Why complaints about wind turbine noise are important (and why Ontario is failing to use an important public health tool)

February 21, 2019

Many organizations act on consumer or user complaints because they know those complaints are an important indicator of the success — or failure — of a product or program.  The Ontario government now has records of thousands of complaints dating back to 2006 regarding excessive noise and shadow flicker or strobe effect. The detailed files on these complaints, which contain notes by Provincial Officers with the ministry of the environment, also contain comments on adverse health effects stemming from exposure to the noise emissions.

While organizations like Health Canada act on reports of adverse effects from medications or problems with medical devices, the Ontario government instead maintains all complaints about wind turbines under the environment ministry and, to the best of our knowledge, does not even share these complaints and records with the provincial health ministry.

An article titled “Wind Turbine Incident/Complaint Reports in Ontario, Canada” was published recently in an international open-access library; the paper reviews the Ontario situation in the context of other public health reporting tools, and refers to documents Wind Concerns Ontario received via requests made via Freedom of Information legislation.

Conclusion? Ontario instituted a complaint process with the purpose of assuring citizens health and safety will be protected … but they’re not using it.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Documentation of citizen noise reports received from the government shows that in the beginning, staff of the province’s environment ministry made an attempt (though apparently without resolution) to respond to the reports of excessive noise and other effects of wind turbine noise emissions. This may have conflicted with the government’s “green energy” policy as the efforts appear to have changed from response to issues management as the response rate to complaints declined to 6.9 percent in 2015-2016, from 40 percent in 2006-2014 ([9], p. 4).


Copies of staff training materials in Ontario which were received in the  [Wind Concerns Ontario] FOI request show that employees were given specific directions from management as to what action, if any, to take. For example, in one PowerPoint training session, staff was directed not to treat wind turbine noise as tonal (
[9], p. 9). It is possible the reason for this, could have been that according to the government noise measurement protocol, a 5 dBA penalty would have to be applied to noise measurements in the case of tonal or cyclical noise emissions, in which case a turbine might have been found non-compliant with regulations.


Notes from staff in summary reports of Incident Reports also indicated that staff recommendations to middle and upper management to issue orders for
noise abatement or other actions were ignored (
[10], p. 12). It appears that the process of filing wind turbine Incident Reports and its purpose for addressing concerns about effects on health and safety may have resulted in more reports than expected and may have been dissonant with stated
government policy objectives to promote “green” energy.

Read the full article, here.

 

Cut red tape, enforce wind turbine noise rules: WCO to Ford government

Ontario rural residents caught on a ‘hamster wheel’ of emails and phone calls to government, and endless testing for wind turbine noise — but nothing ever gets done

February 18, 2019

One of the cost-cutting initiatives of the now eight-month-old Ontario government is the “Red Tape Reduction” plan, spearheaded by Government and Consumer Services Minister Todd Smith.

Last week, Wind Concerns Ontario wrote to Minister Smith (who is also the MPP for Prince Edward County where citizens have been fighting wind power projects for over 10 years) to suggest that reviewing to wind turbine noise compliance protocol and actually enforcing Ontario’s noise regulations could go a long way to cutting “red tape.”

“The Compliance Protocol for Wind Turbine Noise is a costly and ineffective process,” Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson wrote in a letter that accompanied a box of printouts of noise complaints and Master Incident Report summaries that are government records collected since 2006. “Rather than requiring the project operators to address complaints to the satisfaction of local residents, the focus of enforcement has shifted to proving compliance with audible noise levels using this protocol. While the original Ministry compliance actions were focused on the actual complaints about the project, the new compliance process has no direct connection to the complaints registered with the Ministry about the turbine operations.”

“That is complex and costly for both the government and the power operators,” Wilson said.

This process is incredibly problematic, Wind Concerns Ontario asserts: staff time is being used to receive and respond to complaints coming in to the Ministry via its complaints tracking process (the Spills Action Centre and District Offices), staff is involved in liaising with wind power operators over the audit process, and now, an enormous backlog of long overdue audit reports is also being dealt with by staff. And meanwhile, complaints about the adverse effects created by wind turbine projects are not being resolved.

“This is the very definition of inefficiency,” Wilson said.

In one example provided to the MInister, a family in the Windsor area has been complaining about wind turbine noise and adverse health effects for more than eight years. According to documents received via Freedom of Information request, in one year the family had more than 50 interactions with government staff, staff with staff, and staff with the power operator. Ministry staff made two site visits with no action taken. Meanwhile, one member of the family visited the family’s doctor multiple times and underwent diagnostic testing including MRIs and acoustic testing, all of which place a burden on Ontario’s healthcare system.

“The fact is, the government and the power operators are relying on this protocol instead of listening to resident’s actual complaints, some of which clearly indicate the presence of other than audible noise. These complaints need to be addressed, the noise emissions need to stop, and the enormous cost to the people of Ontario can be identified,” said Wilson.

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Nation Rise wind power project not in the “public interest” –petition launched

Rushed approval, outdated noise assessment and significant environmental risks to power project spur community to file a petition

February 8, 2019

The community group Concerned Citizens of North Stormont have launched a petition for their MPP Jim McDonell to take to the Ontario Legislature within days. The petition says the 100-megawatt wind power project is not “in the public interest” and its Renewable Energy Approval should be revoked.

The community group has also filed a direct appeal with the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

Why?

Nation Rise means more cost added everyone’s electricity bills.
It was approved using outdated and flawed noise assessment protocols.
It will expose hundreds of people to wind turbine noise emissions.
There are very serious environmental concerns with the project.
And,
its approval was rushed through before the election by the Wynne government, without adequate assessments.
Parker Gallant says the power from this project will be like a “fly on the flank of an elephant” — we don’t need to pay the $450 million for this power plant. Profits from the wind power project will go to interests in Portugal, the U.S., and China.
Let’s stop this thing.
Please sign the attached petition and mail it to their MPP Jim McDonell, as soon as you can. Today, if possible.
Let’s have no more personal and environmental damage done to us all by industrial wind turbines.
Thank you
Jane Wilson
President
WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO
P.S. If you can help further by printing this off or emailing it to your network of friends and family, please do.

Wind company ‘gag’ orders hide the truth

 

In a recent article by the Anderson County Review, the conclusion on the non-disclosure clauses or “gag” clauses in wind turbine leases (property owners lease their land to wind power developers for terms of 20 years and more) was that the wind power corporations want silence from the leaseholders because, as the writer says, “If you control the smoke, there is no evidence of a fire.”

Leaseholders or “lessors” as they are called in the contracts, are prevented from revealing or discussing anything to do with the turbine operations on their land for the term of the lease, and that includes noise, flashing lights, the results of any noise testing — everything.

In Ontario, this came up a few years ago over the question of the disturbed water wells in North Kent. The landowners with turbines were probably affected too if vibrations from construction and operation was causing sediment to enter and clog wells, but they can’t say anything about it. The new leader of Water Wells First said last week she “knows there are more wells out there” beyond the 20 or so that are so badly affected they cannot be used.

The question arose, is this an obstacle to public health surveillance? The answer was that individual citizens would have to spend money taking the multi-billion-dollar wind corporations to court to establish that.

Here is the Anderson County Review article:

The wind may blow free, but the use of gag orders in lease agreements and easements that force property owners to keep their mouths shut about the realities they endure as sites for those giant wind turbines makes information flow anything but.

That’s critical in this fat cat, tax-credit fueled industry which, more and more, depends on secrecy as much as it does a steady breeze. Wind farm developers like to point to thousands of lease holders at projects across the country and how few complaints they have about their gigantic neighbors, but they never mention the source of all that satisfaction – prosecution and financial ruination due to gag clauses in those signed leases and easement agreements. Indeed, where you can keep control of the smoke, there’s no evidence of a fire.
Keeping tight control of information and particularly criticism from eye-witnesses is allowing wind companies like those moving against targets in Linn and Neosho counties and other rural communities in Kansas to go about their business without interference from public regulatory authorities and other outsiders who want to chronicle precisely how much damage is being done by wind turbines. Silenced victims suffer for their property, their environment and their own health. But the gag orders that bind those lease holders are clear: Speak up, particularly to the media, and not only will your lease payments disappear but we’ll sue you – and we’ll still have a 55-story tall tower on your land which you can’t stop us from operating.
Perhaps the most damning casualty of this secrecy is in the kibosh it has put to extended research on Wind Turbine Syndrome, a health condition identified among many people living near wind turbines and believed to be caused by light flicker from the moving blades, fluctuations in air pressure as those blades move past their base tower and low-frequency noise they produce. In her book “Wind Turbine Syndrome: A report on a natural experiment,” Dr. Nina Pierpont conducted extensive clinical interviews with 10 families living near wind farm turbines both in the U.S. and abroad. The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine-trained pediatrician discovered a striking uniformity of complaints from these families – migraine, motion sickness, vertigo, noise and visual and gastrointestinal sensitivity, and anxiety. Between the time of her interviews and the final publication of the book, nine of the ten families had fled their homes for residences away from wind farms, and a 10th who couldn’t afford to move did extensive renovations to their house in an attempt to defeat the pressure and frequency issues, and had reduced air flow inside the home to the point it was now hard to heat.
A full-on epidemiological study however will probably never be done – one that correlates the common symptoms Pierpont identified and possible causes like setback from a turbine and what aspects of exposure to measure – because the bulk of the study subjects are all gagged.
“Better Plan Wisconsin” is a wind farm opposition organization in the Badger State which got hold of a wind farm lease from a farmer who’d had enough. The story is nearly identical state to state and lease to lease. Landowners who sign leases or easements can’t discuss noise, vibration, shadow flicker or any disruptions the turbines might cause to their properties. The gag orders stop all discussion regarding the terms of the lease, or the construction or operation of the turbines, as well as speaking to reporters or to anyone in the media or issuing statements or press releases without the written permission of the wind company. Then there’s this jewel:
“This section shall survive the termination of expiration of this lease,” meaning the gag order survives forever, even after the lease is terminated. Under the threat of litigation, you are gagged for life.
Still, impoverished county leaders and farmers embrace the promise of lease payments and payments in lieu of taxes (Kansas wind farms are exempt from property taxes, unlike other power plants), ignoring the deafening silence coming from those signed to the lease agreements.
Yes, silence is golden. That’s just how the wind companies want it.
– Dane Hicks is publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan.

North Stormont citizen appeal dismissed

Courage undiminished in community resolute to protect the environment and health

New information on environmental and health effects of wind turbines was presented in the appeal. It wasn’t enough in a system stacked in favour of the developers. [Photo: Wind Concerns Ontario]
January 6, 2018

Although the people of North Stormont, just south of Ottawa, introduced many new concerns about wind turbine construction and operation –including evidence that has never before been presented at an appeal in Ontario –it wasn’t enough to meet the strategically constructed impossible test set up by the Green Energy Act.

The onus is on a community to prove that the power project “will cause” serious harm to human health and “will cause serious and irreversible harm” to the environment.

Never mind that the huge turbines will be built on what the province has designated a “highly vulnerable aquifer”.

Never mind that some of the turbines could be constructed and operate on unstable soil conditions including Leda or “quick” clay, in an earthquake zone. No seismic evaluations were ordered, or done.

Never mind the fact that two engineers testified about wind turbine failures in Ontario and the dangers of blade failure and ice throw. (The Tribunal’s answer to that was, OK, sure, maybe, but nobody has died yet, have they?)

Never mind that there are records of thousands of reports of excessive noise, sleep disturbance and adverse health effects filed with the Ontario government.

It is a credit to the people of rural Ontario that in the face of moneyed interests, a public service that is still entrenched in the previous Liberal government’s unfounded green energy ideology, and a set-up system stacked against people and communities (to say nothing of the environment), that they continue to fight.

The people of North Kent still want action on the damage done to their water wells; the people of Prince Edward County are still fighting to have an unnecessary and now cancelled wind power project actually removed; the people of Ontario living with turbines continue to file reports of excessive noise, despite government inaction.

And the people of North Stormont have vowed to fight on.

“We couldn’t just sit back and let the project go up without fighting it,” community group leader Margaret Benke told the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder in an interview. “We have options open to us, and that is the direction we’ll be going in now.”

Read the decision by the Environmental Review Tribunal here: http://elto.gov.on.ca/tribunals/ert/decisions-orders/  Case 018-028

Please help.

To contribute to the legal fight in North Stormont use GoFundMe here: https://ca.gofundme.com/stop-wind-turbines-in-northstormont

Or send a cheque to the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont in care of Wind Concerns Ontario, PO Box 509 250 Wellington Main Street, Wellington ON  K0K 3L0.

 

Acknowledge wind turbine health impacts: environmental health specialist to Ford government

Doctor reviews ‘potential hazards’ of exposure to wind turbine emissions

Dr. Riina Bray

December 11, 2018

A physician who is a specialist in environmental health has written a letter to the Ontario government demanding action on the health impacts of Ontario’s industrial-scale or utility-scale wind turbines,

Dr. Riina Bray, Director of the environmental Health clinic at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital, listed various health impacts from wind turbine noise emissions and electricity issues, providing background resources for her statements. Her comments were directed specifically at the Niagara Region wind power project but are applicable throughout Ontario.

Dr. Bray said research has shown that noise emissions and other products of wind turbine operation can have multiple effects on human health.

“This cumulative effect of these various health impacting factors combined with the prevalence of IWTs across the province suggest that significant steps at various levels and in various areas need to be taken to:

1) widely acknowledge the potential risks that IWTs represent

2) fully respond to the thousands of demonstrated complaints of adverse effects of IWTs across the province

3) carefully measure noise, infrasound, and electromagnetic emissions in and around all of Ontario’s IWT installations

4) follow mitigative steps around electromagnetic pollution (high frequency distortion, ground current/stray voltage) as suggested by the wind industry’s own publications and by other noninvested experts

5) re-site IWTs to other locations without human populations when mitigation cannot be effectively undertaken.”

Dr. Bray, who is also an assistant professor in community health at the University of Toronto, concluded that “The risks for the short and long-term health of Ontarians of not undertaking such mitigating and remediating steps is significant.”

The letter was addressed to Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West, several medical officers of health in Ontario, and officials at Hydro One Networks.

Read the letter here: Riina_Bray_IWT_Niagara

 

North Stormont property value loss in the millions from wind farm: Wind Concerns Ontario

Margaret Benke of Concerned Citizens of North Stormont with a map of homes in the Nation Rise project area. [Photo: Wind Concerns Ontario]
December 5, 2018

Homeowners in North Stormont stand to make a big sacrifice to “green” energy if the proposed “Nation Rise” wind power project is constructed, says Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of community groups and Ontario families.

Using research completed recently by a land economist with the University of Guelph and published in Land Economics, Wind Concerns calculates that overall, the property loss for houses within 5 km of the 33 planned turbines could be $87.8 million. Using other research that is less conservative, however, the property value loss could be more than $140 million.

Research done in 2016 by the partnership of Clarkson University and Nanos Research on U.S properties with a view of Wolfe Island wind turbines showed an overall property value loss of 15 per cent for homes “with a view” of the turbines. Older research done by Ontario real estate appraiser Ben Lansink in 2012 found a more dramatic reduction for properties closest to turbines, an average loss of 37 per cent.

University of Guelph associate professor Richard Vyn found a property value loss in communities opposed to wind power projects of 8.98 percent for houses within 2 km of turbines, and 8.62 per cent for properties within 4 km, post-construction of turbines.

For the Nation Rise power project, there are 828 properties within 1,500 metres of turbines according to the wind power developer, Portugal-based EDP, and approximately 2,500 residences within 2 to 5 km of the turbines, according to community group Concerned Citizens of North Stormont.

The houses within 1,500 metres of a turbine in the “Nation Rise” project could see a loss of $21.8 million using professor Vyn’s estimate, $37 million according to Clarkson-Nanos, or as much as $91 million in losses using Mr. Lansink’s calculations.

The community group has appealed the project approval on the basis of environmental, safety and health concerns, and is worried about the effect of turbine construction on the water supply, which could be an additional factor in property value loss.

Wind power proponents and Ontario’s municipal assessment agency have maintained that there is no appreciable property value loss, but an energy commentator wrote in Forbes magazine in 2015 that “there’s a heavily funded public relations machine to make Americans think that wind power doesn’t impact property values.”

“Renewable energy and the ‘environment’ are big businesses and they include not just energy producing companies but also various agencies, interest groups, and even university researchers,” Jude Clemente wrote. “Their grant money and careers are at stake.”

Clemente added that “Many members of the Real Estate and Appraisal businesses, however, have been clear that wind power DOES impact property values … it would seem to me that these groups have no vested interest in supporting wind power or not supporting it.”

A decision is expected on the Nation Rise project appeal in the first week of January, 2019.

Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) says Ontario has an adequate supply of power until 2035. The 20-year contract for the Nation Rise project will cost Ontario more than $450 million.

 

#properties Value at $300K each Estimated loss – Vyn 8.8% Estimated loss-Clarkson-Nanos/Lansink 15%
3,328 $998.4 Million $87.8 million $140.7 million

 

Wind Concerns Ontario www.windconcernsontario.ca

Sources

Richard Vyn, “Property Value Impacts of Wind Turbines and the Influence of Attitudes toward Wind Energy”, Land Economics. http://le.uwpress.org/content/94/4/496.abstract?etoc

Clarkson-Nanos: http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/news03/clarkson-study-henderson-could-lose-40-million-in-property-value-from-galloo-island-wind-project–20160405

Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/judeclemente/2015/09/23/do-wind-turbines-lower-property-values/#4ea0a2d148cb

Lansink: http://www.lansinkappraisals.com/downloads/CaseStudy_DiminutionInValue_InjuriousAffection_WindTurbines.pdf

Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner absent on wind power environmental problems

House at Belle River: Wind Concerns Ontario asked the ECO for a systemic review of problems with wind turbine noise. No action was taken.

December 1, 2018

Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner or “ECO,” lawyer Dianne Saxe, sent out a Tweet on Friday to say that in spite of the fact her office is being folded into that of the Ombudsman for Ontario, and her own position is disappearing, for the moment, she will continue to monitor for compliance with environmental regulations.

Unless the problems relate to wind power, of course.

On that issue, Ms. Saxe, a former member of the board of directors for Toronto’s Exhibition Place wind turbine, is notably and consistently missing.

In 2016, Wind Concerns Ontario wrote a long, detailed letter to the ECO, after receipt of records of more than 4,000 complaints of excessive noise from wind turbines. In the Master Incident Reports we received — detailed reports prepared by Provincial Officers — there were more than a few reports of adverse health effects being experienced by the people filing complaints with the environment ministry. By our count in the records from 2006 to the end of 2016, 35 percent of the master reports contains explicit mention of adverse health effects. This did NOT include the reports made in the small hours of the night when one might logically conclude that callers were experiencing sleep disturbance.

We wrote to the ECO:

We request that the Environmental Commissioner’s office undertake a full broad review of systemic issues related to the MOECC’s management of the implementation of the Green Energy Act. From our perspective, the documentation shows a complete failure to take accountability for its legislated responsibilities.  At the same time, there is clear evidence that the legislation and rules currently used in relations to wind turbines are not sufficient to protect the health of nearby residents. We hope that you will give a priority to this review as the Ministry is continuing to process approvals for new wind turbine projects based on a set of regulations that are clearly inadequate. 

We also attended a meeting at Queen’s Park in 2016, organized by then Opposition environment critic MPP Lisa Thompson, to present these concerns. The ECO response? Priorities for the office are set well in advance, they only deal with a few things a year. You’re not on the list, have a nice day.

A major concern has always been her pro-wind power bias. I the recent report Making Connections, the ECO addresses the problems of wind turbines and has this response (page 153):

Many reasons have been given for opposing wind farms, including a powerfully held belief that wind turbines are harmful to human health, often because of turbine noise. All of the 46 wind projects appealed to the ERT have used serious harm to human health as one of the grounds for appeal.12 After extensive expert evidence, and having considered numerous studies from around the globe, the ERT has consistently dismissed appeals based on alleged harm to human health. The sole exception was the Fairview wind project in Simcoe County, which was proposed to be located too close to the Collingwood airport, thus affecting aviation safety. The noise impacts of wind on people are controlled through noise limits in the REAs, and through mandatory setbacks established by the Environmental Protection Act.

So, despite the multitude of complaints of excessive noise, vibration/sensation and shadow flicker or strobe effect which clearly indicated a problem that was not being resolved, the ECO maintains that wind turbine operations in Ontario are being properly monitored and that the existing protocols are adequate for protection.

We disagree.

 

 

Environment ministry lawyer avoids reality in Tribunal arguments

You expect lawyers to defend their clients. But shouldn’t a government lawyer always act in the public interest?

November 29, 2018

Last Friday in Toronto, the appeal against the Renewable Energy Approval for the “Nation Rise” wind power project—an appeal launched and funded by the community—heard closing arguments from the citizens’ group appealing the approval, the multi-billion-dollar Portuguese wind power developer, and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

The latter was represented by Ottawa-based lawyer Paul McCulloch. His job is to defend the Wynne government’s hasty approval of the 100-megawatt power project, south of Ottawa.

Question: Should a government lawyer not be also responsible for defending the residents of North Stormont from the adverse effects caused by a wind power project?

What happened though, was that Mr. McCulloch made astonishing comments in response to evidence brought forward on the risk to human health.

Mr. McCulloch alleged that “no” wind power project has ever been tested and found out of compliance in Ontario. This is patently false. To name just one example, the Unifor turbine in Port Elgin has resulted in hundreds of noise reports, it was found out of compliance and is now under a power reduction order and noise abatement plan (though noise complaints have not stopped).

Similarly, there were many noise reports for the Melancthon wind power project between 2006 and 2009, that the environment ministry did inspections and testing and concluded “the sound discharged into the natural environment from the wind turbines would cause an adverse effect.” * The company was ordered to reduce noise levels, and remodel several of the turbines; when that was not entirely successful, the ministry further worked with the operator to employ a noise abatement plan and in 2011, implemented a “noise reduced operating plan” according to a ministry report obtained under Freedom of Information request by Wind Concerns Ontario.

So, yes, turbines have been found out of compliance and abatement orders issued; the reality is, many others are caught up in a seemingly endless round of audible noise testing through a flawed protocol.

Mr. McCulloch also dismissed government records of complaints from residents presented by Wind Concerns Ontario as evidence of problems and especially adverse effects from wind turbine emissions, saying no conclusions can be drawn from self-reported complaints.  However, “assessment” of noise/adverse effects complaints has not been a requirement of the process, so there would not be such records of medical opinions. And the ministry doesn’t follow up on reports of adverse effects, or even refer them to the Ministry of Health. The MOECC (now MECP) also does not collect information on academic credentials of the people as part of the complaint tracking process. The reality is, trained healthcare and medical professionals are among those who have filed complaints about the impact of wind turbines on their health, and others have had their assessments confirmed by healthcare professionals.

Government lawyer Mr. McCulloch, however, essentially stated that unless people registering complaints with the MECP provide medical proof, their reports are of no consequence. Does this mean that the thousands of provincial records of noise complaints are meaningless? That adverse health effects being reported to government are ignored? That is a terrible message for the people of rural Ontario.

Mr. McCulloch’s comments may also have undermined a community health investigation being carried out at the request of Huron County citizens, funded by Ontario taxpayers. The investigation was initiated by public health officials in the Huron County Health Unit in response to clusters of health complaints related to wind turbines. It is being carried out under authority of the Ontario Health Promotion and Protection Act.

But now, is all hope for this project dashed? At the hands of a government lawyer? Mr. McCulloch, a public servant, demeaned the investigation process and criticized the fact that it relied on information solicited from “volunteers.” By “volunteers” he meant Ontario citizens, the same citizens who have been dutifully filing complaints with the environment ministry since 2006, with little or no action.

Contrary to Mr. McCulloch’s remarks on the methodology in the investigation, it is modeled on the Health Canada community study, and received ethics approval from a university. Various challenges in the community (non-disclosure clauses in wind turbine lease agreements, distrust of more “study,” and despair at the lack of government action) have led to a lower participation level than expected by the investigating health professionals.

In recent weeks, the Medical Officer of Health and the staff epidemiologist have been in the media, renewing invitations for citizens to participate.

Who will participate in that important ongoing community health project now? Speaking apparently on behalf of the government, lawyer McCulloch essentially said any results will mean nothing to the MECP.

The lawyer also told the Tribunal that current Ontario setbacks and noise limits reflect the “consensus view” of the impact of wind turbines on health. That statement purposely ignores a report prepared by the Council of Canadian Academies for the federal government that demonstrated the basic measurement tool Ontario uses to assess wind turbine noise is inadequate, as well as the report issued by the Australian Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbine Noise, and recent announcements from the World Health Organization recommending a more stringent noise standard for wind turbines in Europe than is used in Ontario.

Mr. McCulloch’s statements to the Environment Review Tribunal were misleading.

The environment ministry should clarify his remarks immediately, in order for the Tribunal to be informed with the truth.

 

WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO

*Master Incident Report 7465-8KCC68, pages 2-3

For information on the Huron County community investigation: https://www.huronhealthunit.ca/reports-and-statistics/investigations/wind-turbine-study/

 

Properties near wind turbines lose value, says land economist

A new study confirms the loss of property value near industrial-scale or utility-scale wind power projects, but flaws in the methodology don’t show just how bad the situation really is

November 28, 2018

University of Guelph associate professor Richard Vyn sent along his recent paper on wind turbines and property values, published in the current issue of Land Economics.

The paper, titled “Property Value Impacts of Wind Turbines and the Influence of Attitudes toward Wind Energy,” concludes with this paragraph:

“The results of this study provide strong evidence that wind turbines in Ontario have negatively impacted surrounding property values. The results also demonstrate that these impacts increase with the number of turbines in close proximity. Hence, this study adds to the evidence contributed by more recent empirical studies that wind facilities can impact property values.”

Mr. Vyn structured his study around the notion of comparing property values between willing communities and “unwilling host” communities as a way of examining the effect of “different attitudes toward wind energy.”

His supposition was that the “nature of turbine impacts … may be influenced by attitudes…” In fact, he writes, he investigates whether the “increase in concerns expressed publicly and through the media have contributed to a greater impact on property values.”

For property values in the “opposed municipalities,” Vyn estimates property value loss is 5.61% to 9.10% during the announcement period for a wind power project, and 7.93% to 9.42% in the post-construction period.

Citizen opposition a factor

The author blames citizen opposition and media attention to negative attitudes. Media attention due to active opposition by “grassroots organizations such as Wind Concerns Ontario,” he says, so impacts on health and property values have been covered in the media with the result that “This media attention, which has increased substantially in recent years, may have influenced attitudes toward wind energy and perceptions of turbine impacts.”

So, which is the chicken and which is the egg?  The thousands of official government records of reports of noise emissions from wind turbines, adverse health effects, disturbed or failed water wells, and shadow flicker or strobe effect have nothing whatever to do with property value, it may just be down to citizen groups expressing opposition?

The word “noise” is not mentioned in the paper. Neither is the fact that leaseholders must acknowledge the negative impacts of wind turbines and sign a non-disclosure agreement. And, the study area was of “mature” wind power projects in which it must be acknowledged that people experiencing the worst effects have probably already left?

Expired sales omitted

We asked an accredited professional in real estate valuation to review the paper. His findings are summarized here.

Willing vs. unwilling: The bifurcation between willing and unopposed communities is artificial, and supposes that there will be minimal effects on value in willing communities. The fact is, almost every wind power project in Ontario—including those in the unorganized communities in Ontario’s North—was opposed to the extent that citizens took steps to appeal the projects and in many cases, also proceeded to court.

Flawed supporting studies: Among others, the author cites the Heintzelmann, Vyn and Guth study of properties on Wolfe Island, which was based on MPAC data, but “ignores key information from MLS sources which clearly demonstrate an active market on the east of the island where there are no turbines, and stagnant market conditions typified by expired listings and no sales on the west end among the turbines. Had the researchers looked at the geographic location of the sales data they used in relation to the wind turbines, it would have been immediately clear that the turbines were stifling the market on the west half of the island. Instead, they took it as a data set and did ‘hedonic magic’ to reach a conclusion that was clearly at odds with reality.”

Treatment of turbine impact: A “weakness in the study is found in the pooling of sales by wind farm leading to aggregation of impacts. Usually this results in an average and, given that there are fewer sales in close proximity to wind turbines—for obvious reasons—the average [property value loss] would tend to be lower, given the larger number of sales at greater distance from the turbines. The admission of a weak market close to the turbines says a lot … but the obvious conclusion is ignored by the author.”

The story is in the sales: “It is clear from the study that proximity to wind turbines dampens market activity and lowers property value but there is no support for the blame the victim aspect of their conclusions. As a result of pooling data, it is likely that the magnitude of property value loss is seriously understated.”

No credentials: Finally, our analyst comments that the author has no credentials in real estate or in the professional practice of valuation. “As a result, the analysis of the real estate market is without weight.”

 

For our part, while we are happy to see research into the negative economic impacts of industrial-scale or utility-scale wind power projects, this study didn’t go far enough, or use methodology that would really address the issues.

Once again, the fundamental belief seems to be that there is something wrong with the idea of people objecting to the presence of industrial-scale wind turbines. Again, the word “noise” is not mentioned. The Ontario Real Estate Association Seller Information sheet has a question pertaining to the existence of any plans near a property to be sold for quarries, garbage dumps, or wind turbines. So, the “disamenity” or reason why people would value the property less is noise and construction activity for quarries, and smell and again noise and truck traffic for a garbage dump. But for wind turbines, the author alleges the only possible reason could be how the turbines look and the possible negative influence of information from citizen groups in opposition.

In other words, the author doesn’t believe there could be any rationale for an objection to living near 500-foot noisy industrial structures.

Giant pro-wind PR machine

We are sorry to say that this paper appears to be yet another volley in what environment writer Jude Clemente said in Forbes magazine said is “a heavily funded public relations machine to make Americans think that wind power doesn’t impact property values, and it’s every bit as influential as the ‘Big Oil’ the anti-fossil fuel movement purports to be so against.”

“Many members of the Real Estate and Appraisal businesses, however, have been clear that wind power DOES impact property values,” Clemente concludes. “It would seem to me that these groups have no vested interest in supporting wind power or not supporting it…. Wind’s impact on local property values can no longer be ignored.”

So, while Mr Vyn acknowledges property value loss and impact on Ontario communities from being forced to “host” wind power projects, he does so in such a way as to diminish the effect, while apparently dismissing the valid concerns of residents for the impacts on health, the environment, and the economy.