility. Fair enough. The government must, however, take a broader view and pursue energy sources, including wind, that will keep our lights on without contributing to global warming.


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