Ontario turbine setback A-OK with wind industry-paid physician

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project

December 8


On Day 19 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project heard the testimony of Dr. Robert McCunney, an expert witness for developer WPD.

Robert McCunney, MD, has a Boston clinical practice and is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.   Funded by the Canadian and American Wind Energy Associations, he headed teams in both 2009 and 2014 that produced status reports such as the recent “Wind Turbines and Health: A Critical Review of the Scientific Literature.”   Though not licensed to practice medicine in Ontario, Dr. McCunney has testified on behalf of the wind industry at other ERT hearings.

The Tribunal qualified Dr. McCunney as “a medical doctor specializing in occupational and environmental medicine, with the particular implications of noise exposure.”

WPD counsel James Wilson asked Dr. McCunney to comment on wind turbine sounds.  He said that noise is characterized by loudness and pitch, low frequency is associated with vibrations, and infrasound is inaudible below 107 db(A).  The last feature also occurs in the natural environment (e.g., wind and waves) and in actions of the human body such as breathing.  Turbine infrasound cannot be distinguished beyond 300m.

Dr. McCunney’s 2014 literature review, based on 162 published papers, concluded that “(1) infrasound sound near wind turbines does not exceed audibility thresholds, (2) epidemiological studies have shown associations between living near wind turbines and annoyance, (3) infrasound and low-frequency sound do not present unique health risks, and (4) annoyance seems more strongly related to individual characteristics than noise from turbines.”   Nothing Dr. McCunney has read since publication changes his opinions.

In cross-examination, APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie established that Dr. McCunney has never treated anyone complaining of turbine-related symptoms or conducted any original field research. Though he lives near a wind turbine, his home is 1500m away.

Mr. Gillespie asked Dr. McCunney to confirm the findings in several studies cited in his literature review that turbine sounds annoyed 7-18 percent of nearby residents.  But Dr. McCunney said this is similar to other environmental noise.  Moreover, he does not accept the concept of “wind turbine syndrome,” in which a number of symptoms are associated with wind turbines and disappear in their absence.

Dr. McCunney was then asked to consider the 2015 Australian Senate inquiry, which received almost 500 worldwide submissions on wind turbine noise.  He said he had not read it, but he was critical of its reliance on a range of unverified reports rather strictly published studies.  He did accept, however, the finding that the “distinction between direct and indirect effects is not helpful.”

Finally, Mr. Gillespie asked at what distance from turbines complaints would cease.  Dr. McCunney expressed confidence in Ontario’s 550m minimum setbacks.

In re-examination WPD’s Wilson asked about sleep anxiety and deprivation, which can lead to serious medical conditions.  Dr. McCunney said no study shows a causal relation between these symptoms and wind turbines.   His 2014 literature review identifies “longitudinal assessments of health pre- and post-installation” and “enhanced measurement techniques to evaluate annoyance”—but not sleep problems—among “further areas of Inquiry.”

Henri Garand, APPEC

Get hydro prices down, Niagara On The Lake Hydro demands Energy Minister Chiarelli



NOTL Hydro Board challenges Minister of Energy to debate 

Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro provides 11 Recommendations on Reducing the Cost of Electricity

“No new contracts”


December 9, 2015 Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON – The Board of Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro would like to invite and challenge the Minister of Energy to a public debate on the historical, present and future plans on how to get the cost of electricity down and more manageable for the average consumer.  Discussions and input from all interested parties are welcome.

The recently released Report of the Ontario Auditor General (AG report) has highlighted significant mismanagement of the electricity industry in Ontario that has substantially increased the cost of electricity to our customers.  To reduce the current and future cost of electricity, it is clear that immediate and drastic actions are required.

As a local electricity distribution company, Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro deals directly with the electricity consumer and sees the challenges the high prices are causing.  Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro therefore recommends the following immediate actions to assist our customers.

  1. Immediately cancel the FIT and MicroFIT programs and immediately cease signing any new contracts. We cannot afford any more above market costs to be built into future pricing.
  2. Calculate and transfer the present value of the excess pricing in the existing FIT and MicroFIT contracts to the Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation (OEFC) in a manner similar to that done with Ontario Hydro and the Non-Utility Generation contracts at the time of the market opening. This would remove these costs from the current pricing.
  3. Re-instate the Debt Retirement Charge for residential customers. It was never right just to eliminate this for residential and not business customers. This charge will be needed to pay down the above excess pricing cost (Recommendation #2) for years and decades to come. Annual transparent reporting from the OEFC will be required to show how this new debt is being paid down.
  4. Stop all provincial Conservation and Demand Management (CDM) programs. This will save $300 million per year per the AG report. CDM Is not needed in a surplus environment and consumers will undertake their own CDM activities based on market prices.
  5. Review the pricing of exports. While we have no experience in this area other experts have suggested that better prices could be obtained on the excess generation we are forced to export through more pro-active management of this activity.
  6. Eliminate the Meter Data Management and Repository (MDM/R). This is a redundant service whose cost is part of the Wholesale Market Service Rate on the customer bill. Local distribution companies get the needed information elsewhere.
  7. Eliminate the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP). This is a tax designed to fund a social program; support to low income customers. Providing refundable income tax credits would be more progressive and more efficient.
  8. Separate the transmission and distribution businesses of Hydro One as proposed in the initial report by Ed Clark. The transmission business would remain publicly traded with private investors and the Government of Ontario could sell additional ownership for infrastructure funding.
  9. Break-up the Hydro One distribution business into multiple smaller local distribution companies with local governance. Parts of this business could also be sold to local distribution companies. It is clear from the AG report that management of the Hydro One distribution business needs to be brought closer to its customers. We believe significant cost savings and improved customer service can be achieved by this action.
  10. Tender the sale of Hydro One Brampton. We have no objection to the proposed LDC merger but as a taxpayer we wonder if the Government of Ontario is getting the best price for this asset.
  11. Restore OEB oversight over all aspects of the electricity industry. A truly independent regulator is needed to protect Ontario electricity consumers. Bill 135 should be amended to provide this.


The cost of electricity for the Ontario consumer has risen by around 50% over the last ten years.  Electricity costs are largely made up of generation, transmission and distribution costs.  Transmission and distribution costs (for most distribution companies though Hydro One is a notable exception) have largely gone up at around the rate of inflation which has been around 18% (over 10 years).  The cost of generation has risen by over 110% during this time.  More details as to why the generation costs have risen so high can be found in the Auditor General’s report.



Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro distributes power to over 8,800 customers in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. We are committed to operating as a sustainable high-performance, customer-driven business and to providing the highest standard in safety, service and reliability. NOTL Hydro was the 2014 ENERGY STAR® Utility of the Year (Regional Category) in Canada. The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is the 100% shareholder of the corporation.



Tim Curtis


Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro Inc.

Fact Sheet:


Increase in Cost of Electricity

Niagara-on-the-Lake Residential Customer (800 kwh) – Monthly Cost
January 1, 2006  


January 1, 2016  



$ Change


% Change

Electricity $40.40 5.05 $86.13 10.77 $45.73 113%
Delivery Charge $34.37 $37.26 $2.89 8%
Regulatory Charges $5.54 $5.23 -$.31 -6%
Debt Retirement Charge $5.60 -$5.6 -100%
Total before HST $85.91 10.74 $128.62 16.08 $42.71 50%



Comparable Canadian City Electricity Costs

Total electricity cost before taxes  (1,000 kwh) – April 1, 2015
Montreal, QC $   71.91
Winnipeg, MB $   81.09
Vancouver, BC $ 102.90
Edmonton, AB $ 115.47
St. John’s. NL $ 115.53
Calgary, AB $ 116.55
Moncton, NB $ 122.98
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON $ 135.18
Toronto, ON $ 143.07
Regina, SK $ 143.72
Ottawa, ON $ 148.62
Charlottetown, PE $ 156.17
Halifax, NS $ 160.30

Source:  Hydro Quebec ”Comparison of electricity prices 2015”

Related Story

Amherst Island appeal begins: significant impact on birds

Amherst Island is a favoured spot for owls, and other birds
Amherst Island is a favoured spot for owls, and other birds

The Whig-Standard, December 7, 2015

BATH — The appeal of the approval of a controversial wind energy project on Amherst Island is underway.

The Association to Protect Amherst Island is appealing to the Environmental Review Tribunal the decision by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to approve Windlectric’s application to build 26 turbines on Amherst Island.

In late August, the provincial government approved the project subject to more than two dozen conditions.

The appeal began on Friday and is to include a series of hearings between then and Dec. 22.

The association has hired environmental lawyer and University of Toronto adjunct professor Eric Gillespie to represent it.

On Friday, the tribunal heard testimony from Tom Beaubiah from the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, who spoke about potential impact on Owl Woods, wintering raptors and avian habitat.

Beaubiah requested that if the appeal is rejected and the project goes ahead, that additional conditions be placed on it to further investigate wildlife areas, relocate turbines and include the conservation authority in post-construction monitoring.

Island resident Amy Caughey also provided comment about health and safety concerns related to locating industrial components of the project, including a cement plant, laydown area, transformer station, mobile fueling, a maintenance building and construction office close to the Amherst Island Public School.

Bill Evans testified on behalf of the Kingston Field Naturalists about the project’s potential impact on bobolinks, of which there are about 2,800 on the island.

The Amherst Island project would kill more than 32 bobolinks each year, casualties that, when combined with loss of breeding habitat, would seriously threaten the bird’s population in Ontario.

Among the experts still to be called upon to testify for the association are epidemiologist Carl Phillips and biologist Christina Davy, who are to be backed by experts in hydrology, hydrogeology, ecology and biology.

The appeal comes in the wake of Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s annual report that showed deficiencies in the province’s electricity system that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Lysyk’s report showed the long-range plans from the Ontario Power Authority have not been reviewed and approved by the Ontario Energy Board.

Between 2006 and 2014, the electricity portion of the hydro bills of residential and small-business consumers increased by 70 per cent, according to Lysyk’s report. Included in that cost are fees paid to power-generating companies over the market price that cost consumers $37 billion over that time period. Those fees are expected to increase to $133 billion between 2015 and 2032.

Between 2009 and 2014, Ontario’s average annual electricity surplus was equivalent to the power-generating capacity of Manitoba, and the Independent Electricity System Operator predicts the power-generating capability of Ontario will exceed the province’s demand by an amount equivalent to Nova Scotia’s power needs for about five years.


“Serious environmental impact if White Pines proceeds” : witness

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project

December 7


On Day 18 of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), APPEC expert witness Dr. Daryl Cowell testified that there is substantial evidence of karst in the White Pines study area and that serious and irreversible impacts will occur if this project proceeds.   WPD witness Ronald Donaldson and Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) witness Mark Phillips disputed this.

Dr. Cowell told the ERT that he has appeared as a karst expert witness before eight Ontario Municipal Board hearings, done work for municipalities across Ontario, and authored or co-authored hundreds of technical documents, including peer-reviewed papers.  He has spent 40 years studying karst, with the past 20 years focused on hazard assessment.  Dr. Cowell was qualified as a professional geoscientist with expertise in karst.

Dr. Cowell said that a major karst area runs through Black Creek Valley ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest).   Physical evidence of karst includes sinkholes and crevices (as identified earlier by area resident and presenter Doug Murphy), an artesian-like stream, year-round springs that go underground, dry wells, and extensive limestone pavements.  Turbines would be located in epikarst, the upper boundary of a karst system, close to the edge of the valley.  The access road to wind turbines T02 and T03 crosses Black Creek and proceeds through a zone of karst features including crevices one foot wide and ten feet deep.

However, none of WPD’s Renewable Energy Approval reports identified karst features, assessed potential impacts, or even surveyed water bodies except in September and October, known to be low-flow periods.

Dr. Cowell noted that mapping the watershed in a karst aquifer is extremely difficult when vertical and horizontal fractures make water flow unpredictable and boundaries are always in flux.  A storm water management plan is out of the question because it is impossible to determine the high water mark, a basic requirement for construction activities.

According to Dr. Cowell, blasting and trenching for 16 kilometres of new access roads, collector lines, and turbine bases will cause serious and irreversible harm to shallow karst areas.  Blasting and backfilling through the upper metre of bedrock will dam and divert flows resulting in permanent impacts to the surface water/groundwater regime.

WPD witness Ronald Donaldson was qualified by the Tribunal as a hydrologist.   His testimony focused on potential interference with the quality and quantity of the local water supply aquifer and groundwater.

Donaldson reviewed aerial photographs, maps and literature that show no conclusive evidence of karst in Prince Edward County.  He considers the Black Creek Valley a sub-glacial tunnel formed long ago by glacial melt-waters.  Though predicting impacts such as sediment in shallow water wells and wetlands, he said there are mitigations for the temporary effects as well as for sinkholes or fractures opened during construction.   Donaldson agreed with APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie, however, that alterations to the top three metres could impact wetlands.

Mr. Gillespie referred Donaldson to a 2013 study cited by Dr. Cowell, “Evaluating karst risk at wind power projects.”  While agreeing that karst evaluations should be done early, Donaldson said he was not qualified to speak to the study’s number one mitigation—to move the turbines.

Mark Phillips, of the MOECC, was qualified as a surface water specialist with expertise in identifying risks to and mitigation of surface waters.  Starting in October 2014, Phillips raised a number of issues about the lack of detail on project impacts on wetlands in WPD’s Construction Plan Report, the risk of impacts during construction on surface water, and the timing of surveys for water bodies.  However, WPD chose to rely on existing MOECC records rather than carry out additional field work. 

Nonetheless, Phillips considers that risks from erosion and sediment can be fully managed by the “mitigation toolbox” and the effects will be temporary.   He confirmed with Mr. Gillespie that he did not review the wetlands near turbines T27, T28, and T29 or, indeed, the Natural Heritage Assessment on wetlands.

-Paula Peel, APPEC 

Using ‘green cred’ to reap outstanding fortunes: Andrew Coyne

The Ontario government subsidized companies to produce power, and it subsidized consumers to conserve it. And when it found itself, not surprisingly, with a huge and growing power surplus, it sold it off at a loss to foreign buyers — effectively subsidizing them to take it.

The Ontario government subsidized companies to produce power, and it subsidized consumers to conserve it. And when it found itself, not surprisingly, with a huge and growing power surplus, it sold it off at a loss to foreign buyers — effectively subsidizing them to take it. [Photo: Getty images]

The National Post, December 7, 2015

The other day I happened to be in Ottawa. I happened to have a lunch at a downtown restaurant where I happened to overhear a conversation between two businessmen. The subject of their conversation, as it happened, was how to get money out of the federal government.

The one was a lobbyist, the other was his client. The lobbyist was reporting back on his discussions with a ministerial staffer regarding the grant his client was seeking. The staffer had advised him on the kind of supporting documentation the client would need to supply — mostly about job creation —  to ensure the money flowed. It didn’t sound like it would be a particularly hard sell.

I imagine this sort of conversation goes on every day in restaurants all over the city, as it did under the previous government, as it will under the next. It is the same conversation that goes on in every provincial capital and every city of any size in the country. It is, perhaps, Canada’s largest industry, but of a peculiar kind. For those employed in it are not in the business of selling products to consumers. They are in the business of buying subsidies from governments.

The name of the company involved in the exchange I overheard does not matter. It might be any one of a thousand. It may advertise itself as being in a particular business — cars, or planes, or ships. And it is true that that is the product it makes. But it does not make it to sell to others — that is only a secondary consideration. Its primary value is as a medium of exchange — for the subsidies it can purchase from government.

For the company is not just making cars, or planes, or what have you. It is making things the politician really wants: jobs, usually, or at least the claims of them, but also association with prestigious technologies, or green cred — anything that will make the politician feel important, or get him elected, or both. And whereas the firm is typically unable to persuade consumers in competitive markets to pay it enough to cover the costs of making its notional product — hence the need for subsidy — the same product will buy it millions of dollars in subsidies.

Indeed, the longer it keeps at it, the more the terms of trade tend to move in its favour. In time, the firm finds it no longer has to create more jobs to keep the subsidies coming. It can simply threaten to withdraw those it has. Subsidies in the past thus become the chief argument for subsidies in the future. For then the politician is implicated. Jobs that are never created never make headlines. But workers, once employed, make admirable hostages.

All this is by way of prelude to last week’s extraordinary double whammy of industrial-policy ineptitude. First came news that the price of constructing 15 new naval warships — part of the much-heralded National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy — had more than doubled from initial estimates, to $30 billion from $14 billion, with further cost overruns likely to come. This was, you’ll recall, supposed to be the “good” procurement project, after the string of fiascos — helicopters, submarines, fighter jets — that preceded it. Instead, it is shaping up to be the biggest procurement disaster yet.

The head of the Royal Canadian Navy, Vice-Adm. Mark Norman, confessed to the CBC that nobody involved on either side of the exchange had the first clue of what it cost to build the things. “We didn’t have the mature industry and so there was a lot of guessing and speculation going on. And to be quite blunt, we got a lot of it wrong,” he said. Whether the government will cough up the extra $16 billion, or whether the navy will have to make do with half the ships, remains to be seen.

But surely the real question is: why, rather than design and build the ships from scratch in Canada, we did not just purchase them off the shelf from countries with competent military-industrial complexes? And the answer is that governments in this country are not really in the business of buying the best ships for the least money, any more than the companies involved are in the business of supplying them. Rather, it is about, on the one hand, jobs and industrial development, and sucking cash out of the government on the other.

But while we were still reeling from that came news of an even-larger raid on the public till: the $37 billion that Ontario’s auditor general reports the province has overcharged consumers for electricity over eight years. The policy dysfunction was comprehensive and manifold. The Ontario government subsidized companies to produce power, and it subsidized consumers to conserve it. And when it found itself, not surprisingly, with a huge and growing power surplus, it sold it off at a loss to foreign buyers — effectively subsidizing them to take it.

But at the heart of it was a coterie of companies, ostensibly in the renewable energy business, whom the government massively overpaid for power, recouping the costs from consumers on their electricity bills. The fortunes made must be astounding: if consumers were out $37 billion — almost 1,000 times as much as the sums involved in the sponsorship scandal — somebody was in for a good chunk of that. It may be doubted whether consumers would be willing to pay, as the Liberal government did, twice the market price for wind power or more than three times market price for solar.

But then, if the companies involved were interested in selling to willing consumers, they’d be in another line of work. They’re not in the energy business. They’re in the subsidy business.

National Post

How loss is actually profit: the Chiarelli principle

Energy Minister Chiarelli : it's not wasted power, it's 'opportunity power.' Whatever that means. [Photo Blackburn News]
Energy Minister Chiarelli : it’s not wasted power, it’s ‘opportunity power.’ Whatever that means. [Photo Blackburn News]
The Chiarelli Charade


Energy Minister, Bob Chiarelli, at question period (just after minute six) in the Ontario Legislature on December 3, 2015 once again demonstrated his ability to obfuscate was lacking as he was attacked and eventually reverted to the ridiculous suggestion once again, that selling surplus energy to our neighbours was profitable!

To call his bluff all one needs to do is review the October monthly “Market Summary” from the IESO website.  Couple the October summary with the prior nine summaries and you will see that Ontario’s Class B ratepayers (average consumers and small businesses) continue to see rate increases.  Those increases are partially caused by Ontario’s surplus capacity and our continuing need to either export those surpluses at a loss to our neighbours or to curtail production.  Either option (as noted in the recent Auditor General’s report) will raise the cost of electricity for Ontario’s consumers and small businesses.

Once again exports in October were large at 1.5 terawatts (TWh) or enough to satisfy the needs of 800,000 average Ontario households.  Total exports for the 10 months ending on October 31st now total 17.7 TWh — that’s enough to provide power for the full year  to 1.8 million average Ontario ratepayers.  It also represents about 13.8% of Ontario generator’s total production for those nine months.   The 17.7 TWh were sold via the market for an average of $26.1 million per TWh generating about $460 million in revenue, but cost Ontario’s ratepayers $2.017 billion, generating a loss close to $1.6 billion.


If Ontario was selling that surplus at a profitable rate, the effect on ratepayers would result in favourable contributions to reduce rates but, alas, that is not what happened, despite Minister Chiarelli’s obfuscation.  The cost to produce that 1.5 TWh of exported power in October set ratepayers back about $175 million and it was sold for $38 million (a “Chiarelli profit”) meaning the loss  for the month was $137 million!  The loss for October brings the cost of export sales to about $350.00 per “average” ratepayer for the 10 months beginning January 1, 2015.

Wind power generation played a role in both, increasing our surplus and causing the hourly Ontario electricity price (HOEP) of $25.07/MWh (2.5 cents per kWh), to remain well below the cost of “contracted rates.” That is a matter of fact and common sense but seems to escape Minister Chiarelli.

According to another IESO webpage, wind produced 1.08 TWh in October and would represent 72% of Ontario’s surplus exports.  Couple that 1.08 TWh of reported generation with the DX1. (distributor generated) wind production of 139,000 MWh, curtailed production of 73,000 MWh and what do you get? Wind alone could be held responsible for 86% (1.3 TWh) of our exports.  The output from wind generators in October (a low demand month) was almost equal to their production for the combined months of June, July and August all of which are higher demand months.

With wind power costing ratepayers $1.6 billion so far in the current year, it seems strange our Energy Minister still claims it generated a “profit”.

©Parker Gallant


  1. Thanks to Scott Luft for his incredible data.

Two-thirds of contested White Pines project on endangered species habitat, Tribunal hears

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Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County

Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Dec. 4, 2015
By Henri Garand, APPEC

On Day 17 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project heard the testimony of WPD witnesses Shawn Taylor and Dr. Paul Kerlinger.

Mr. Taylor was qualified by the Tribunal as “an ecological restoration and construction mitigation specialist.”  However, he testified at length about Blanding’s turtles because of his participation in a four-year study involving a Kanata road extension into their habitat.

After classifying the roads (paved, gravel, and access) required for White Pines, Taylor spoke about the risks from higher traffic, but he said these are minimal due to the “block-out period” on construction between April 15 and October 15, and the later infrequent maintenance visits.  Mitigations such as staff training and 15km speed limits will protect turtles.

Taylor also felt that “new roads would not increase fragmentation of Blanding’s turtle habitat.”  He described the access roads as “laneways” flush to the ground surface and therefore not a barrier to turtles.  Similarly, turtles will readily move through the nine culverts to be constructed.  The roads would also not interfere with water flow into deep wetlands, crucial overwintering habitat.

Predation of eggs and young by foxes, raccoons, and skunks is possible but could be mitigated by compaction and reduction of roadside gravel, though neither method is cited in the White Pines construction report.

During cross-examination by APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie, Taylor admitted that his witness statement is incorrect in describing most access roads as passing through ploughed fields instead of cultural meadow, alvar, and treed land. Only nine turbines are located within current agricultural fields.   The access “laneways” would be 5m wide, with brush clearance as much as 5m on each side.

Taylor also conceded that two thirds of the White Pines project lies within primary Blanding’s turtle habitat. According to a map in WPD’s Natural Heritage Assessment, wind turbines T7, T11-24, and T27-29 all fall within known turtle egg excavation or spring foraging areas.

Paul Kerlinger, Ph.D., was qualified as “a biologist with specialization in bird behavior and expertise on the impacts of wind energy projects.”   Once an Audubon Society director of the Cape May Observatory, Kerlinger redirected his career to studying avian risks from wind projects in Canada, Mexico, Spain, and the United States, and he has testified in 100 cases as an expert witness on behalf of developers.

Although stating that “all wind projects kill birds,” Kerlinger does not regard this as “serious and Irreversible harm” because the fatalities are not statistically significant at the species population level, whether measured as a percentage or by population viability models (which take into account reproductive rates, dispersal and mortality).   He said studies show that mortality ranges from 6-9 birds per turbines per year, and the upper figure applies to Wolfe Island when its monitoring records are averaged over three years.

Under cross-examination Kerlinger admitted there are different views of the appropriate geographical scale to be considered for assessing risk to bird populations.  He also conceded that monitoring results are dependent on search area size and terrain, number of predators, frequency of searches, and staff training.  Data comparison across projects is complicated by differing turbine sizes and power output.  Finally, though noting the effectiveness of such mitigations as flashing lights and turbine shutdowns, he said he had made no suggestions to WPD.

The ERT resumes Monday, December 7, 10 a.m., at the Prince Edward Community Centre, 375 Main St., Picton.

No fixes for wildlife after wind farm built: experts at White Pines appeal

Fatalaities at White Pines project could be worse than Wolfe Island, say experts--already the most dangerous wind farm in North America
Fatalaities at White Pines project could be worse than Wolfe Island, say experts–already the most dangerous wind farm in North America

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project

 December 3


Paula Peel, APPEC


On Day 16 of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), APPEC expert witness Kari Gunson testified that the White Pines wind project will cause serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s turtles on the Prince Edward County south shore, and Dr. Smallwood completed his testimony from Tuesday.

Ms. Gunson has worked as a Road Ecologist for 16 years and has co-authored 13 peer-reviewed published articles.   She was qualified by the Tribunal as a Road Ecologist, with experience evaluating the indirect and direct effects of roads on wildlife and their habitat.

Gunson focused on the large roadless areas around wind turbines T12 to T24 and T26 to T29.  White Pines will increase road density in habitat occupied by the Blanding’s turtle, a threatened species, and the new roads will be used by maintenance vehicles, by landowners to gain access to their property, and by farm machinery.

Moreover, Ms. Gunson predicts that upgrades to existing municipal roads, such as Babylon and Helmer, will result in more traffic and vehicles moving at higher speeds than at present.   Blanding’s turtles are at risk from vehicular strikes because they range up to 6 km, and in habitat, like the South Shore where soil is scarce, they will nest along the roads.  Gravel roads can be ecological traps where turtles are also vulnerable to predation and poaching.

Access road construction, said Gunson, can lead to changes in vegetation composition and in hydrology, with changes in water temperatures and levels impacting turtles which overwinter in wetlands.   Blanding’s turtle experts have recommended a 150m construction buffer from wetlands.  However, WPD’s approved Environmental Impact Study provides only 120m buffers and permits construction activities metres away from wetlands.

Dr. Smallwood ​continued his ​discuss​ion of his findings on Wolfe Island wildlife mortality for the purpose of understanding the impact of White Pines.  He noted that fatalities for 57 bird and bat species have been reported, more than in any other single project​ he has ever seen. It is probable that the numbers will be even higher for White Pines because of the migratory pathway.

If Wolfe Island rates are realized at White Pines, Dr. Smallwood predicts project-level fatalities up to 954 birds and 1800 bats per year.  Dr. Smallwood noted his concern with bats, which are drawn to heat-releasing vents in the turbines.  It is difficult to estimate how many small bats are killed as they are not readily detected in carcass searches.

Dr. Smallwood told the ERT that the best way to prevent harm is siting White Pines to avoid problems.  Little can be done after the project is built.   He strongly disagrees with claims by Dr. Kerlinger and Dr. Strickland, witnesses for WPD, that impacts can be effectively mitigated once the wind turbines have been constructed.

The ERT continues Friday, December 4, 10 a.m., at the Prince Edward Community Centre, 375 Main St., Picton.

The power system is broken, says Ontario AG: Parker Gallant

The sad (and very expensive) truth. Ontario fleeced out of $37 billion
The sad (and very expensive) truth. Ontario fleeced out of $37 billion

Financial Post, December 3, 2015


by Parker Gallant

Almost a year ago Bonnie Lysyk, Ontario’s Auditor General, issued a report related to the “smart meter” program, estimating it cost double its projected costs. Bob Chiarelli, the Ontario Minister of Energy, was quick off the mark to defend his ministry by stating “The electricity system is very complex, it’s very difficult to understand,” he said. “I can tell you that some of our senior managers in discussing some of these issues with some of the representatives from the Auditor General’s office got the feeling that they didn’t understand some of the elements of it.”

Here we are one year later and yesterday’s annual report out of the AG’s offices is all about the electricity sector and the condemnation of the planning and implementation processes that have emanated from the past and present energy ministers since the Liberals gained power.

Here is one of the condemnations that will prove hurtful to Minister Chiarelli and his predecessors: “over the last decade, this power system planning process has essentially broken down, and Ontario’s energy system has not had a technical plan in place for the last 10 years. Operating outside the checks and balances of the legislated planning process, the Ministry of Energy has made a number of decisions about power generation that have resulted in significant costs to electricity consumers.”

Here is another: “The Ministry has issued a total of 93 directives and directions to the OPA [Ontario Power Authority] between 2004 and 2014. Through them, it has made a number of decisions about power generation — decisions that sometimes went against the OPA’s technical advice.”

The AG has included many estimates on the costs of those “directives and directions,” estimating the FIT or feed-in tariff program alone will result in ratepayers picking up extra costs of $9.2 billion just for wind and solar contracts when the GEA [Green Energy Act] usurped the previous competitive procurement program. Other notable issues highlighted in the AG’s report include the Mattagami project, $1 billion over the original estimate, raising the cost of hydro production to $135 per megawatt hour, and the conversion of the Thunder Bay coal plant to biomass using imported wood as a fuel source and producing electricity that will cost $1,600 per megawatt hour.

The report is also critical of the “Conservation First” theme brought in by Minister Chiarelli in his most recent Long Term Energy Plan, due to our significant surplus generating capacity, past spending of $2.3 billion and future spending of $2.6 billion that simply raises the price of electricity for consumers. The effect of the surplus capacity is highlighted in noting that it is exported well below its cost and that curtailing power to ensure grid stability is paying generators for not producing.

That message alone highlights how “the Ministry of Energy has made a number of decisions about power generation that have resulted in significant costs to electricity consumers.”

As stated in the report, “Since power is exported at prices below what generators are paid, and curtailed generators are still paid even when they are not producing energy, both of these options are costly. From 2009 to 2014, Ontario had to pay generators $339 million for curtailing 11.9 million MWh of surplus electricity.”

Anyone observing Ontario’s electricity sector over the past 10 years will have no difficulty in nodding in agreement with the bulk of the report’s conclusions, having seen their electricity bills rise on a semi-annual basis for the past decade. Those who want a better understanding of why those increases have occurred will also appreciate the AG’s observation that “lack of transparency” has prevented ratepayers from being told why their bills keep going up.

While the Ministry has stated after each recommendation in the AG’s report: “The Ministry agrees with the Auditor General’s recommendations,” the concerns of ratepayers are likely to be tripped up by Premier Wynne’s promise to bring in her latest tax grab in the form of the promised “cap and trade” plan, which will surely result in additional costs that ratepayers will be forced to absorb.

The AG has demonstrated that she has far more insight into how the electricity system works in Ontario than the Minister or Ministry officials, but it remains to be seen whether the system can be fixed.

Parker Gallant is a retired banker who looked at his electricity bills and didn’t like what he saw.

(Parker Gallant is vice-president of Wind Concerns Ontario.)