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.
A last-ditch attempt to stop an Oxford County wind farm, based on damage it will do to an endangered species, has run into a wall.
The East Oxford Alliance citizen’s group filed an urgent request last week with Environment Minister Glen Murray to stop the Gunn’s Hill Wind Farm because the project will kill little brown bats, a species whose numbers are plunging across North America and is now on Ontario’s and Canada’s endangered lists.
In a written reply on the minister’s behalf, the director of the ministry’s environmental approvals branch said it is the ministry’s priority to ensure renewable energy projects are developed in a way that will protect human health and the environment.
In the case of wind power, clear rules have been established to protect birds, bats and their habitats, Kathleen Hedley wrote.
The Gunn’s Hill Wind Farm, a 10-turbine project in Norwich Township, is required to conduct mortality surveys for at least three years after it starts up.
“If thresholds of bird and/or bat mortality are reached, contingency plans can be put in place to reduce impacts and additional monitoring is conducted to ensure the contingency plans are effective,” Hedley wrote.
Disappointed alliance member John Eacott said the bottom line is the wind power company is just required to collect bat and bird carcasses for three years before taking action: “This is the clear rules that Ontario has established — nothing has to be done.”
Fellow alliance member Joan Morris said the group will review its options.
Waiting to count carcasses of endangered species is irresponsible and completely incongruent with the intent of the Endangered Species Act, she said. “Three years from now may be too late for the little brown bat.”
A study released by Bird Studies Canada this month found bats dying at the rate of 18.5 per turbine in Ontario, well above the allowable 10-per-turbine threshold set by the province’s Natural Resources Ministry.
An estimated 42,656 bats were killed by Ontario wind turbines between May 1 and Oct. 31, 2015, including several endangered species, the study said.
North American studies of bat deaths and wind turbines have found bats are killed either by being struck by turbine blades or by air pressure changes caused by the turbines that burst blood vessels in their lungs.
Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, passed in 2007, originally prohibited killing or harming species on the endangered list and their habitat.
But that law was relaxed by the province in 2013 …
The addition of renewables such as wind power has added to Ontario citizens’ electricity bills substantially. This news release tells the story of what the Ontario government’s policy means for rural communities
2015-16 Utility Report for Bruce and Grey Counties
The United Way of Bruce Grey wanted to get a larger picture of energy poverty in our region and acknowledge the other organizations who also take on the task of keeping people warm and their lights on.
The United Way was able to access additional data from both Counties, Y Housing as well as the Salvation Army in Wiarton.
The numbers are startling and a crisis is brewing in our region
Almost $700 000 in direct dollars were spent to pay down utility bills. If staff time and resources were factored in, over $1 million has been spent in the last 12 months on utility arrears.
Electricity continues to be a challenge as we note that costs have increased 100% in the past 10 years. Rural residents are hit with massive delivery costs and conservation efforts are negated by annual increases due to reduction in demand. “Our clients, our families are not wasteful, they do everything they can to reduce consumption, they unplug everything and we often advise them to turn breakers off in an effort to reduce their bill.” said Francesca Dobbyn Executive Director of the United Way of Bruce Grey.
The introduction of the Ontario Energy Savings Program in November could give qualifying consumers $30 to $50 per month relief, and while appreciated, for many families it’s simply not enough to prevent disconnections.
We are still seeing large bills from 2013 when billing and meter issues created large “catch-up” bills. A new partnership with Credit Canada can assist families with longer repayment schedules.
When a disconnection does happen, the Bruce Grey team swings into action to gather as many supports as possible to reconnect the family. From finding additional dollars, advocacy and negotiation the whole team works together.
For more information on this report please contact the United Way or the appropriate agency and staff listed below:
United Way of Bruce Grey – Francesca Dobbyn – 519 376 1560
Grey County Housing – Anne Marie Shaw – 519 376 5744
Bruce County Social Services – Christine MacDonald – 519 881 0431
Y Housing – Joan Chamney – 519 371 9224
Salvation Army Wiarton – Mary Miller – 519 534 0353
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is refusing to reconsider the situation at a Norwich Township wind power project, where it was acknowledged during the appeal last year that the endangered Little Brown Bat was present, and would die as a result of the presence of wind turbines.
The MOECC instead relies on its Renewable Energy Approval process and told the East Oxford Community Alliance in a letter that “post-construction protocols have been prepared in accordance with the MNRF guidelines. The applicant is required to conduct mortality surveys for a minimum of three years once the wind farm is operational.”
Local resident and Alliance member John Eacott told the Woodstock Sentinel-Reviewthere isn’t much point in conducting surveys to find out how many animals you’ve killed, then trying to figure out how to fix the situation. The group had referenced the Environmental Review Tribunal decisions from the White Pines appeal (Hirsch vs. the MOECC) and Ostrander Point in its filing with the MOECC, saying that the new understanding about the endangered bats was that there are so few of the animals left that any deaths will result in serious and irreversible harm.
The precautionary principle must be applied, as the government balances its renewable energy program with the need to protect the natural environment.
“You can’t have two sets of rules for different sites,” said Eacott.
Bird Studies Canada released a report earlier this month that showed an astounding number of bats are being killed by Ontario’s wind turbines — in fact, 77% of the bats killed by wind power projects in Canada, were in Ontario. The average was 18 bats killed per turbine. Prowind’s threshold for bat mortality is actually 10 bats per turbine, according to its Renewable Energy Approval.
The community group also wrote to the Environmental and Lands Review Tribunal demanding that the appeal be reopened. The Tribunal’s response was that the appeal date has passed and the group’s only recourse now is to go to Divisional Court.
Wind turbines are killing bats, including ones on the endangered species list, at nearly double the rate set as acceptable by the Ontario government, the latest monitoring report indicates.
Bats are being killed in Ontario at the rate of 18.5 per turbine, resulting in an estimated 42,656 bat fatalities in Ontario between May 1 and October 31, 2015, according to the report released by Bird Studies Canada, a bird conservation organization.
Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources has set 10 bat deaths per turbine as the threshold at which the mortalities are considered significant and warrant action.
The bats being killed by turbines in Ontario include the little brown bat, tri-coloured bat, eastern small footed bat, and northern long-eared bat, all on the endangered species list.
The Birds Studies Canada report draws its information from a database that is a joint initiative of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Bird Studies Canada.
Brock Fenton, an expert in the behaviour and ecology of bats and professor in Western University’s department of biology, said the bat deaths are a concern.
Bat populations across North America have been plunging with the emergence of a fungal disease called white nose syndrome.
Birds are taking less of a hit from wind turbines, according to the report, with an estimated 14,144 non-raptors killed by wind turbines and 462 raptor fatalities between May 1 and October 31 in 2015.
The report noted that some wind farms have moved to reduce bat mortalities by cutting their turbine speeds from dawn to dusk in the late summer and early fall.
A spokesperson for the Canadian Wind Energy Association said the association is concerned about reports that are based on limited data that have the effect of boosting estimates.
In response, CanWea is developing its own system that will be released this fall that is designed to improve existing and proposed bat regulations, said Brandy Giannetta, CanWea’s Ontario regional director.
“It aims to achieve this in part by enhancing knowledge of the existing data in order to drive science-based policy decisions and also by providing avoidance, minimization, and mitigation options that we hope operators and regulators alike will find useful in conservation efforts,” Giannetta said in an email.
Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of provincial groups opposed to wind farm development, said it is concerned that birds and, significantly, bats are being killed in numbers that were not forecast by either the Ontario government or the wind power developers.
“The population of the Little Brown Bat in particular is now at 5-10 per cent of its historical levels, so, as the Environmental Review Tribunal stated in the White Pines decision in Prince Edward County, even a few deaths will have a serious impact on the species as a whole. And we know for a certainty that bats are killed by wind turbines,” Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, said.
It is critical to understand that wind power projects shouldn’t be approved without a full and objective assessment of all factors in any given location. The government’s push for wind power has to be balanced with the continuing need to protect the natural environment, Wilson said. …
While concerns about Ontario’s electricity bills mount, with families increasingly finding it hard to pay the “hydro bills,” Ontario’s new Energy minister revealed in a Global TV interview that he doesn’t know that the situation is a crisis … in fact, he doesn’t know much about the entire portfolio. Here’s a fact: wind power in Ontario is less than 5% of the power supply, yet accounts for 20% of the bills. And, Ontario is exporting huge amounts of power while paying wind power generators to “constrain” production.
Parker Gallant this week sent a letter to the new Energy Minister Glen Thibeault, with an earnest offer to help, as a private citizen.
The Honourable Glen Thibeault, Minister of Energy,
Dear Minister Thibeault:
I was intrigued with your interview by Shirlee Engel of Global National and your humble admission that you still have much to learn about the portfolio that Premier Wynne handed you. Just to somewhat set your mind at ease I have been observing the Ministry of Energy and its complexities for six years and I too, on occasion, have doubts of my knowledge and understanding of the sector.
One thing I noted during the interview was your responses were not always factual perhaps reflecting your belief that your predecessors or the Ministry staff were, and still are, always correct. For example, you answered one of the questions on electricity rates by saying our “rates will rise 1.7% over the next 15 years”.
You may or may not be aware that when George Smitherman held the “energy” portfolio and shortly after he introduced Bill 150, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA), he appeared before the Standing Committee on General Government in 2009 and said this:
“We anticipate about 1% per year of additional rate increase associated with the bill’s implementation over the next 15 years.”
The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) says the “average” rate as of May 1, 2009 for electricity alone was 6.07 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and today, the OEB reports the “average” rate seven years later, as of May 1, 2016 was 12.10 cents/kWh. The increase of 6.03 cents/kWh is a 99.3% increase — not the Smitherman forecast of 7% for that period. In respect to delivery costs, Hydro One’s have increased by over 100% since 2009, and all of those increases were approved by the OEB.
Your predecessor Minister Chiarelli also made predictions. A year ago in an interview with the Windsor Star he said, “Rates are going to continue to go up everywhere. There was a blip in rate pressures because of the investments that we made, but starting in 2016 that will be flatlined very significantly.”
The electricity rate actually increased by 10% since his prediction …
WOODSTOCK, ON, July 18, 2016 /CNW/ – The East Oxford Alliance has filed an urgent request to halt a wind power project with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and the Environmental Review Tribunal. The group has also asked that its appeal of the Gunn’s Hill wind power project be reopened.
Although the endangered Little Brown Bat was acknowledged at the original appeal, the appeal was dismissed. “The Tribunal did not have the opportunity to examine the danger to these animals in light of the need for precaution,” says Joan Morris, East Oxford chair. “In the recent successful White Pines appeal, the Tribunal determined that because only five to ten percent of the original population of Little Brown Bat remains in Ontario, even a small number of deaths constitutes serious impact.
“It was confirmed at the Gunn’s Hill appeal that bats will be killed in this wind power project.”
The Environmental Review Tribunal also noted in its decision on Ostrander Point that approvals of renewable energy projects must seek balance between the government policy of encouraging clean power generation and protecting the environment.
SOURCE Wind Concerns Ontario
For further information: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information (though outdated) on the Gunn’s Hill wind power project, developed by Prowind of Germany, see the company website here. The project is financed in part by the Oxford Community Energy Co-op; information here.
Wind industry trade association study says Canada needs more wind power. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Problem is, it doesn’t help anything, least of all the environment, says Parker Gallant. But it does plenty to hurt your pocketbook.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) press release of July 6, 2016 was headlined “Canada can integrate large amounts of wind energy reliably, cost-effectively, says report” followed by the industry trade association’s assertion that “Canada can get more than one-third of its electricity from wind energy without compromising grid reliability – and at the same time realize economic and environmental benefits”.
The claims were based on a study they undertook (using a chunk of taxpayer dollars to co-fund the study) which GE (General Electric), a major manufacturer of industrial wind turbines, executed.
I recall the story that a wise engineer recounts. A senior research engineer gave him this advice when he joined a large electricity generating company’s “research studies” sector: “Remember to always ask your client what answer they expect to get before you start the experiment. You will need to know that information so you can carefully design the experiment to ensure it will not produce results that prove the opposite.”
One should expect with the objectives of CanWEA and GE so closely aligned the conclusions reached in this study did not produce results that prove the opposite.
Interestingly, only days before, the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) posted their 2016-2020 nine-page Strategic Plan which said the opposite of the CanWEA/GE study and its claim about not “compromising grid reliability.” Specifically, “Increasing variable generation, integration of distributed energy resources, and changing demand and supply patterns are creating operability challenges with respect to regulation, voltage control and flexibility.”
So, variable generation (wind and solar) are creating challenges and what CanWEA/GE propose in this study is to add more wind capacity and to urge Ontario to increase its industrial wind to 16,124 MW … and then back that capacity up with 2,500 MW of combined cycle and 600 MW of single cycle gas.
Based on the study’s suggestions we would expect the HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) market to show further deterioration and the GA (Global Adjustment) to jump higher with exports increasing and ratepayers picking up those GA costs.
The experience of two recent July days makes this very point. Canada Day, July 1st was a moderate demand day for Ontario, but a relatively high generation day for Ontario’s 3,900 MW capacity of industrial wind turbines (IWT), operating at about 38.5% of their capacity. As a result, the combined cost of IWT (output and curtailed) generated payments to the IWT operators was almost $4.7 million. The HOEP averaged a miserly $4.21 per megawatt hour (MWh), meaning the 53,500 MWh exported, generated revenue of only $225,000. Meanwhile ratepayers were required to pay the GA ($113.03/MWh average as at May 31, 2016) which created a subsidy for New York, Michigan, and others of $5.8 million.
In short, the 4.8 million Ontario electricity ratepayers got dinged for about $1.20 each for those exports for that one day.
One week later, July 7th was a relatively high demand day and a typical summer generation day for those 3,900 MW of IWT operating at only 7.5% of their capacity. The cost of the MWh generated by the IWT dropped to about $650,000 for the day, and the HOEP averaged $35.95/MWh, meaning the cost of exports for Ontario ratepayers for that day was $1.5 million or only 30 cents each.
What this means is, simply, power from wind is intermittent and unreliable. It is also not needed and has a bad habit of driving down the value of the HOEP. The effect of the latter simply increases the subsidy Ontario’s ratepayers pay to cover the GA costs of our surplus exports.
Here’s the bottom line: More industrial wind turbines will compromise grid stability and will not result in economic and environmental benefits, contrary to the claims in the partially taxpayer-funded study.
Here’s what Ontario’s new Energy Minister, Glen Thibeault, needs to understand: Ontario doesn’t need to acquire another 600 plus MW of new wind power generation, and he should cancel the recent Chiarelli procurement directive, to save ratepayers the associated expense of over $200 million every year.
“If a sports team went out week after week for the better part of a decade and lost every single game, you would have to question what is going on,” says environmental lawyer Eric Gillespie. “Even the Toronto Maple Leafs win some games.”
Ostrander Point Tribunal drags scrutiny of wind and solar projects out into the open
Only when time has passed and the memories of the the yearslong struggle begin to fade, will we know that industrial wind turbines have been banished from Ostrander Point for good. But for now, the creatures who occupy or pass through this bit of land on Prince Edward County’s south shore may do so without the threat of bulldozers rolling across the terrain or 50-storey machines whirring overhead. Maybe forever.
The Ostrander Point wind project has been stopped. Its appeal period has expired. There remain scenarios in which the project could be revived, but that likelihood is now remote, according to the lawyer acting for the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN).
“There is rarely a final chapter written in these types of sagas,” said Eric Gillespie. “It is fair to say, however, that the odds of this going further are extremely low. To the best of our understanding, the Gilead Power permit is revoked. That decision is not being appealed. The file has concluded.”
The volunteers who form PECFN allowed themselves to exhale on Thursday evening—after the developer’s appeal period had expired.
“It is particularly wonderful to finally realize that the battle is over,” said Cheryl Anderson of PECFN.
WHAT IT MEANS
The decision by the Environmental Review Tribunal—written by Heather Gibbs and Robert Wright—fundamentally alters the future for Ostrander Point, and has the potential to disrupt other projects involving land where Blanding’s turtles are known to nest, including White Pines and Amherst Island. But it has the potential to reach much further. Indeed, it has the potential to shake the very foundations of the Green Energy Act (GEA).
In 2009, the provincial government, led by Dalton McGuinty, was unsatisfied with the pace of wind and solar energy development in the province. Deadline after deadline had passed and his targets for renewable energy had gone unmet. A panel of experts had reported a year earlier that the regulatory process— the safeguards that protect human health, the environment and even the electrical grid itself—were causing the delays to wind and solar development across the province.
The GEA set out to remove these hurdles—eliminating safeguards in the Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Energy Board, among others.
Since the GEA was enacted, industrial wind and solar projects have been reviewed and approved behind closed doors in a mostly tightly controlled process. The only nod to public transparency and accountability was a single Environmental Review Tribunal.
But the test, established under the GEA, to overturn or amend a project at the Tribunal stage was thought to be impenetrable. That is, until now.
The only way to block a project with a renewable energy approval (REA), according to the legislation, is that an appellant must prove the risk posed by the project will cause “serious harm to human health,” or “serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.”
dozens of appeal hearings, predictions of impenetrability proved true. Gillespie says this led many to despair the review mechanism was just a formality.
“If a sports team went out week after week for the better part of a decade and lost every single game, you would have to question what is going on,” said Gillespie. “Even the Toronto Maple Leafs win some games.”
He says there was growing consensus among the legal community in Ontario that the test was being interpreted in such a way that “nobody could ever get to first base.”
“For many people, that undermined the credibility of the government and the credibility of the Tribunal’s process,” said Gillespie. “Every hearing became a rubber stamp process.”
The Ostrander Point Tribunal changed that— perhaps in a profound way.
For what it does is bring the review process out into the open. The developer and its lawyers had argued that it was beyond the Tribunal’s reach to consider the thoroughness or strength of the review conducted inside ministry walls. The Tribunal could conclude only whether the tests of harm had been met.
But Tribunal adjudicators Wright and Gibbs weren’t satisfied with this constriction. Nor were they comfortable that the risks, posed by the project to the Blanding’s turtle, were acceptable or the plan to create replacement habitat would work to protect the endangered species. This was much further than some legal experts believed was contemplated by the GEA.
Faced with the probability that the project was likely to damage the Blanding’s turtle population at Ostrander Point, the Tribunal overruled the provincial government and its ministries.
“Legally, it is significant for its ruling that once ‘serious and irreversible harm’ is found and the Tribunal moves into a consideration of appropriate remedy, the Tribunal will step into the Director’s shoes to fashion an appropriate remedy,” wrote Jack Coop et al in June, in an analysis of the decision for Osler, a law firm.
For the first time, an Environmental Review Tribunal had defined the measures it deems, based on the evidence and expert opinion presented before it, necessary to protect the species at risk. It concluded the only remedy demonstrated to work was to revoke the permit—to prevent the project from being built.
The decision, in some instances, will now enable Tribunals to consider concepts as the precautionary principle— that, based on a balance of probabilities, the risk posed by the proposed project is simply too great.
The Ostrander Point decision has the potential to return relevancy to the Tribunal review process, according to Gillespie.
“If the system was to maintain any credibility in the eyes of many across the province, something had to change,” said Gillespie.
He adds it is critical to this sense of faith people have in their regulatory processes that advances made in Ostrander Point are reflected in future decisions.
“If ultimately, appeals to White Pines and Amherst Island fail then arguably, we are back to where we were three years ago,” predicted Gillespie. “People will conclude that the right to appeal such projects is completely hollow.”
The World Health Organization recently announced that it is revising its guidelines for environmental noise, for Europe, and this time will include consideration of the noise emissions from utility-scale or industrial-scale wind turbines.
Wind Concerns Ontario has provided a comment document to the WHO.
“We told them, the current guidelines for environmental noise have been adopted and used by other countries to apply to turbine noise,” said Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “The problem is, they don’t work. Our experience in Ontario is that they are not sufficient to protect health, and they need to be updated with the results of recent research.”
While Health Canada claims its 2014 study is the most “comprehensive” in the world, WCO says, the study was criticized from the outset for its design and was in fact never supposed to determine a cause-and-effect relationship between turbine noise and health problems. That said, Wilson explains, the Health Canada study does show an association between the noise emissions and reports of distress.
“There’s a lot of other research, like the Cape Bridgewater study in Australia, for the WHO committee to consider,” Wilson, a Registered Nurse and health writer/editor.
“For example, we now know that simply using dBA to measure turbine noise is only giving part of the picture. More needs to be done to protect health.”
The WHO guidelines for Europe are important because other world jurisdictions, like Ontario, rely on them for their own policy decisions.
The following points are based on the learning from the Ontario experience, says WCO:
Application of the WHO Night Time Noise Standard to wind turbines is not appropriate.
Limiting exposure to audible noise above 40 dBA is not sufficient to protect health
Standards for low frequency noise and infrasound noise emissions from wind turbines, using appropriate measures, are required.
The current models used to estimate noise emissions are not accurately predicting the actual noise emissions produced by wind turbines. Different and more complex models are required but these need to be validated with real life experience before they are certified for use in regulatory processes.