Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.
Surplus power due to added wind and solar; more cost to consumers
Ontario Power Generation released their March 31, 2015 quarterly results … and the media didn’t notice. Too bad: they are interesting. Here’s what the media missed. (Emphasis is mine.)
Comparable profits dropped $8 million despite slightly higher generation. The press release and quarterly report had a couple of interesting observations with the first one noting: “Ontario’s primary demand was 38.2 TWh during the first quarter of 2015, down slightly from 38.4 TWh during the same quarter of 2014. Baseload supply surplus to Ontario demand continued to increase in 2015 as a result of lower primary demand combined with increased baseload generation mainly from new wind and solar capacity. The surplus to the Ontario market is managed by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), mainly through generation reductions at hydroelectric stations, nuclear stations, and grid-connected renewable resources.”
So Ontario’s ratepayers continued to reduce consumption in one of our coldest winters, at the same time as “new wind and solar capacity” entered the grid. That wind and solar caused IESO to spill clean hydro, Bruce Power to steam off nuclear power, and wind and solar developers to curtail production. All of the latter IESO endeavours, designed to ensure the grid’s stability, added costs to ratepayers by dumping those costs into the Global Adjustment pot.
The next noteworthy item in the OPG report was this: “The financial impact of forgone production due to SBG [surplus baseload generation] conditions at OPG’s regulated hydroelectric stations is offset by a regulatory variance account authorized by the OEB. During the first quarter of 2015, OPG lost 0.3 TWh of hydroelectric generation due to SBG conditions compared to 0.1 TWh during the same period in 2014”.1
Translation: bad management of the electricity sector in Ontario by current and former Energy Ministers! It’s not “enough is enough” to have seen Hydro One’s billing and smart meter debacles cause ratepayers pain due to lack of oversight; no, to make matters worse our Energy Ministers keep adding useless wind generation to the grid increasing our electricity bills.
Here are a few more ways they inflicted pain on Ontario’s ratepayers:
In the first four months of the current year, ratepayers picked up $628 million in costs to sell surplus power to our neighbours in Quebec, New York and Michigan.
Wind production cost about $420 million for the 3.4 terawatts they produced for the first four months of 2015 when it wasn’t needed, and solar will cost as much or more in the current quarter.
We paid gas generators about $450 million in those same four months for being at the ready when the wind didn’t blow or clouds covered the sky.
The OEB reported Ontario had 570,000 households living in energy poverty.
Despite all this, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli has decreed we need another 500 MW of renewable wind and solar generation this year.
Fears about declining property values, health concerns, and environmental protection were among the hot topics discussed at two meetings, a combined meeting of North Frontenac and Addington Highlands Councils on May 11, and a packed public meeting in Denbigh on the afternoon of May 30. The meetings concerned the Northpoint II Wind Energy Center, a proposal by Nextera, a subsidiary of Florida Power and Light, to install approximately 100 wind turbines in Addington Highlands and 50 wind turbines in North Frontenac.
A common concern for many of the folks in attendance at both meetings was property values.
Local realtor Chris Winney spoke about her fear that building a wind farm in the area would drastically hurt real estate values.
“It can be on somebody else’s land and still have an effect on your property. It just cuts down on the number of people who are going to be interested in buying it. If there are fewer people interested in buying it then the value goes down” Winney told council.
Construction on the proposed project, if their bid is successful, is expected to take less than a year to complete, following a longer permitting process that Nextera would have to go through. Ben Faiella, a representative from Nextera was in attendance at the Flinton meeting and explained how Nextera had built a 92 turbine wind farm in Southwestern Ontario last year in about 6 months.
At the Flinton meeting, Dave Winney, a local resident, inquired whether council should hire on a consultant to “look at what has happened in other areas…” and to offer advice.
Addington Highlands Councillor Bill Cox said, “No, this council has not. It costs money and we don’t have it…We don’t have money to give consultants.”
Dan Carruthers, a cottage owner on Ashby Lake in Addington Highlands, then offered his assistance.
“I will personally pay for both a referendum, legal counsel, and any consultants. I will write you a cheque because I see this as an investment in protecting the property investments already made in this region for multiple generations.”
Carruthers went on to say “the only compelling reason I’m hearing for approval of these wind turbines is the ‘community vibrancy fund’ which is a bribe by any other name…it’s a small amount of money relative to what I think is gonna be the negative offset on this place being an attractive area for investment… 90 communities…across Ontario declared themselves ‘not a willing host.’ They’ve gone through this process.
North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins suggested that for them it was too early to bring a consultant into the discussion as they were still waiting on some crucial information.
Councillor Tony Fritsch brought Carruthers $50,000 offer to the Addington Highlands council meeting on May 19. The idea was rejected by a vote of 4-1.
Sarah Miller, an outspoken opponent of turbines, who said “the only control these councils have is right now. Right at the very beginning. If you declare yourself not a willing host you have the control. After that you have zero control. These companies move in and they will do whatever it takes. They are bulldozers. They are steamrollers.”
Another resident said “these cottage people pay the majority of the taxes. If these turbines come, there will be no cottage people.”
Helen Yanch, Councillor for Ward 2 in Addington Highlands spoke about some of the positives of the proposed project. “I know that there are some seniors that have signed up to have one, or two, of these [turbines] on their property and maybe they were thinking of it being an income for them”
A concerned lady in the audience said “I’m interested in property value because I too am a senior and I’m looking at probably in the next while, while all these shenanigans are taking place, having to sell and re-locate and I know, that because of what’s going on, my property value is going to go down…”
Paul Issacs made a request to council to “please, please don’t make your decision based on ‘it’s gonna happen anyway’…I think if you do that you’ve abandoned your responsibilities to represent us.”
“We’re listening.” Reeve Hogg said.
“Personally I don’t have a feeling for what the community thinks yet…” Councillor John Inglis from North Frontenac said.
There was little doubt about what the segment of the community that gathered in Denbigh last Saturday thinks about the project.
Two different speakers, Carmen Krogh and Parker Gallant, took to the microphone to help offer some insight and clarity to a discussion surrounding the possible negatives of having a large wind farm in the area.
Krogh, a retired pharmacist with over 40 years of experience in the health studies, detailed, via an elaborate presentation, some of the possible health effects that residents should be aware of when living close to wind turbines.
“We have got some pretty strong evidence that concludes that our noise levels and our distances [setbacks] currently in Ontario aren’t working very well” Krogh stated.
She explained that both children, and adults, are vulnerable to noise, especially children born pre-term or with a low-birth weight, and that not enough research has been conducted yet to determine what the long-term effects on people living by wind turbines are.
She then spoke about the controversial study published in April of this year by the Council of Canadian Academies stating that the only adverse health effect they could prove connected to wind turbines was ‘chronic annoyance’. Krogh presented articles and studies that defined symptoms such as heart effects, vertigo, headache, sleep disturbance, and other issues that she said are connected to annoyance.
Krogh’s presentation went into detail on the science connected with amplitude modulation, which is the “swishing noise that people hear”, and how it tends to be the main source of the annoyance, along with light flicker from the towers. She also referenced a few accounts of people leaving their homes because of vibrations caused by wind turbines.
Krogh suggested that taking children into consideration is important when trying to find a solution. She also advocated for the government to do vigilance and long-term surveillance monitoring like they do in the pharmaceutical industry and concluded that more research is needed on possible health effects before approving wind farms.
Parker Gallant, a retired banker who had a 33-year career with TD Bank, dissected how we pay for energy in Ontario and suggested that in the last 15 years we’ve seen hydro rates almost triple. He explained how Ontario is currently generating more electricity than it can consume and that the excess power is sold to New York and Quebec and that even when it’s not sold off HydroOne still has to pay the companies that are generating it for the electricity, regardless if the province is using it or not.
Gallant explained that in the first 4 months of this year “Ontario exported over 8 terrawatts of energy that we didn’t need” and how that much energy would be enough to provide “over 900,000 households in Ontario with power for a full year.” His presentation was aimed at the flaws in HydroOne and the Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) that NextEra’s proposal falls under.
The wind turbines that Nextera are proposing for this project can be as tall as 110 metres to the hub, with the blade extending even higher. For comparison, as someone at the Denbigh meeting pointed out, these would be significantly taller than Bon Echo Rock.
The deadline for Nextera to submit their proposal to the IESO for this LRP is September 1st 2015 but they are seeking support from the townships by July 20. The project, if successful, is expected to be up and running by 2019.
Nextera is hosting open houses this coming weekend in Addington Highlands and North Frontenac to explain more about their projec.t The projects are awarded based in part on which company brings in the lowest price to the IESO. There is a 100-point system as part of the bidding process that discounts the proposal price by having support from the local council and a local Aboriginal group.
The Addington Highlands meeting takes place on Friday June 5th at 5pm at Denbigh Hall and a North Frontenac public meeting will take place Saturday June 6th at 10am at Harlowe Hall, followed by a presentation from Nextera.
PORT RYERSE – Port Ryerse residents fighting against wind turbines slated to go up beside their village are protesting because of the certainty the project will harm them, an environmental tribunal hearing heard.
Sleeplessness, sickness, loss of birds, and falling real estate values have hit every community that has ever hosted turbines, Port Ryerse resident Heather Walters testified.
“These are not guesses,” she said. “It is 100% predictable.”
Walters said she is not normally an outspoken advocate for causes and only took up the case against wind power once she heard about the project and started researching it.
“We are not activists,” she said. “I’ve never been involved in anything like this.”
Wednesday’s hearing was held in the council chambers at town hall in Simcoe in front of lawyers representing residents and the project.
The two-person panel hearing the case has the right to put a halt to the project. Last fall, construction was pushed back after a barn owl, an endangered species, was spotted next to the site.
The hearing also heard from Cayuga resident Grant Church, who cited a number of international studies that suggested wind turbines cause illnesses in people, even well beyond the 550 metre setback the Ontario government has set.
A tool and die maker by trade, Church said there are numerous examples of people being made sick by infrasound created by turbines, sometimes from as far away as 2.2 kilometres.
In one case, he said, a group of French scientists found they were being made sick by an improperly installed fan motor in their workplace. They then started to develop weapons based on their findings.
People made ill by “sick building syndrome” often experience the same thing as living next to turbines and the infrasound they emit, he said.
“You can’t hear it, see it, taste it, or smell it, although you might feel it, but its effects can be devastating,” Church testified.
“Not everyone is affected (by infrasound), but is that a reason for this tribunal to not halt the project?”
Sharon Wong, lawyer for the Port Ryerse Wind Farm Limited Partnership, asked Church why he didn’t include in his witness statement a Health Canada study that determined there was no connection between noise from winds turbines and ill health.
“It conflicted with the reality of what I was seeing on the ground,” Church replied.
He also said he read the report and noted it reported 16.5% of people living near turbines were “affected” by them.
Walters said residents of her village were “shocked” when the project was announced a few years ago and they learned that town hall had no control over it.
She said she was unable to get approval to build an eight-by-ten chicken coop on her property yet the Norfolk County planning department didn’t even know about the wind turbines: approvals for green energy projects rest entirely with the province.
Earlier in the day, the hearing moved to the proposed site of the turbines east of the village where a number of protesters with signs were waiting.
Talk about adding insult to injury: the Ontario government’s poorly thought-out energy policy–done completely without any cost-benefit analysis–has resulted in job losses, higher power prices for consumers and small business, exports of surplus power that cost ratepayers millions every month, lost property values in the millions and lost human productivity due to the invasion of huge wind power plants … and the government thinks it is all a laugh-riot GAME.
This isn’t new but the Ontario Liberal government is once again promoting its little Power Play game. “Imagine you are an energy planner…” it begins.
Doubtless a 13-year-old experienced gamer would know better than to wreak havoc on his entire environment.
Write to the Ministry of Energy to say you object to being a pawn in the government’s energy game.
Bob Chiarelli’s letter to the Editor to the June 1st edition of the Toronto Star is interesting. The minister attempts to defend the sale of Hydro One, a public asset, and to bolster his government’s reputation as economic steward of Ontario.
You have to laugh. You can’t do anything else.
Mr. Chiarelli’s closing paragraph reads as follows. Errors are his, a Minister of the Crown.
Broadening the ownership of Hydro One will strengthening [sic] the company’s long-term performance and generate billions for needed investments in critical infrastructure* across Ontario. Our approach will generate billions to invest in much needed infrastructure that does not come from tax increases, program cuts or borrowing. And our plan will create more than 110,00 [sic] jobs each year and help grow our economy.
Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Energy, Queen’s Park
Meanwhile, Ontario has contracted for billions of dollars worth of wind power we don’t need (and is asking for proposals for more wind power development this year) with unstudied economic impacts.
No need to wonder why we have a messed up electricity system and a province deeply in debt with people like this at the helm.
FEARS over adverse health impacts caused by wind farms are being heavily scrutinised during a parliamentary inquiry into the controversial renewable energy source.
The Senate select committee inquiry into the regulatory governance and economic impact of wind turbines, established last November, is due to report by August 3.
The inquiry’s extensive terms of reference include investigating the impacts of wind farms on household power prices and the Clean Energy Regulator’s effectiveness in performing its legislative responsibilities.
The role and capacity of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in providing guidance to state and territory authorities is also under scrutiny.
The first public hearing was held at Portland in Victoria on March 30 while two were held in Cairns and Canberra in May.
About 460 public submissions have been received with four more public hearings scheduled for June in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Canberra.
At the most recent hearing in Canberra on May 19, witnesses presented a range of conflicting views about the adverse health impacts of wind turbines, particularly around low-frequency infrasound.
Family First Senator Bob Day said the inquiry had heard extensive evidence from state and local governments that they were struggling with regulating the wind turbine industry.
Senator Day said infrasound did not appear to be covered by regulations, “which mostly cover audible decibel measured sound”.
He said evidence from hearing expert Dr Andrew Bell claimed infrasound cannot be measured, and it was unknown how the ear coped with infrasound.
“It is just not possible to measure it – all you can do is accept the overwhelming evidence that people are affected by it,” he said.
Dr Bell said large infrasonic impulses – whether from a wind turbine, coal mine or a gas turbine or “whatever” – can have an effect of altering the middle ear and causing a pressure effect, “maybe headaches, maybe seasickness and things like that”.
“I think infrasound by itself with very large low-frequency pressure pulses does disturb the human ear,” he said.
“Exactly how it happens is unknown; my suspicion is that it is the middle ear muscle – the gain-control before the cochlea – but we are just beginning to do work in this area.”
The annoyance factor
The Australia Institute research director Roderick Campbell referred to a report on the wider impacts of wind energy written by researchers at the Nossal Research Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne.
Mr Campbell said the institute’s medical researchers concluded in the report that there was “no credible peer-reviewed scientific evidence that demonstrates a causal link between wind turbines and adverse physiological health impacts on people”.
But he said they found that there was some connection between annoyance from wind turbines and sleep disturbance.
“They felt that attitudes towards wind farms have a considerable influence on these factors and the extent to which noise, visual disruption and social change resulting from wind farms can cause stress or annoyance, which in turn can contribute to health issues,” he said.
“Any effects from such exposures are therefore likely to vary considerably across communities and are best considered indirect effects.”
Mr Campbell said the Warburton review – along with almost every other review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) “which is dominated by wind energy” – found that the RET either has a minimal impact on household prices or, in the longer term, is likely to put downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices.
‘No problems whatsoever’
Australian Wind Alliance national co-ordinator Andrew Bray said evidence also existed of people living near wind farms with no reported problems.
Mr Bray said he had also spoken personally to people who were in “great distress” – and “I certainly do not want to say that they are making stuff up”.
However the danger of looking at those cases selectively was “that you miss the much larger pool of people who live near wind farms who have no health problems whatsoever”.
Mr Bray said if a study was undertaken of all people living around a wind turbine, “you would find that the incidence of health problems is not high”.
However, NSW Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm said: “With cigarettes, the incidence of lung cancer was not high either”.
Public Health Association of Australia CEO Melanie Walker said complaints from people affected by noise from wind turbines must be recognised and managed, with fair and reasonable solutions developed.
Ms Walker said allegations of harm to health from wind turbines must also be placed in the context of minimal evidence supporting some claims and the considerable evidence supporting harm from other energy sources.
She said governments should also support wind power as one of the viable evidence-based renewable energy options to rapidly transition the economy from fossil fuels.
“This is supported by the Public Health Association on both health and safe climate grounds,” she said.
“We know that people who are disturbed by noise become annoyed, and we know that if you are annoyed you become more acutely sensitive to the cause of your disturbance,” she said.
“We are also aware that if you are annoyed and disturbed that you are going to have interrupted sleep, and we know that this is not good for people’s health in the short term.
Two recent news items have pointed out the Ontario government’s stance toward endangered and at-risk species. If they’re in the way of “progress,” it’s OK to kill them. Ontario Ministry of the Environment lawyer Sylvia Davis told a court last year during an appeal related to Ostrander Point, habitat to endangered Blandings turtles (but also a site for migratory birds, and a rare, fragile alvar environment) : “So what if a few turtles die?” she said. “Wind power is important public infrastructure…”
A recent court decision has upheld the government’s ability to grant industry a pass when it comes to protecting endangered and at-risk species. Ontario Nature put out a news release last week to express its disappointment: “This is a disappointing decision for Ontario’s endangered and threatened wildlife,” said Ecojustice lawyer Lara Tessaro. “The Endangered Species Act is intended to put species first — not to let their survival be balanced against competing industrial interests. That would tip the scale towards extinction.”
The Environmental Review Tribunal also recently dismissed an appeal of the approval of the Niagara Region Wind power project, where as many as 20 turbines would be in established Blandings turtle habitat. The Tribunal would not even hear the evidence about the endangered turtles. MPP Tim Hudak protested in the Legislature last week, saying the government needs to “do the right thing” and protect the turtles.
Both these events underscore the simple reality of utility-scale wind power and all its promises to be a tool to save the environment, while producing “clean” power for Ontario. It is, as consultants to the Suzuki Foundation noted in a report on 2002, a high-impact form of power generation for low benefit.
We prefer turtles, thank you. And birds, and little red-sided fishes, and ancient maples, and yes, bats.
Once again, no cost-benefit analysis of ALL the impacts of Ontario’s rush to wind power has ever been done, despite recommendations from two Auditor General.
Ontario, and its unique environment deserves better.