Not so good vibrations

You knew it was going to happen at some point. All those efforts at producing electricity without creating greenhouse gases were going to backfire.

There has always been a contradiction with green energy. For one thing, it is prohibitively expensive. The province buys power from wind turbines and solar farms at higher than market rates in order to encourage growth in the industry. If a majority of our power came from green sources, we wouldn't be able to afford to turn on the lights or our computers.

Green energy, however costly, has become part of the mix of Ontario's power sources and in so doing helps cut down on the smoke pouring out of coal-fired plants.

But what if the eco-friendly sources of power turned out to be health hazards in themselves? While there is no definitive proof, evidence is growing that wind turbines are harmful to the people who live near them.

Some researchers are saying the constant swoosh, swoosh, swoosh of the propellers cutting the air produces vibrations that can affect the inner ear and cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, and sleep problems.

Now the Ontario government has proposed that any new wind turbines going up must be at least 550 metres away from the nearest home.

This has prompted more than a dozen people living near our own wind farm in the far western reaches of the county to ask questions about the 66 towers in the fields surrounding them.

If Queen's Park says it's too dangerous to live any closer to the turbines than 550 metres, then what about those people in Houghton who are already living with them?

It is a good question that has yet to be answered. Do you shut down the turbines and pay off the companies that own them or let residents continue to be exposed to the propellers' vibrations?

What was once welcomed to Norfolk with much fanfare -- as a unique addition to our landscape as well as a tourist attraction -- is now under the microscope.

Residents in the Houghton area compare the noise from the towers to a jetliner going overhead or a transport truck idling. Some say they have developed unexplained twitches.

The letter they have written to the province asking the government what it intends to do for them complains they are exposed to a "strobe" effect from the blinking red lights on top of the towers to warn off aircraft and the flickering caused when a turbine turns between the sun and a home.

It would be naive to think that green energy ventures were going to run perfectly. But did scientists and public officials not think this through at all? Was there no pre-testing that could have been done or previous studies to examine or examples of other people living near wind farms to look at?

It's nice that Norfolk County is part of the green energy movement (we also have a number of solar farms either proposed or going up) and we shouldn't give up on the technology entirely.

But the fact of the matter is that when it comes to the wind farm in Houghton, we may have a big problem on our hands.

Article ID# 1644610