BY ANDREW SMITH
NORTH PERTH – Residents have once again come forward with concerns about industrial wind turbines, and the dangers they pose to the safety of both human and livestock health.
North Perth council heard from local farmer and Elma Mornington Concerned Citizens member Tim Martin as he presented several safety concerns he has with industrial wind turbines. Martin said wind turbines represent a fire hazard, and that fires can break out in the turbine nacelle areas more commonly than the public knows.
“It isn’t a case of if it’s going to happen here in North Perth, it’s going to be when,” Martin said. “There’s been numerous fires in California in wind turbines.”
Martin said the turbine project proposed by Invenergy Canada in North Perth and Perth East is situated in a high density rural area, with insufficient separation between homes, farm buildings and crops if a fire were to occur, creating a debris field of hazardous material.
“They’re not quite far enough away from homes as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “We need a realistic plan to address fires before they’re approved.”
Martin related to a 2009 incident in San Antonio, Texas, where three workers were performing maintenance on a wind turbine when a fire was sparked, leading to one man falling to his death. High-angle rescue is not available from fire departments in North Perth or Perth East, and waiting for other emergency services would not meet response times.
“It’s these type of incidents we hope to avoid here in North Perth,” he said. “It’s something we could be proactive in by passing a bylaw.”
Martin also spoke on the ice buildup that occurs on wind turbines, and the danger of ice being thrown from the spinning blades.
“There’s all kinds of issues related to this,” Martin said. “The amount of ice that is thrown from these is greatly under-estimated, as far as I’m concerned.”
The problems that wind turbines pose to air ambulance traffic has been discussed previously by North Perth council, and Martin said it’s essential to protect the corridor between Listowel, Hamilton and London hospitals. Martin said the air ambulance was recently needed on Perth Road 140 in October last year for an accident.
“If we had wind turbines near that, it wouldn’t have been possible,” he said. “The air ambulance service is essential to North Perth.”
Coun. Warren Howard said the concern on the air ambulance corridor is worth bringing up in formal conversation with the Ministry of the Environment as part of the project approval process.
“I think it’s very much something we should be highlighting as an issue,” he said. “We’ve got to start collecting the issues we’re going to raise with the ministry, and I think that’s something we should very much be highlighting.”
A second delegation at Monday’s meeting heard from Karen Galbraith of Legacy Holsteins, and representing Concerned Livestock Producers of North Perth. Galbraith said uncontrolled ground current, commonly known as stray voltage, is an ongoing concern for livestock producers.
“Uncontrolled ground current can essentially ruin the livelihood of livestock operators if steps are not taken to control the current,” she said.
Galbraith said council has already been briefed on the effects of uncontrolled ground current on livestock, but other studies are coming forward documenting its effects on people, and that additional renewable energy projects in North Perth would worsen the problems.
“Our present antiquated electrical infrastructure is having problems with our current arrangement without having additional strain put on it, such as a large-scale green energy project,” she said.
As one of the largest livestock producing counties in Ontario, Galbraith said North Perth and Perth County have an opportunity to team up with an academic facility to do more research on uncontrolled ground current and help understand the situation more, which she said is not going anywhere soon.
“This is not a topic that’s going to go away,” Galbraith said. “Municipalities are going to have to deal with it, whether they want to or not.”