“It’s become the couple’s nightmare” (Nova Scotia)

Oct 20, 2010


—Chris Shannon, Cape Breton Post (10/6/10)

Sitting at their kitchen table Bruce and Janet Fraser stare out the window to see five sleek giants just beyond their backyard, churning in a counter-clockwise direction and changing line with the wind speed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It’s become the couple’s nightmare.

“It’s in your face, you can’t escape it,” Janet Fraser said during an interview in the kitchen of the couple’s nine-year-old custom-built, two-storey home.

“You can’t go outside to relax and you can’t stay inside to relax. There’s no enjoyment. There’s no peace.”

The wind farm’s seven turbines have lined the shore facing the north Atlantic since 2006, producing 16 megawatts with a yearly output of about 55,000 megawatt hours that’s sufficient to power 6,000 homes. It sits next to the coal-fired Nova Scotia Power Lingan generating station.

The turbines were part of the Glace Bay-Lingan wind farm that had been operated by Cape Breton Power Ltd., before being sold to Confederation Power a couple of years ago.

The Frasers say the wind farm has invaded every aspect of their lives.

Janet said between April and September, with the worst period being the July to August time frame, the huge 35-metre long blades which are attached to 65-metre high steel towers create a “strobe effect” as the turbines cast continuous shadows on the house in the early daylight hours.

“It’s like a flickering,” she said, adding the blades impressive shadow pass through the house 60 times per minute.

Bruce described it as a light switch being turned on and off repeatedly in their bedroom with no way to stop it.

“It almost feels like we’re in an experiment like a mouse in a box,” he said.

The constant “swoosh” of the blades makes sleeping difficult leading to sleep deprivation and that worries them as the sound, which becomes more pronounced during humid nights and during wind storms, keeps their two-year-old Harland awake.

They both worry about his development if he continues to have sleepless nights.

And even the use of earplugs and face masks haven’t helped Bruce and Janet.

“It sounds like a baby’s heart beat in an ultrasound. It’s that whump, whump, whump, and it’s high, low, high, low,” Bruce said, despite having exterior walls of 2×6 feet with heavy insulation.

Other than sleep deprivation, Janet said the family is dealing mainly with anxiety and their mental health is suffering.

The only solution to their problem is to sell. But the fact real estate agents have said the home is worthless based solely on its proximity to the turbines, it’s unlikely that will happen anytime soon, she said.

The couple says they’ve remained quiet until now, trying to deal with their problem by writing to Premier Darrell Dexter, and their MLA, Deputy Premier Frank Corbett. They’ve also complained to municipal officials.

On Tuesday, they presented their concerns to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s committee of the whole. They said the municipality erred when calculating the minimum set back of 175 metres for turbines to a maximum 76 metres in height.

The Frasers are nearly twice the minimum distance from the closest of the seven wind turbines at 335 metres.

The committee agreed to have staff review the setbacks and include it in an issue paper at a future meeting.

CBRM planner Malcolm Gillis, who worked to include wind turbines into amendments in the municipal planning strategy and land-use bylaw in 2005, said the Frasers were aware they were building on a property in an area largely zoned industrial.

The constant hum from the Lingan power plant next door is noticeable, but the Frasers said it doesn’t bother them.

Gillis said zoning is not always perfect.

“The province does not oblige municipalities to have a land use bylaw. For example, much of Richmond County has no zoning whatsoever so at least we do have a setback, and the setback is correlated to the height of these structures,” Gillis said following the committee meeting.

“But the provincial law does go on to state because municipalities aren’t obliged to have zoning, they could choose not to, they can’t be held liable if someone claims they had been adversely affected by a development.”

At the home on Hinchey Avenue, the family has stopped keeping track of the number of light bulbs that have blown out since the turbines began operation.

An electromagnetic frequency created from the turbine blades routinely cause interference with an older model television they own and it disrupts radio station frequencies as well.

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