Nearly 75 per cent of Saskatchewan’s power is fossil fuel based. American power giant, Renewable Energy Systems (RES) is trying to initiate an alternative by installing new wind turbines in rural areas across the province. But the idea is facing its share of criticism from local residents.
“This poster the RM has sent around all looks very pretty. Blue skies, green underneath. It doesn’t say a thing about what they’re really all about,” said Christine Whittaker, who has lived in the RM of South Qu’Appelle for the last 33 years.
“People in Ontario have boarded up their houses and walked away, because they just can’t stand it any longer,” Whittaker added.
The municipality’s reeve says the project could be part of a bigger growth plan.
“My thought process was anytime you can look at getting a larger corporation or company into your municipality – whether it’s rural or urban – if it’s a good fit for the community, it has the potential to bring people in,” said Jeannie DesRocher, reeve for the RM of South Qu’Appelle.
The list of advantages includes annual tax revenues and royalty payments, as well $30 million worth of locally sourced construction work.
But more than 120 local landowners have already signed a petition against the operation, citing concerns ranging from land rights and possible devaluation, to potential health issues.
“There are well documented cases of health problems with these things – constant noise, people can’t sleep, people can’t have their windows open,” said Whittaker.
Health Canada is currently wrapping up a two-year study on what the effects are, if any, of wind turbines on the surrounding communities. While those results are expected by the end of this year, the organization says past research has no indication of any health or safety concerns.
“The majority of studies have found there are no negative impacts to human beings or large animals,” said Ron Papp, a wind turbine technology instructor at Lethbridge College.
Two meteorological test towers will need to assess the wind speeds in the region for at least one year before construction on the wind turbines even begins. Council would need to amend a current bylaw to allow that change to happen.
The South Qu’Appelle council will hold a public meeting on February 25. But even if the project gets the green light, it could be at least five years before RES Canada puts a shovel in the ground.