"Any alarm bells yet?" Report from a displaced Ontario farmer

Oct 22, 2008

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Gerry Duffy, Ellenburg, NY (Photo ©NY Times)

Dear Councilmen,

We are new to your wonderful community. We re-located as a direct result of a wind development project elsewhere in Ontario.  We were bought out by the wind developer because we couldn’t stand living there any longer.  (A gag clause in the buyout contract prevents me from discussing the financial details of the buyout or identifying the developer.)

I am writing this letter to alert you to what it’s really like having a wind farm in your community.

When the project was first proposed our farm was smack in the middle.  I mean exactly, middle square of the grid. At first we thought the turbines were a dandy idea.

Then came the salesmen.  Knocking on our door 2 or 3 times a week, pressuring us to sign up.  We put them off until certain claims they made were proven to us. They played the game of “If you don’t sign you will be surrounded” and “You will be excluded.” We were warned repeatedly, “Don’t look for any gremlins here, as there are none.” In one meeting, one salesman used that phrase nine times.  (Any alarm bells yet?)

They agreed to come back in a week, giving us more time to think on the situation. A week later we had not concluded our personal investigation as to whether or not they would be a good thing.  Our children were present at these meetings, since any decisions would affect them.  When that next meeting took place, we needed to stall once again. We had reached no conclusion but were under the threat of exclusion and having turbines surrounding us.  The pressure was tremendous.  Nevertheless, in the end we decided against hosting turbines.  For this we would pay dearly.   

Like everyone in the community we soon discovered things that were not disclosed, and quickly realized the disastrous effect the project would have on us all.

Let me begin with health effects. After the machines were installed and we were surrounded, I would hear and feel my pulse in my ear (extreme high blood pressure) when in bed at night.  I also noticed that certain arteries in my arms would pop up and down with every heartbeat and pulse. My children developed headaches that hurt so much they would lie in bed crying most of the night. My wife and I also experienced extreme headaches, to the point of mental collapse. (There was a wind tower roughly 700 feet from my bedroom window.)

We wound up moving our kids to grandma’s house, in town, and re-locating them to a new school, whereupon their headaches immediately vanished–except that left us with a divided family.

I am happy to report that all our medical problems disappeared once we moved away–and moved here.

The turbines stand over 300 feet high, with warning lights on top.  Would you like to know what that’s like, flashing through your bedroom window all night?  The noise is likewise an issue, not just from the windmills but the transformers.  The main transformer gave off a high-pitched scream that resonated over a 4 km diameter, not to mention the noise of the machine while operating.

There is also what is described as the flicker effect. This occurs when the sun is behind the turbines and, when looking away from them, you see the blade shadow.  Like a strobe light. You can only imagine this effect.

The turbines produce, as well, a notable wind tunnel effect.  In a normal winter we burned 4-5 bush cords of wood, keeping the house toasty warm.  Once these things went up, we burned 8 cords and were still cold–because of the wind tunnel.

Three years ago there was a trailer fire exactly 2 km from our farm. An hour later our barn was in flames. If you walked a straight line from the fire to our barn and then to the first windmill, it is a straight line, without deviation. We believe sparks from the blaze were pulled some 2000 meters into the field towards that wind machine. The fire crew kept exclaiming, “We could control this fire if they would shut down the #/%!* turbines.”

They were not shut down.

Meanwhile, local farmers thought it was great the company was going to build roads into the fields, giving the farmers easy field access. Not so. To the best of my knowledge the roads are for the Hydro use only; the farmers are prohibited from using them.

The local bee-keeper.  Here’s a story.  The bee-keeper thought the turbines were marvelous–till they were built on his property and he was court-ordered to destroy all his bees, since they might get inside the machines. (You can also forget about any hang-gliding and small aircraft activity near them.)

As for the money promised to leaseholders, between tax increases and property insurance increases, coupled with land devaluation (in some cases over 60% devaluation), any monies pretty much vanished. Fairy gold.  As a side bar, the developer promised to bury the cables underground.  Again, not so.  What really happened is that all the trees were cut, poles put up, and overhead wires strung–in the interest of saving a buck.

The municipality figured it, too, would prosper. Except here, once again, is what really happened.  The province stepped in. Instead of getting the tax levy of $6000 per year per machine, the province said, “Nope.  The province gets $500, the school board gets $1500 plus change, and you get less than $500 to fix your roads.  And, by the way, since it’s going to cost you twice that amount to fix your roads, your tax levy is going up.”

The project divided the community beyond repair, pitting neighbor against neighbor, with greed as the motive force. Three years have gone by and the divisions remain so deep they are still making the Evening News.

The energy from the project is kept and used in Ontario–except it’s sold to the American market first, then re-bought by Ontario Hydro at a higher price than it was sold for.

With this as background, I ask you ladies and gentlemen on the council, Why hasn’t the developer now before you disclosed any of this information?  (Any alarm bells, yet?)

Name withheld   

  1. Comment by Michael Harlock on 10/25/2008 at 3:14 am

    This article has raised alarm bells with me. Thank you for informing the public on this important issue.

  2. Comment by Mike on 01/30/2009 at 1:24 pm

    Very eloquently put. Thank you.

  3. Comment by Faye Kinney on 10/23/2009 at 6:52 pm

    Dear Mr. Name Withheld:

    I am very sad for you and terrified for me. Our group, The ECO Awareness Society, has been fighting to save our small mountain from these terrible monsters. We are a rather small group from Bailey’s Brook in Nova Scotia—small but mighty.

    We the community have been lied to over and over again. The wind company came slithering in promising such great things. They went first to the land owners they wanted to lease from. Once they had them eating out of their hands with the promise of great rewards they then held meetings for the community. These meetings were supposed to be informitive meetings. Not so. They were nothing but smiles and lies, pitting neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend and family against family. They were not able to answer any questions. When they did they had nothing to back up their information. (It’s pretty hard to back up lies with facts.)

    We formed our group and have worked very hard on finding facts and truths. The truth is it takes more energy and causes more CO2 emissions putting these giants on our mountains than the wind turbines will ever be able to make up. The ships that bring the massive turbines over from Germany, the trucks that are needed to haul them once they get to our country, the cement trucks, gravel trucks and so on. That of course doesn’t include the energy that is needed to keep these things running.

    Green, huh? What a joke.

    They haven’t started blasting our beautiful mountain to smithereens yet. I hope and pray they never do. We will fight to the end.

    If you would like to get more information on our group, please feel free to look us up. We can use all the help we can get.

    ECO Awareness Society
    408 Browns Mountain Rd.,
    R.R. # 1 Merigonish, Pictou Co., N.S. Canada

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