The sobering lesson of Ontario’s green energy experiment

Ontario’s experiment with green energy via the Green Energy and Green Economy Act has not had the rosy effects the McGuinty-Wynne governments said it would: electricity prices up dramatically, promised jobs did not materialize, and all this has had “modest” environmental benefits, says Michael Trebilcock in a report released by the C.D. Howe Institute today.

Mr. Trebilcock’s language is somewhat reserved compared to what he said at the time when the Green Energy Act was passed. Then he remarked, “This combination of irresponsibility and venality has produced a lethal brew of policies.”

Focus on electricity is out of proportion with other areas of the economy in need of closer scrutiny, such as transportation – Michael Trebilcock

Excerpt:

With the enactment of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (Green Energy Act) in 2009, the Ontario government committed ratepayers to massive subsidization of various forms of renewable energy, especially wind power and solar energy, along with the phasing out of coalfired generation in the province – a goal achieved in 2014. In the eight years since the initiation of these policies, what tentative assessment can we make of their impact? Such a review is especially important in light of recent commitments by the federal government and most provinces to adopt a minimum carbon tax (or its equivalent) across Canada and to provide a variety of subsidies to users of low-emission technology.

Any evaluation of the impact of Ontario’s green energy policies to date should focus on three factors: i) the costs of renewable energy; ii) the environmental impact of these policies; and iii) their impact on employment in the province. On the evidence to date, these policies have had a dramatic impact on electricity costs in the province, but they have generated very limited environmental benefits and have had a negligible to negative effect on economic growth and employment. In short, the current Ontario green energy policies have run up against Pielke’s iron law of climate change: when citizens are faced with a major trade-off between the economy and the environment, the former will almost always prevail (Pielke 2010). Ontario’s experience shows that, rather than an extensive reliance on technology or activity-specific subsidies, the best approach by far is a carbon tax (or its cap-and-trade equivalent) that is technology-, activity-, and revenue-neutral.

Environmental Effects

About 60 percent of Ontario’s current generation capacity is already accounted for by low-emission hydro or nuclear-generated electricity, with the balance provided by natural-gas generation and to a lesser extent by renewables. Wind power and solar energy, because of their intermittency and unpredictability, require back-up generation, especially during peak-load capacity, and that has generally entailed the construction of natural-gas plants. In Ontario, the phasing out of coal-fired generation has likewise led to the construction of more natural-gas– fired generation.

The electricity sector’s share of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario in 2012 was only about 9 percent of total emissions, compared to the transportation sector with 34 percent and the industrial sector with 30 percent (Ontario, Auditor General 2015), meaning that further environmental gains in the electricity sector are inherently limited.4 In any event, this impact needs to be compared to other alternatives, such as further enhancing transmission connections and expanding power purchase agreements with neighbouring jurisdictions, in particular Quebec and Manitoba, which have substantial clean hydroelectric resources. More generally, developing a competitively structured capacity market in Ontario may be a preferable long-term alternative strategy (Goulding 2013).

The focus on electricity is out of proportion with the areas of the economy that are most in need of closer scrutiny, such as transportation. Although the industrial sector accounts for the largest share of energy use in Canada,5 the growth in use in the transportation sector outpaced all other sectors between 1990 and 2013 with a 43 percent growth, compared to 7 percent in the residential sector, 30 percent in the industrial sector, and 23 percent in the commercial sector (Natural Resources Canada 2016).

Read the news release and link to the full report here.

Welcome Minister Ballard: now here’s a list of things to do

An Open Letter to the newly appointed Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Chris Ballard. “You have work to do”

The former Minister of the MOECC left behind a full list of things that need doing, now [Photo: Dorothea Larsen]
July 31, 2017

To the Honourable Chris Ballard

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change

Queen’s Park, Toronto

 

Welcome to your new position as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Unfortunately, Minister Glen Murray has left you an extensive list of action items requiring your immediate follow-up. We highlight the key issues for you in the following list, related to Ontario’s energy policy and wind power projects.

White Pines – Withdraw the Renewable Energy Approval for this project as developer wpd cannot meet the terms of their contract. There are significant environmental concerns with this project that remain, even after a successful appeal by citizens before the Environmental Review Tribunal.

Amherst Island – Rescind Renewable Energy Approval for this project which is planned for the tiny island heritage community. Significant environmental risks are present including the serious impact on migrating birds that congregate in this area; Ontario does not need the power from this project.

Saugeen Shores – The single wind turbine at the Unifor educational facility has been fraught with problems and engendered hundreds of complaints about excessive noise. This turbine would not be allowed under present regulations. You can immediately address the failure to meet a June 30 deadline for submission of a compliance audit report.

K2 Wind – This is another wind power project, a large one, with many problems in its relatively short history. You can deliver on Minister Glen Murray’s mid-May commitment to Black family, and others, to provide a solution to wind turbines that MOECC testing indicated were not compliant with Ontario regulations to protect the environment and health.

Address Concerns Raised at Request of Minister Murray – Many people across Ontario took Minister Murray at his word when he said that there were no complaints reaching his office and that he would ensure his officials responded quickly to address the issues. They wrote to him and are still waiting for action on their issues.

Complaint Tracking Process – Complaint records released to WCO in response to an FOI request indicate that the MOECC does not respond to most complaints about wind turbine noise. These complaints should be a source of learning for the Ministry rather than being ignored as currently appears to be the case. A full revision of the process is needed to ensure that complaints are actually resolved with procedures that allow the Minister’s office to track resolution. MOECC records indicate little or no resolution of more than 3,100 formal Pollution Reports made by Ontario citizens between 2006 and 2014.

REA Approval Process – Increase setbacks from residences to reflect learning from MOECC complaint records that include staff reports that confirm that current regulations are not sufficient to protect health of residents living in wind projects. Last week, the Supreme Court set out standards for consultations with communities which are substantially more rigorous that the standards used for Ontario Renewable Energy Projects.

MOECC Noise Modeling Procedures – implement new noise modeling procedures based on MOECC internal testing that demonstrates wind turbines routinely exceed predicted levels.

Otter Creek – Retract decision to deem this application “complete” for the Renewable Energy Approval process. The proponent is unable to provide noise emission data for the turbine equipment proposed. The noise report submitted with the application for a REA is not grounded in fact but rather is estimates based estimates. Also, a full MOECC investigation of the impact on well water is required.

LRP I Contracts – suspend REA process for remaining LRP I projects until full review of requirements based on internal complaint records is completed.

Noise Compliance Audit Protocol – Expand the wind speeds covered under the protocol to include wind speeds below 4 metres/second which are the source of a substantial portion of complaints about excessive noise. Even MOECC testing shows these wind speeds are the source of noise levels exceeding 40 dB(A), which completely undercuts the credibility of this audit process.

REA Enforcement – REA terms make the project operator responsible for addressing the concerns raised in each complaint to ensure that it does not recur. The MOECC needs to follow up on all operating with projects to ensure compliance with these terms and take action where it is not occurring.

Shadow Flicker – The flickering shadows produced when a turbine is positioned between the rising or setting sun is a major irritant for residents. It is not considered in the REA approvals and is easy to address by turning off the turbine for the times when it is casting moving shadows on a house.  In some projects, these changes have been implemented by the wind company but in other MOECC staff is telling residents no action is required, even though the REA requires the wind company to address complaints like these.

Infrasound – Expand MOECC testing to include the full range of noise emissions from wind turbines as independent testing shows the presence of elevated levels of infrasound in homes where residents have had to leave to protect their health.

Health Studies – The Ministry has been telling residents that its policy is based on the “best science” available since the first turbine projects were built. MOECC records clearly show that this is not correct, but the Ministry continues to be willfully blind to input from both residents and its own staff, quoting dated and selective literature reviews in a field where the science is rapidly evolving.  The need for noise studies and other investigation has been highlighted in numerous reports but never undertaken.  It is time for some serious field studies of the problems being caused by wind turbine projects in rural communities across Ontario. This was an information gap identified in 2010 by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

 

Last, it is important that as you prepare for this major portfolio, you understand that industrial-scale wind power generation offers no significant benefit to the environment.

Wind power generation on this scale is a high-impact development for little benefit, if any. Two Auditors General for Ontario recommended that Ontario undertake a cost-benefit and/or impact analysis — that has never been done.

We ask you to approach this issue with honesty and honour, and respect the wishes of the citizens of rural Ontario.

Sincerely,

Jane Wilson

President

Wind Concerns Ontario

Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups, individuals and families concerned about the impact of industrial-scale wind power development on Ontario’s economy, the natural environment, and human health.

Wake-up call for Ontario Environment Minister Murray

Letters to Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Minister and wind power developer about disturbing strobe effect go unheeded

July 31, 2017

Wherever Environment Minister Glen Murray is this morning, we’re sure this isn’t what he’s seeing in his home.

 

The video is of shadow flicker experienced in a home in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, Ontario, produced by a wind turbine in the K2 wind power project.

The family is just one of several complaining of shadow flicker or strobe effect produced by nearby wind turbines. It is disturbing and annoying, and can be a safety factor for anyone operating heavy machinery while it’s going on.

Fixing it is a simple matter: but the company won’t and despite their mandate of protecting the public, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change won’t insist that they do.

The family has sent letters to Minister Glen Murray*, the Spills Action Line, the K2 power developer, and Owen Sound District Office director Rick Chappell — no action.

It may be a good morning in downtown Toronto, but in rural Ontario, another day or torment is just beginning…

 

*Minister Murray resigned yesterday evening, July 30.

Ontario’s wind turbine noise complaints still unresolved

Government promises help on water issues, no action on noise pollution

Home in Huron County: empty promises of help and responsibility [Photo Gary Moon]
July 30, 2017

Last week, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne visited Chatham-Kent and was met by protesters with a variety of complaints about her government, including high electricity bills, and the problems with water quality possibly due to vibrations produced by wind turbines in the area.

Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault also met with citizens in Chatham-Kent, and promised that complaints would be dealt with by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

This is the same government, indeed the same ministry, that promised to deal with reports of noise and other effects from industrial-scale wind turbines.

In 2009, then Premier Dalton McGuinty said that if there were “real concerns” about environmental issues, then they must be brought to the government and “we must find a way to address those.” (Toronto Star, February 11, 2009)

The fact is, according to the MOECC’s own records, obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario under Freedom of Information and Privacy legislation, the government knew in 2006 there were problems being experienced by people living near wind turbines. During the years 2006-2014, more than 3,100 formal reports were recorded, many of which entailed so many complaints that large “Master” files were created.

The result? NO action in 54% of the files, “planned” action in 31%, and deferred action in 14%. Only one percent of the files got “priority” response.

To this day, compliance audits are not filed, resident reports of noise pollution and health impacts (noted by MOECC staff in 59/100 master files) are not acted on, and instead of listening to and acting on citizen concerns as promised by Premier McGuinty, the MOECC’s “client” is the wind power industry …. not the people of Ontario.

Despite claims by Minister Glen Murray that there few actual reports, and a promise of action on the ones he does have, little substantive action has occurred since the release of our report May 31, and the airing of a Global News investigative report in June.

Moreover, in a clear demonstration of willful blindness, the government persists in granting more contracts and approvals to new wind power projects.

Glasses of black water in Chatham-Kent make it easy to see that there is a problem, but we still see no accountability in this government, or the MOECC.

Read the WCO report on wind turbine noise complaints and how the government manages the issues while not responding, here: NoiseResponseReport-FINAL-May9

 

Report calls for end to wind power expansion

Tuesday Jul 4, 2017

By John Miner

The writer farms in Huron County

Ontario’s plan to double its wind energy capacity will make a bad situation worse, according to a report published by the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy.

There is already so much intermittent wind [power] generation in the Great Lakes Region that demand is over-supplied, prices are collapsing and generation must be curtailed, said the report released in June by the council, a non-profit organization formed by volunteers from universities, public sector business leaders, and labour.

The report’s author Marc Brouillette, a principal consultant at Strategic Policy Economics, calls on the province to reconsider its commitment to ongoing deployment of wind resources.

“Analysis shows that wind intermittency makes it an unproductive and expensive choice that doesn’t meet customers’ needs and also undermines the price of electricity exports,” says the report titled Ontario’s High-Cost Millstone.

The opportunity to pull back from the plan to expend wind energy comes this summer when Ontario updates its long-term energy plan.

A key part of the problem with wind energy, according to the report, is that it is misaligned with demand because of its intermittent nature.

Ontario’s energy use is highest in the winter and summer and lowest in spring and late fall.

“This is almost a mirror image of wind production patterns: wind is highest in the spring and fall, when electricity needs are lowest, and lowest in summer when electricity demand peaks,” the report notes.

The result is that two-thirds of wind [power] generation is surplus to demand and must be wasted or dissipated either through forced curtailment of hydro and nuclear generation, or by increased exports to Quebec and the United States, generally at low prices.

… Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of citizens’ groups critical of Ontario’s wind energy program, said the report underscores what two Auditors General told the McGuinty and Wynne governments — they should not have launched the program without any cost-benefit analysis.

“Now, Ontarians are paying four times as much for wind power which is very invasive and has had a huge impact on rural communities for very little benefit. The need for more fossil fuel natural gas to back it up means it is not even achieving the simple environmental goals.

“For people living with the noise and vibration of the huge turbines interfering with their lives, this is outrageous,” Wilson said.

No new wind power approvals should be granted, and development of projects not yet in operation should be halted, she said.

Brandy Gianetta, Ontario regional director for the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said the report fails to fully recognize that wind energy is making a significant contribution to Ontario’s electricity supply needs today and this contribution will only grow in future years.

CanWEA contends that Ontario should be securing the lowest [cost] non-greenhouse gas emitting electricity to fill the gap and ensure it can meet its climate goals.

“Wind energy, which is now the least-cost option for new electricity generation available in Ontario, is the best available resource to meet both of those needs, Gianetta said in an email.

 


FACT CHECK: wind power contributes about 6% of Ontario’s electricity supply, at four times the cost of other power sources; wind power is not the “lowest-cost” option—the turbines are cheap to build but there are many other costs associated with wind power and its intermittency; wind power cannot replace hydro and nuclear—the fact is, coal was replaced by nuclear and natural gas, a fossil-fuel-based power source. Ms Gianetta did not trot out the usual wind industry myth of massive job creation in Ontario because that has proven not to be true, here as in other jurisdictions. Jobs are short-term and related to construction activity, in the main. Other costs associated with wind power such as property value loss, effects on tourism, and human costs in terms of effects on health, have never been calculated.

Ontario wasting clean energy with its renewables program: engineers

The Ontario government’s energy policy, which pays high prices for renewables contracts, is actually wasting clean, efficient and reliable power from other sources, says the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, in its blog late last week.

Here is the posting:

Society Notes by OSPE

Following a detailed analysis of year-end data issued by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) is reporting that in 2016, the province wasted a total of 7.6 terawatt-hours (TWh) of clean electricity – an amount equal to powering more than 760,000 homes for one year, or a value in excess of $1 billion.

“This represents a 58 per cent increase in the amount of clean electricity that Ontario wasted in 2015 – 4.8 TWh – all while the province continues to export more than 2 million homes-worth of electricity to neighbouring jurisdictions for a price less than what it cost to produce,” said Paul Acchione, P.Eng., energy expert and former President and Chair of OSPE.

OSPE shared these findings with all three major political parties, and will be at Queen’s Park this morning to speak to media regarding the importance of granting professional engineers more independence in the planning and designing of Ontario’s power system.

So why is Ontario wasting all this energy?

“Curtailment is an industry term that means the power was not needed in Ontario, and could not be exported, so it was dumped. It’s when we tell our dams to let the water spill over top, our nuclear generators to release their steam, and our wind turbines not to turn, even when it’s windy,” said Acchione.

“These numbers show that Ontario’s cleanest source of power is literally going down the drain because we’re producing too much. Speaking as an engineer, an environmentalist, and a rate payer, it’s an unnecessary waste of beautiful, clean energy, and it’s driving up the cost of electricity.”

In addition to curtailment, surplus hydroelectric, wind, and nuclear generation was exported to adjoining power grids in 2014, 2015, and 2016 at prices much lower than the total cost of production. This occurs because Ontario produces more clean electricity than it can use, so it is forced to sell off surplus energy at a discounted rate. Total exports in 2016 were 21.9 TWh compared to 22.6 TWh in 2015, and a significant portion was clean, zero-emission electricity.

“Taken together, those total exports represent nearly enough electricity to power every home in Ontario for an entire year,” said Acchione. “OSPE continues to assert that the government must restore the oversight of professional engineers in the detailed planning and design of Ontario’s power grid to prevent missteps like this from happening.”

Engineers have solutions

Because Ontario is contractually obligated to pay for most of the production costs of curtailed and exported energy, OSPE believes it would be better to find productive uses for the surplus clean electricity to displace fossil fuel consumption in other economic sectors. In the summer of 2016, OSPE submitted an advisory document to the Minister of Energy and all three major political parties detailing 21 actionable recommendations that would deliver efficiencies and savings, including reducing residential and commercial rates by approximately 25 per cent, without the creation of the subsidy and deferral account under the Ontario Fair Hydro Act.

OSPE also recommended the establishment of a voluntary interruptible retail electricity market in order to make productive use of Ontario’s excess clean electricity. This market would allow Ontario businesses and residents to access surplus clean power at the wholesale market price of less than two cents per kilowatt-hour (KWh), which could displace the use of fossil fuels by using things like dual fuel (gas and electric) water heaters, and by producing emission-free hydrogen fuel.

Ontario is currently in the process of finalizing its 2017 Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP), a multi-year guiding document that will direct the province’s investments and operations related to energy. This presents a key opportunity for the government to reduce Ontarians’ hydro bills by making surplus clean electricity available to consumers.

“It is imperative that we depoliticize what should be technical judgments regarding energy mix, generation, distribution, pricing and future investments in Ontario,” said Jonathan Hack, P.Eng., President & Chair of OSPE. “We are very concerned that the government does not currently have enough engineers in Ministry staff positions to be able to properly assess the balance between environmental commitments and economic welfare when it comes to energy.

Professional Engineers must be given independence in planning and designing integrated power and energy system plans, which will in turn benefit all Ontarians.”

About the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE)

OSPE is the voice of the engineering profession in Ontario, representing more than 80,000 professional engineers and 250,000 engineering graduates, interns, and students.

OSPE’s 2012 report Wind and the Electrical Grid: Mitigating the Rise in Electricity Rates and Greenhouse Gas Emissions detailed the mounting risk of hydraulic spill, nuclear shutdowns, and periods of negative wholesale electricity prices during severe surplus base load generation.

While curtailment will decrease during the nuclear refurbishment program that began in October 2016 and the retirement of the Pickering reactors scheduled to occur from 2022 to 2024, it will rise again when the refurbished reactors return to service, unless the government takes action.

OSPE’s Energy Task Force has provided strategic engineering input to Ontario’s Ministry of Energy for more than ten years. The majority of OSPE’s recommendations have been fully or partially implemented over the past five years, saving consumers hundreds of millions of dollars per year. But more can be done if government engages Ontario’s engineers to optimize the use of the province’s clean electrical power system.

The Toronto Sun picked up on the analysis from the engineers and posted this editorial which called the Wynne government’s energy policy “incompetence” and the “ultimate absurdity.”

With all this data and analysis at hand, Wind Concerns Ontario once again calls on the Ontario government to:

  • cancel the wind power contracts given in 2016 under LRP I
  • halt wind power projects such as Amherst Island that are not yet operating
  • cancel other contracts in limbo such as White Pines in Prince Edward County.

 

 

Designed to fail: biologist criticizes wind farm environmental assessments

The Short-Eared Owl, a resident of Amherst Island. Are environmental assessments designed to protect wildlife? Or, not to find any?

An independent wildlife researcher with a degree in wildlife biology and 50 years experience tracking raptors, has written a critique of the wildlife assessment done by consulting firm Stantec, for a New York wind power project in St. Lawrence County.

Stantec has also been the consultant of record for environmental assessments done by many wind power developers hoping for approval of projects in Ontario.

While it is unfortunate that the researcher felt he/she had to choose not to attach his/her name to the document, the comments in it are interesting, and may point to an approval process that is geared toward success for the power developers.

Speaking generally on the surveys of raptors (hawks, eagles) to be used by Stantec for the wind power project, the author of the paper said, “they [defy] logic and are not based upon sound scientific research. These Stantec surveys are supposed to identify bird, bat and raptor usage in and around the North Ridge Wind Energy project, yet these surveys are designed to miss much of this species usage by breeding and migratory species. Stantec gives no reasoning for choosing the flawed and inadequate methodology planned for these studies.”

The author accuses Stantec of choosing to do a survey only of spring migration for the birds while birds are actually at greater risk in the fall because they are moving more slowly (there is not the push to build a nest and raise this year’s offspring), and because there are young birds making the trip for the first time. “It defies all logic,” the writer says.

As to surveys of breeding birds, Stantec’s timing is several months too late, and is very limited — a “keyhole” approach, the writer says. “This keyhole approach will miss most of the opportunities to observe nesting activities because nesting activities for some species start in January. For adult geese, this activity begins in late winter as soon as waters open up. This keyhole approach will also miss or eliminate all the vital migratory bird species data and site usage in the fall.”

Bats and the mounting kills seen at turbine sites are a concern but Stantec again designed its work for this power project to find no risk, the author says. “After all this lengthy Stantec discussion and distorted reasoning, this planned bat survey was designed to miss what is probably the most utilized and most important bat habitat located in the project site. Bats are attracted to wetlands and bodies of water because of the abundance of insects. Look at the image below and note the two reds circles. ”

The author provides a map that shows where the bat habitat is, and the study area done by Stantec.

The company’s post-operational survey work is deeply flawed too, the author says, and refers to work done at Wolfe Island, which is now known as a wind power project with one of the highest kill rates for birds in North America. But could the numbers be higher still?

The author of this paper says Stantec’s insistence on checking for carcasses very near to the turbines is giving false numbers: “The Wolfe Island studies conducted by Stantec reported hundreds of carcasses with just several reported beyond 50 meters. I believe the furthest carcasses distance reported was 59 meters. For 400 ft tall turbines this is not reality and it is simply not possible. What is possible is that 50-80% of the carcasses were not reported and this was never disclosed. The wind industry’s own data proves that any carcass hit by a turbine blade has a much better than 50/50 odds or 1 of 2 chance of this carcass landing at a distance beyond a turbines blade length.

Community groups who know their environment well have insisted that the wildlife studies being done are not realistic. On Amherst Island, for example, where more than 30 endangered or at-risk species shelter and where many thousands of migratory birds stop, the risk was determined to be negligible. In the Niagara area, the presence of a known Blandings Turtle habitat was dismissed, and the power project approved.

Once again, it appears that Ontario and the wind power industry — both well funded — are counting on citizens not to have the expertise or the resources to present the truth about wind power projects, and danger to the natural environment.

Read the paper here.

 

Wind power: Ontario’s high-cost “millstone”

“Wind wastes other clean supply and devalues exports.”

Ontario should reconsider its commitment to wind, policy consultant Marc Brouilette says. Two-thirds of Ontario’s wind output is surplus. [Photo Gary Moon]

In a stunning commentary published yesterday by the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy, energy policy consultant Marc Brouilette says that Ontario’s wind power program is an expensive adventure that does not achieve any of its goals for the environment or economic prosperity, and is in fact, making things worse.

At a cost of $1.5 billion in 2015, Brouillette says, the fact that wind power generation is completely out of sync with demand in Ontario results in added costs for constrained generation form other sources. Constrained nuclear and hydro cost $300 million that year, and a further $200 million in costs was incurred due to “avoided” natural gas generation.

And, the power isn’t even getting to the people who need it. “[O]nly one-half of total provincial wind output makes it to the Central Region and the GTA where most of Ontario’s electricity demand exists,” Brouillette states.

All things considered, wind costs more than $410 per megawatt hour, which is four times the average cost of electricity in Ontario. This is being charged to Ontario’s electricity customers, at an increasing rate.

Ontario should reconsider its commitment to more wind, Brouillette concludes: “these challenges will increase if Ontario proceeds to double wind capacity to the projected ~6,500 MW.”

Wynne government “let people down” on wind turbine noise

Thousands of noise complaints remain unresolved in Ontario.

Home in Huron County. [Photo Gary Moon]
In the current edition of Ontario Farmer is this story by writer John Miner.

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change received thousands of formal complaints from people living near industrial wind turbines, but did little about it, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to wind farm development is charging.

“People really trusted the government and they were let down,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario.

Two years after filing a Freedom of Information request for summaries of noise complaints received by the ministry, Wind Concerns Ontario was provided 450 pages* covering the period 2006 to 2014.

In that period, the Ministry logged 3,180 complaints with people reporting they were suffering from sleep disturbance, headaches, dizziness and other illnesses.

Some people said they had been unable to sleep for days, sometimes weeks.

In some cases, the Ministry arbitrarily dismissed complaints. In others, they closed the file without investigating if the complainant quit calling, Wilson said.

No action to revise regulations

In a 27-page report based  on the documents released, Wind Concerns Ontario said there is absolutely no indication that the Ministry took the complaints seriously, and took any steps to review and revise existing regulations and processes. based on real-life experiences of the people of Ontario.

Responding to the report, a Ministry spokesperson said in an emailed statement that they take all complaints seriously and follow up to ensure that the facility is in compliance with all provincial requirements.

“Our priority is to protect public health and the environment by promoting and ensuring compliance with ministry rules and requirements,” the Ministry Statement said.

Wilson said Ministry staff in the early days attempted to investigate noise complaints and sometimes recommended action be taken against the wind farm, but that was overruled by more senior staff.

Computer modeling, not real-life measurement

As the complaints piled up, the Ministry started to rely ion computer modeling provided by wind farm companies to determine if there might be a basis for a complaint, the report found.

“They kept saying, we went too the power developer and according to the predictive noise modeling this can’t be happening and therefore it isn’t, and took no action,” Wilson said.

A standard adopted by the Ministry based on information from wind farm developers was that no one could hear a wind turbine beyond 1,500 metres. Therefore, there was no need to respond to a complaint if more distance was involved.

Ministry staff were not allowed to investigate complaints at night and when there was high humidity. The equipment they had for measuring noise could not be used when temperatures were below zero degrees Celsius.

“We don’t blame the staff in any way. Some of the officers really seemed to want to help,” Wilson said.

Wind Concerns Ontario is calling on the Ontario government to halt wind farm approvals and adopt tougher noise standards.

Wind Concerns Ontario also hopes to be able to meet with Ontario Minister of the Environment Glen Murray to discuss the report.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: the 450 pages were Master Incident files, comprised of files with multiple Incident Reports, some as many as 90 reports of excessive noise, vibration, and health effects

 

 

MOECC staff knows about wind turbine health effects, WCO tells Minister

Environment Minister says health concerns “bogus” — staff acknowledge health problems in official records

Home in Huron County: the Minister says claims of health effects from turbine noise are “bogus” but his staff say different [Photo Gary Moon]
Last week, following a report by Global News based on information obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario, there was a barrage of questions in Question Period at Queen’s Park on wind power projects and related issues, including reports of adverse health effects from exposure to the noise emissions from the power generators.

In response to a question from MPP Laurie Scott of Haliburton-Kawartha-Brock, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray tossed back:

This government spent a considerable amount of money hiring the leading experts and doing medical research, as did the federal government, and found out the totality of the opposition party’s claims were completely bogus and like so much, not science-based.

In fact, the “science” the Minister Murray refers to, including the Health Canada study, supports concerns about adverse health effects from wind turbine noise, and the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario produced a brief review in 2010 that concluded that there were significant gaps in the information available at that time (seven years ago) and that actual noise measurement was needed.

But what the Minister seems not to know, says Wind Concerns Ontario, is that his own staff are aware of people experiencing health effects from wind turbine noise, according to official staff notes included in the information received n the Freedom of Information request. That information consisted of 3,180 Incident Reports and 100 Master Incident reports; several of the Master files contain dozens of reports to the government about the turbine noise and vibration, and include staff observations.

“It is very disturbing that a Minister of the Crown could be so dismissive of the health concerns of Ontario citizens,” Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson wrote in a letter to Minister Murray, sent yesterday. “While the view that there is no link between wind turbine noise emissions and any health effects may be that of the wind power development industry and its trade association, it is not supported by the Master Incident complaint records that your Ministry released to Wind Concerns Ontario via a request under Freedom of Information legislation.”

Of the 100 Master files, 59 contain specific reference to health complaints, Wilson said, chiefly loss of sleep, headache, and feelings of “pressure.” Some people reported not having slept for weeks, due to the noise.

“It is therefore completely inaccurate to say that there are no health effects from wind turbine noise in Ontario,” Wind Concerns advised the Minister.

In several records, staff noted that wind turbine noise exceeded regulations: ““Staff have attended at the complainants homes on multiple occasions … noise measurements were obtained…subjective observations were made by Provincial Officers…the conclusion of the POs were that the noise emissions from the wind turbines were causing an adverse effect contrary to S. 14 (1) of the EPA at the complainants locations…”

““…the conclusions of the Provincial Officers who conducted the inspections that the sound discharged into the natural environment by the wind turbines would cause an adverse effect…” was the staff note in another official record.

Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of 30 community groups and individuals and families, is asking that no new Renewable Energy Approvals be granted to wind power projects — five projects received contracts in 2016 but which do not have approval yet from the Environment Ministry.

“You have to ask why the government is treating the wind power industry and these huge corporations differently from other businesses,” Wilson says. “If this were any other product or service, with thousands of complaints, there would be a halt to exposure… instead, the Ontario government refers to the wind corporations as its ‘client’. We think the government should answer to the people of Ontario.”