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WIND POWER OPEN HOUSE: Port Dover project

Simcoe Reformer: DANIEL PEARCE - June 10, 2010

The King family is unequivocal in its response to a plan to erect wind turbines around their home in the Vaughan Survey east of Port Dover.

"We're all for it, as opposed to a nuclear plant," Stephanie King told a reporter at an open house hosted by the company that plans to build a wind farm near her home.

"We asked for the alternative. This is it . . . They can gladly put one in my backyard," King said at the Port Dover Community Centre on Wednesday afternoon.

Capital Power Corporation of Edmonton was given approval by the province this spring to build a wind farm of up to 70 turbines stretching from the east end of Norfolk County into Haldimand County, all the way to Featherstone Point.

It will generate enough electricity to power 22,000 homes a year.

On the one hand, the project will replace the nuclear power plant that Bruce Power wanted to build at Nanticoke and was the subject of much protest until the company abandoned the idea.

On the other is the growing worldwide controversy over the potential ill-health effects on people who live near turbines.

For the Kings, who put a three-metre No Nukes banner across the front of their home during the Bruce Power debate, there is no comparison between the two.

"If you find turbines have health issues, we can take it down," said Stephanie's husband Kirk. "With nuclear, we are stuck with it for years."

About a dozen Power Capital staff mingled with the public as they came into the community centre.

Lori Wilson, manager of consultation for the company, said the public response so far to a series of open houses on the project has been "mixed" with plenty of "strong support."

Landowners in the area continue to phone the company looking to rent their land out for turbines, she noted.

Power Capital must still go through what's called a Renewable Energy Assessment, a study on how the turbines will affect the environment, including water quality and wildlife.

If they're successful, they expect to start building next year and have the turbines feeding the grid by 2012.

Brian Gibson, business development manager for a company that owns sand and gravel operations in Waterford, Dunnville, and Nanticoke, sees the project as a potential source of work for his company.

Service roads will have to be built to the windmills and their foundations will require concrete his company could provide, Gibson said.

"I'm here to find out the quantities involved," he said.

"It's a potential million dollar-type business, not small potatoes . . . We employ local people."

Ron Walker, a retired engineering professor from Orillia, said he wanted to find more information on how a wind farm operates.

Walker, who taught at Georgian College in Barrie, said he generally favours green energy projects.

"We have very little experience (with them). The rest of the world has a lot more. What I know is the rest of the world is still building," Walker said.

"I also think we have no choice. It's about as simple as that. There's always a price to pay. I think wind and solar are in the acceptable range."