A new industrial wind farm is proposed for the North Frontenac region north of Kingston, Ont., and this has angered some of its residents.
The proposed green energy initiative from NextEra Energy Canada is slated to be built in the middle of the North Frontenac Dark Sky Preserve. The approximately 200 industrial wind turbines proposed would have strobe lights on top for aircraft safety, which would all but eliminate the dark sky in the area.
The region is home to Canada's first municipal Dark Sky Preserve that limits light emissions from human activity to allow star-gazers to appreciate the night sky. The township has centred its economic strategy on promoting its dark skies to tourists. Just south of North Frontenac there is a $47,000 star-gazing platform from where thousands of stars can be seen.
No protected status
The wind farm would put this all in jeopardy as the Dark Sky Preserve designation does not entitle the area to any protected status.
In response, resident Chris Albinson penned an open letter to the Ontario Minister of Energy stating concerns ranging from the appreciation of a beautiful night sky, preserving habitat for endangered species and the overall economics of the initiative.
Wood Buffalo National Park, which straddles the N.W.T. and Alberta border, has been designated as a Dark Sky Preserve.
"Using Ontario taxpayer funds to subsidize a U.S. company that destroys an Ontario nature preserve seems grossly irresponsible, fiscally and environmentally," Albinson writes in the letter.
The majority of residents are united against the proposal, as is the local government. The North Frontenac Township has voted 7-0 against a wind farm in the area.
Regardless, the province appears poised to approve it.
The turbines would be built on crown land, however an agreement is in place where the township is charged with managing the use of that land. It remains to be seen if that agreement will have standing in the township's refusal to host the wind farm.
All of this frustrates Mayor Ron Higgins.
"It is a struggle. I do feel helpless about it. But I have to do whatever I can to convince the government that this is not a good idea for our specific area," he says.
13 Dark Sky Preserves in Canada
The development and protection of Dark Sky Preserves is growing in Canada, with 13 areas across the country designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
The purpose of having regions devoid of artificial light sources is to allow visitors and residents the chance to appreciate and view the stars in the sky. Over one third of school-aged students in urban areas have never seen the Milky Way despite it being easily visible in an area without street lights, lit office towers and porch lights. In fact, in an urban centre only a dozen stars are clearly visible.
The loss of a dark sky region in Canada, especially one so close to major urban centres, is a setback for astronomers and nature-lovers alike.
For more on the North Frontenac Dark Sky Preserve listen to science columnist Torah Kachur on Cape Breton's afternoon radio show, Mainstreet.