Wind energy companies looking to set up shop in Brooke-Alvinston and Warwick Township shouldn’t expect a warm welcome.
That’s according to Roger Buurma, a Brooke-Alvinston farmer who a member of a group trying to unite farmers as the next wave of green energy projects is pitched in the region.
NextEra Energy recently went to Brooke-Alvinston council talking about its plan to put up to 60 turbines in the eastern part of the municipality. Mayor Don McGugan says two other companies are also approaching farmers as they prepare to bid for the province’s lucrative energy contracts in September.
Buurma was part of a group which organized a recent meeting on the issue in Kerwood which drew 130 people.
After hearing about other farmers’ experiences with wind energy companies and coming to realize the turbines aren’t a cash windfall for municipalities (each turbine generates about $1,200 in taxes according to Buurma) the landowners cast a vote on whether the industrial turbine projects should go ahead.
“We had 107 ballots and they came back 100 per cent against turbines coming to the area,” says Buurma.
The farmers in Kerwood were also concerned about the rising cost of hydro because of the province’s green energy subsidies, how the landscape will change and how wind turbine projects can change the community’s social fabric.
“One of the main themes of the meeting was encouraging people to think about the affect it would have on the social aspect of our community,” says Buurma pointing to how communities in Lambton Shores have been torn apart because of the projects there. “There’s been families and neighbours split apart in the area to the north… There’s a lot of discord and bad feeling because of it.”
Buurma says the strong, united voice has prompted him and six of his neighbours from Brooke-Alvinston, Warwick and Adelaide-Metcalfe to form a committee. They’re main goal is to bring farmers together to talk about what should be done.
“We did talk about some discussion on the power of negotiating in the future but at this point in time we’re just wanting to inform people and see what happens,” he says.
The committee is sending out invitations to a public meeting to 1,000 landowners in the area NextEra is targeting for its project. Buurma and fellow committee member Karen Sanders of Warwick are hoping for a strong turnout at the Brooke-Alvinston-Inwood Community Centre April 7 at 7pm.
“My greatest concern is how this company has come into area and dealt with people and neighbourhoods,” says Sanders adding many people feel the company’s representatives act “pretty aggressively.”
And she says there have been “outright lies to neighbourhoods.
“I’m not sure if I want to work with a company like that.”
Sanders and Buurma are both personally concerned about the idea of turbines dotting their community. For her part, Sanders wonders what problems her children will have in the future, when the turbines need to be taken down. “I just don’t want to take a risk…of my kids having to deal with it in the future,” she says.
“My husband and I like green energy but we feel with time and technology, we’ll come up with different forms of green energy,” she says. “We’re all for green energy; just not this way.”