As Quebec prepares to experience a new wind boom, citizens who have fought for 10 years against wind turbines disturbing their countryside at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains have just laid down their arms, exhausted and demoralized.
Their case went to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear it and put an end to the story in early May. “You have to accept it, that’s for sure, but I have a lot of trouble living with it,” says Yvonne Burke, the Sainte-Sophie-d’Halifax resident behind the class action lawsuit. against Éoliennes de L’Able.
After 2005 wind energy tenders, Hydro-Québec selected a park of 50 wind turbines planted in the lands of the villages of Saint-Ferdinand, Sainte-Sophie-d’Halifax and Saint-Pierre-Baptiste built without social acceptance and without the green light of the Bureau d Audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE).
The three municipalities lie about one hundred kilometers from Trois-Rivières between Victoriaville and Thetford Mines in the Centre-du-Québec region.
In its report, the office indicated that residents were informed and consulted late about the project. He also noted that wind turbines will not be far enough from homes.
With the blessing of the Quebec government, Hydro-Quebec, and the MRC de L’Érable, Spanish promoter Enerfín built its park. The litigants were left before the courts to seek compensation for the change in their environment.
Their attorney David Burgoyne defended the neighborhood’s unrest between a 100-megawatt park and a populated environment located in a postcard environment: deteriorating landscaping, disturbing noise and loss of home value. None of the arguments of the citizens’ group were accepted.
After that, it is easy to say that the battle is lost in advance. But we got a sense of that as the trial progressed. We realized that we are fighting the state.
David Burgoyne, Citizens Advocate v. Éoliennes de L’Érable
He says the government, Hydro-Quebec, MRC, everyone wanted the project done. The turmoil in the neighborhood was far from their fears. »
There is reason to worry about the future, he says, because regional district municipalities (RCMs) are becoming themselves promoters of wind energy projects in order to find new sources of revenue.
Eight years ago, Yvonne Burke and his wife left home as they chose to end their days to get away from wind turbines. “We’ve seen 17 of them from our neighborhood,” says Mr. Bourque.
It took him three years to sell his property and a clause was included in the sales contract to ensure that the buyer was fully aware of the noise from the wind turbines. An unsteady noise finally found the cultivator. “It depends on the wind, but also atmospheric pressure,” he explains. Sometimes, it’s like an airport. »
The Burkes now live far from the wind turbines, but are still close enough to their former district to see that the wind farm has created a permanent hole in this tightly knit environment.
Yvonne Burke, also an electrician, used to help his neighbors, who gave him other services in return. “It’s over. His 25-year-old son, who had the same split at school and who’s going to take over the farm,” he says of his 25-year-old son.
The experience of the courts, from the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeal and on to the Supreme Court, left Yvonne Burke bitter. “I don’t know if it was because there was a very strict education, but I didn’t know we had the right to lie in court,” he says.
Bigger wind turbines are coming
As demand for electricity increases, Quebec is about to experience a new boom in wind power. Wind power generation is set to double by 2030, from 4,000 to 8,000 megawatts. Bids totaling 1,000 megawatts have just been completed, and another 1,500 megawatts are about to begin.
“It will make holes in the landscape,” warns Claude Charon, an early opponent of the L’Érable wind farm, because it was settling in a populated area.
The next-generation wind turbines that will power future farms are larger and more powerful than those powering the Label wind farm, with an output capacity of 6 megawatts, compared to 2 megawatts for older farms.
We are talking about towers with a height of 650 feet or more, compared to 440 feet now, but the distance from the houses [plus ou moins 600 mètres] remained the same.
Claude Charon, opponent of the first wind farm Lubri
According to Claude Charon, citizens affected by future projects have an interest in taking care of them from the outset. He recalls his experience: “City councils and mayors have a lot of power.”
The responsibility for marking wind turbine installations rests with the RCM with the Temporary Control Regulations (RCI). These regulations are somewhat restricted from region to region and are adopted by the mayors who sit on the MRC boards.
In this whole saga coming to a close, it was mainly the actions and decisions of the municipal councils involved in the L’Érable wind farm that disappointed Yvonne Burke. “I want them more.”
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