Grassroots group aims to keep wind energy in community’s hands

A number of residents of Owen Sound, Ontario have formed a group, Southgate Windy Fields Green Energy Cooperative, to look at the possibility of wind energy for the area. The aim of the group is to provide a forum for the community to respond to and be involved in any development plans for local large-scale wind farms.

A wind energy project in nearby Melancthon has had some negative results for residents of that region and the Owen Sound group wants to avoid similar repercussions.

“That was a corporate situation,” says Antonia Greenwood, secretary for the cooperative. “I gather that a less than forthright description of what was going to happen was given to the local council.”

“Our approach is that anybody in the neighbourhood will be part of the process, whether it’s on their land or not,” she adds.

Doyle Prier, president of the Southgate Public Interest Research Group, voiced a similar perspective in an article, “Windy Fields,” published in Exchange Magazine in April, 2006. “There are lingering concerns about whether there is a balance of control here between wind developers and the community,” he said. “The community needs to find its voice on this issue so we can build projects that work well for the people of Southgate.”

A first organizational meeting for Southgate Windy Fields Green Energy Cooperative was held in April of this year. Sally Miller of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA), a leading expert on community wind in the province, spoke about the nuts and bolts of forming a cooperative for community-driven sustainable energy.

The Southgate Cooperative has scheduled another public meeting for December 11, 2006.

“How many turn out at this next meeting will determine what happens in the long-run,” says Antonia. The hope is to form committees to address various issues related both to the large-scale wind farm potential, as well as other alternative energy sources in the area.

Owen Sound is situated at one of the highest points in southern Ontario, on the Grey Highlands. With its proximity to Lake Huron, conditions make it “one of the windiest spots around,” says Antonia. “

“It seems inevitable that there will be wind farms here,” she says.