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Heidi Eijgel has been living with wind turbines since 2004. And she's all right with that.
September 27, 2012
PINCHER CREEK, AB, Sep 27, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Heidi Eijgel (pronounced eye-gel) is an Alberta horse farmer who lives in the last house at the end of a gravel road surrounded by one of the largest wind farms in Alberta – and she’s OK with that.
She moved to the windy prairie of Pincher Creek from the intensely developed Fraser Valley in British Columbia, attracted to the beauty of the fescue prairie landscape and to be close to her husband’s family.
Their operation is called Windy Coulee Canadian Horses and they raise well-trained and tough riding and driving horses. Eijgel prides herself on the fact that a 20-mile mountain ride is a cakewalk for her stout, muscular horses.
Heidi Eijgel and her husband, Dave Glass, are concerned about nature – they even put a conservation easement on their land to protect the fescue prairie and riparian habitat.
When the wind company came knocking in 2003 ‘I was worried about a lot of things, the fescue grassland . . . and . . . It’s unbelievably beautiful and it hosts many birds,’ said Eijgel. The next year the phase one of an eventual 136 megawatt wind farm was built next to their land.
It might seem obvious to say, but the wind is a rather loud weather phenomenon. It’s no rolling thunder, but when the wind is blowing it’s easy to underestimate just how loud it can be.
When it is really blowing all Eijgel can hear is the roar of the wind in her ears or, if she’s inside, the sound of the wind rattling the bones of her house. During low winds she can hear the turbines and she likens them to a train off in the distance. At 500 meters, a wind turbine puts out roughly 40 decibels, about the same as the compressor on your fridge. The closest turbine to Eijgel is 700 meters away from her home. Since 2010, when phase two of the Summerview Wind Farm was built, the wind farm consists of 61 giant wind turbines, rated at between 1.8 and 3 megawatts each. There are about a dozen turbines within 1.5 km of Eijgel’s home.
One year after the turbines were installed the company reported an unusual number of dead migratory bats under the wind turbines. TransAlta hired scientists to determine the cause of these bat deaths in 2006. In a new study, two scientists from the University of Calgary determined that it was the sudden changes in air pressure behind the spinning blades that killed the bats.
Eijgel says they’d run into the researchers along the road at night and ‘they invited us in – you could see little blips of the bats flying’ on the radar.
In 2009, TransAlta conducted a large scale experiment to reduce these bat fatalities. By not allowing the wind turbines to turn in low winds the researchers were able to reduce bat fatalities by up to 60 per cent.
So is Eijgel comforted that the birds and bats are OK?
‘I think people need to keep watching and people need to keep monitoring,’ says Eijgel.
With nearly a decade of experience living next to a large wind farm, Eijgel was invited by Tim Weis of the Pembina Institute to visit Ontario on a speaking tour to share her experiences.
At presentations in London, Grand Bend and Chatham-Kent a vociferous group of anti-wind protestors traveled from meeting to meeting to protest, heckle and disrupt her presentations. They were mad at the government for approving wind farms and voiced fears about health effects and a host of other things.
A reporter at the Lakeshore Advance wrote about the event in London: ‘One (audience member) told QMI Agency he has never been so embarrassed by a group of adults who could not control their tempers. At one point the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) was called to control the irate crowd.
In Chatham ‘emotions remained calm’ and the event produced ‘some thoughtful exchanges’ reported Blair Andrews in the Chatham Daily News.
It was quite the experience for Heidi Eijgel, the soft-spoken horse farmer from Alberta. She managed to complete her presentations and to remain positive about the whole experience.
‘With a wind farm or a wind turbine, if anything goes wrong with it, it’s not going to be an environmental disaster, we’re not going to have radiation here for a hundred thousand years in the future. We’re not going to die in our sleep if there’s a sour gas problem – wind turbines are very safe for us and for our communities,’ said Eijgel.
Troy Media Columnist David Dodge is the host and producer of Green Energy Futures, a multi-media series presented at www.greenenergyfutures.ca. The series is supported by TD, Suncor Energy and the Pembina Institute.
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