As long as people have health concerns while living close to wind turbines, the wind energy company shouldn’t be putting money into the community, said Gary Fohr, a member of the community liaison committee related to two wind energy projects in Grey Highlands.
“We don’t want their money . . . I don’t see a reason why somebody from Flesherton would show up looking for that money; they don’t live near any turbines, they’re not affected by any turbines,” said Fohr, who objects to residents who don’t live near the two wind projects in Grey Highlands benefiting from a community enhancement fund being promised by Capstone Power.
Fohr raised the concern at the first community liaison committee set up to address community concerns related to the Grey Highlands Clean Energy project, a nine-turbine project near Brewster Lake, and Zero Emissions People, a five-turbine project located at McIntyre.
The committee met last week for the first time to hammer out the ground rules for the four meetings that will take place over the next four years.
Fohr is a representative of the Brewster Lake Home Owners Association.
Five members of the community attended the first meeting but Fohr was the only one on the committee living near a wind energy project. The others came from other parts of Grey Highlands. They are Roger Shortt, Barb Henry, Grey Highlands Deputy-mayor Stewart Halliday and Coun. Terry Mokriy, along with company representatives including Erin Jaggard, environmental manager for Capstone Power Corporation, who chaired the meeting.
Capstone has established a community enhancement fund with a total of $50,000 a year ($25,000 from each of the wind projects) for the next 20 years. Residents from throughout Grey Highlands can apply for the funding. The company decides which projects are approved for funding.
“I think it’s disrespectful to the residents who live out at this end. There shouldn’t be any money, not as long as people are being affected by the turbines and having health concerns,” Fohr said.
Jaggard said Capstone decides which projects qualify for funding.
Barb Henry said the scope should be extended to the entire community. Shortt agreed that it should include the entire township. Deputy-mayor Stewart Halliday said while he doesn’t approve of industrial wind turbines he’s on the committee to ensure that Grey Highlands is well represented.
As far as the community enhancement fund is concerned Halliday said he would like to see money go to projects “in the impact zone” close to the wind turbines.
“It’s money we’ve paid extra in our hydro bills and filtering it through back into the community. It’s just recycling money,” he said.
Fohr said the effects of the wind turbines are most pronounced when the wind blows from the southwest putting the homes in the lee of the wind.
He said residents suffer a number of health effects ranging from headache and ringing in the ears to nausea and sleeplessness.
He said some residents are plagued by audible sounds.
“Our neighbour across the street can stand out on her front porch; it sounds like a jet engine sitting in the driveway,” said Fohr, who noted it’s only three out of the nine turbines that affect residents.
Jaggard promised to meet with residents who have concerns. Any mitigation measures would have to be approved by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
Gary Dingeldein, a member of Grey Highlands Wind Concerns, worries that the issues that are a real concern to residents living near the turbines won’t be addressed by people on the CLC who don’t have a direct involvement with the wind energy projects.
“People who live remotely from these projects are not bothered by shadow flicker, they’re not bothered by noise, they’re not bothered by the visual impact, they’re not bothered by loss of property value,” said Dingeldein.
“It’s kind of hard to reconcile these two kinds of concerns -- those who have the whole municipality’s interest at stake and those who have their own back yard at stake.”
Dingeldein said many residents affected by the wind turbines have spent several hundred thousand dollars in legal fees fighting Capstone.
“Groups not even aware of the issues caused by these wind turbines are going to be submitting applications to get money from the company that’s caused so much grief to so many people,” he said.
There are three spaces still available on the committee. Jaggard encouraged residents to become members.
Only nine people turned out to the first CLC meeting.
Fohr is urging more community involvement at the meetings.
“It’s important for local residents to be there,” he said.
The next meeting is set for October 17, at the Feversham community centre, starting at 6:30 p.m.