LOWBANKS — While it was a celebration toasted with champagne, officials unveiling the Niagara Region Wind Farm still felt the need to defend their cause.
Representatives from Boralex, Enercon and the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation all defended wind power and their new farm that straddles Haldimand County and the Niagara Region.
The 77-turbine project, spanning properties in Lowbanks, Wainfleet, West Lincoln and Haldimand, will power over 76,000 homes.
It is expected that the farm will power all of the houses in Port Colborne, Wainfleet, Haldimand, Lincoln, West Lincoln and Grimsby.
“I’m personally concerned these days that we see so much negativity about renewable energy,” said Enercon executive vice-president Michael Weidemann. He said there are stages of acceptance that the public will go through, like any social change.
“Change is a reality in our life,” he said. “Of course wind farms come with consequences and they need to be addressed.”
At the end of the driveway, two women from West Lincoln stood holding signs, protesting the project. “I’m here because I’m surrounded by wind turbines where I live,” said Naomi Brusse, a Wellandport resident.
She said she’s concerned about local bird populations being affected by the turbines.
“The project has already generated noise complaints,” said Linda Rogers, director of Mothers Against Wind Turbines. She said that 20 of the windmills are built on sensitive wetlands and is concerned about potential harm to turtles in the ecosystem.
“They’re allowed to kill, harm and harass under special permit, authorized by the government,” said Rogers. “It’s time to stop these projects.”
Matt Jamieson, president and CEO of the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation, said they support the project because it aligns with their primary value — peace.
“I believe that this project has proven that we respect Mother Earth,” he said. “We are seeking to create a peaceful coexistence with our neighbours.”
He said the project would benefit everyone for years to come.
“I respect everybody’s opinion,” said Weidemann, when asked about the protesters out front. He could not answer whether or not any of his turbines are built on sensitive wetlands, but argued that the negative effects of wind energy pale in comparison to that of coal and nuclear.
“Some of these concerns are justified,” he said, addressing the issue of bird and bat populations affected by the wind farms. “That is something that we can’t just ignore.”
Weidemann added there are regulations in place, and the company monitors the numbers of birds and bats killed by turbines. In addition, he said there are technical solutions to help reduce the effects, which include reducing use of turbines at certain points in time.
“There are lots of ways to mitigate these issues,” said Weidemann. “It’s very important to address them, to understand them, to monitor them and to mitigate them.”