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.
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.
It’s established that wind power projects pose a risk to endangered species like the Little Brown Bat and Blandings turtle; now there is evidence that the construction activities and the vibration from operating industrial-scale or utility-scale wind turbines is having a serious effect on nearby wells.
A citizens’ group worried about the potential impact on groundwater from wind turbine vibrations is calling for the provincial minister’s resignation.
Water Wells First placed protest signs on Monday at the Windsor, Sarnia and London offices of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, said group spokesman Kevin Jakubec in a media release..
“Water Wells First no longer sees the MOECC as credible stewards of the environment.
We are asking for the immediate resignation of Ontario’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray,” he said.
Last week, Water Wells First held a demonstration at a Chatham Township farm to show how difficult it would be logistically for farmers and their livestock to use bottled water, if it was required.
Jakubec said the management of the Renewable Energy Program could jeopardize the health and safety of Ontario’s livestock when “the MOECC put forward the impractical use of using bottled water to resupply livestock farms” that have lost their water wells due to wind farm construction and operation.
The proposed North Kent 1 Wind Project, which calls for 40 to 50 wind turbines to be constructed in the area, had some residents worried that the vibrations could result in dirty water.
“Water Wells First will protest the actions of the MOECC until the MOECC recognizes that groundwater must be protected as the first line of defense against climate change,” Jakubec said.
Last month, the group held an initial media conference to help raise awareness about the issue.
In an e-mail on Monday, the ministry stated that it was taking the necessary precautions.
“The MOECC takes all public concerns very seriously. That is why MOECC included an extremely stringent series of conditions on the proponent for the North Kent Renewable Energy Approval,” it stated.
The Ottawa media was all abuzz with the recent Canada-Mexico-U.S. meetings and the glory days of collaboration ahead, but an interview with U.S. Energy Secretary Eugene Moniz was a little more specific on just what is expected of Canada. Ontario, it seems, could figure significantly in the grand plans for economic prosperity and climate change action. Except, it might come at great cost, says Parker Gallant
U.S. Secretary of Energy Eugene Moniz, was interviewed by public affairs channel CPAC in Washington in advance of the tripartite meetings associated with the North American Leaders Summit. At that summit, the three leaders announced a “joint environmental action plan” aimed at generating 50% of electricity from clean power by 2025.
In the interview, Secretary Moniz specifically mentions building a continental transmission grid to bring renewables from Canada to the U.S., and increasing integration of our respective energy systems. He labeled the latter as a part of “Mission Innovation” which Canada, Mexico and the U.S. have signed onto. He laughingly referenced his dedication to meeting the Paris COP 21 commitments to reduce emissions (inferred) by attending a meeting in Winnipeg with the two other “energy ministers” when it was 30 degrees below zero.
Presumably Secretary Moniz was aware that Canada, with particular emphasis on Ontario’s ratepayers, is doing all we can to help the U.S. reduce emissions by supplying them with cheap, emission-free electricity on an hourly basis. The latter is evident based on the Q1 2016 Ontario Energy Report. The report carries a rather telling chart indicating that out of 6.182 terawatts (TWh) of energy exported in the 1st Quarter of 2016, 4.986 TWh were exported to Michigan (2.557 TWh) and New York (2.429 TWh).
Collectively, those exports represented almost 81% of all Ontario-generated electricity exports in the quarter. Those exports could have supplied over 550,000 average Ontario households with power for a full year. The latter, co-incidentally, is roughly the number of Ontario households (571,000) found to be living in “energy poverty” by the Ontario Energy Board in a 2014 report.
Apparently Secretary Moniz wants more of Ontario’s cheap power. No wonder: we sold it to the U.S. at an average price of 1.1 cents/kWh in the 1st Quarter of 2016, while Ontario electricity ratepayers picked up 11.9 cents/kWh of the costs to generate them, according to the IESO March Monthly Market Report. In the CPAC interview, Secretary Moniz indicated the goal is to look at moving “renewables over long distances” by expanding the continental grid. He must assume that this is possible because of the cheap price for which Ontario sells off its surplus energy, which could make up for the significant line losses that will occur.
Those exported TWh to Michigan and New York were subsidized by Ontario ratepayers who picked up the Global Adjustment costs of $593 million towards the contracted production for the three months.
The message from Secretary Moniz is this: don’t send us (the U.S.) your oil by pipeline, but please do build transmission lines to carry wind, solar and hydro power to us … as long as you include a big subsidy, paid for by the ratepayers of Ontario.
Sidebar: The writer has wondered for some time why U.S. electricity generators affected by Ontario’s cheap and subsidized electricity exports to the border states of New York and Michigan have not challenged us under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Guess we know why.
The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, who brought the appeal against the Gilead Power wind project at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County, released this information tonight.
Prince Edward County Field Naturalists
PECFN breathes out
July 6, 2016 Picton, Ontario — On June 6, 2016 we reported that “The Tribunal in the Ostrander Point ERT hearing has found that the remedies proposed by Ostrander [Gilead] and the Director are not appropriate in the unique circumstances of this case. The Tribunal finds that the appropriate remedy under s.145.2.1 (4) is to revoke the Director’s decision to issue the REA [Renewable energy Approval]. ”
Following that decision both the Director (Minister of Environment and Climate Change) and Gilead Power had the right to to appeal to the Divisional Court based on legal errors in the decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal. The proponent had thirty days to submit their appeal and today was the deadline. As of 5 pm today no notice has come of that request to appeal.
In early 2012 Myrna Wood, Pamela Stagg and I started a blog on Countylive to try to let people know how important the habitat at Ostrander Point Crown Land Block was to migrating birds, bats, and butterflies. We also spent time writing about reptiles and amphibians at risk and the important imperilled alvar habitat.
At the same time Nature Canada, Ontario Nature and PECFN were writing comments to the Environmental Bill of Rights about the proposed project which the government claimed was public input under the Green Energy Act. All organizations pointed out the importance of this site to migrating birds, bats, monarchs and species at risk such as the Whip-poor-will and the Blanding’s Turtle. In spite of all this input the Ministry of the Environment approved a project on December 20, 2012 to install 9 turbines and their associated roads and ancillary equipment at Ostrander Point Crown Land Block. Given 15 days to appeal, PECFN moved forward, solid in the knowledge that Ostrander Point was the wrong place for wind turbines.
This action has been described as a David versus Goliath battle. PECFN, a rural organization of about 60 members was up against the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and a large oil company-owned business. It is particularly wonderful to finally realize that the battle is over and that “David” has prevailed. Myrna Wood comments “This was a long and hard battle, but totally worth it – important habitat has been conserved and we are very happy.”
As the Independent Electricity Systems Operator announces more Feed In Tariff or FIT contracts for more “variable” power generation (i.e., intermittent or, in a word, unreliable), and still plans to launch its Large Renewable Procurement II program this summer, Parker Gallant says Ontario’s electricity rates are set to keep climbing, with no end in sight.
The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) just announced the award of 936 MiniFIT contracts that will add another 241.43 megawatts (MW) of long-term renewable high priced energy contracts to your local LDC (local distribution company) grid.
While most of the awards were for solar power and only 3 MW of wind capacity, the announcement follows former Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli’s April 5, 2016 directive to IESO to acquire another 600 MW of industrial wind turbine capacity. This directive was issued despite his knowledge that Ontario consistently exports surplus production and curtails (and pays) wind power generators, spills cheap hydro, steams off nuclear and pays gas plants to idle.
The IESO announcement means more tax dollars coming out of ratepayers pockets, too: a large percentage (over 30%) of the MiniFIT contracts were awarded to school boards, municipalities, and even a few local distribution companies, etc., to install solar panels on the roofs of their buildings allowing them to generate income for upkeep of the schools, etc. With the renewable energy subsidies, Ontario ratepayers are now picking up tax costs that rightfully should be in the purview of the Province who have responsibility for funding primary education and the facilities occupied by the students with our tax dollars.
More ‘variable’ generation forecast—that means, more expense
Just days before IESO’s MiniFIT announcement, the IESO Strategic Plan 2016-2020 was posted. I found this disturbing statement in the nine-page document:
“Operability – With the evolving supply mix, we face new operating challenges in managing the bulk power system. 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. The IESO, with stakeholder input, will develop cost-effective solutions to address these challenges.”
As Ontario ratepayers know that last sentence hasn’t exactly played out the way IESO suggests it will in the future, with rate increases that have defied reason. Nothing has been “cost-effective”!
For example, a news release referenced as the Ontario Energy Report Q1 2016 has an “Electricity Prices” chart on page 11. Comparison of the “Commodity Cost (cents/kWh)” discloses all-in costs for Class B ratepayers for January 2016 versus January 2015 were 31.4% higher, for February 2016 were 22.3% higher and for March were 26.5% higher. If IESO’s display of a “cost-effective” solution means average increases of almost 27%, Ontario ratepayers can only expect things will get a lot worse.
The Smart Grid: a gloomy picture on cost?
Another example is related to IESO’s ability to manage the development of the “Smart Grid.” As previously noted by Ontario’s Auditor General, the current government failed to produce a cost/benefit study for many of their decisions affecting the energy sector. It now appears the Ministry of Energy finally commissioned a cost/benefit study which was completed by Navigant and referenced as the “Ontario Smart Grid Assessment and Roadmap”. While the date on the 135-page “Roadmap” is January 2015, a check on the Document Properties of the file shows it appears to have been modified June 5, 2015. Did the original document painted a gloomy picture and the Ministry required a tempering of the costs or forecasts?
The “Roadmap” provides an estimate of the costs of development of the smart grid and the estimated payback with the latter offering a best, expected, and worst estimate. (One should recall that Navigant designed the Global Adjustment but it was originally called the “Provincial Benefit”. We all know how that turned out!)
The Navigant Roadmap estimates the cost of development of the smart gridNB:, including the $2 billion cost of smart meters out to 2035 will total $8.3 billion.. The “benefits” they estimate will flow from that investment are $3.8 billion at the low end and $9 billion at the high end. The “expected” benefit is estimated to come in at $6.3 billion — that’s $2 billion short of the projected costs.
More bad news for ratepayers
So, putting all the bad news together, we should expect higher electricity rates come November 1st , 2016 when the Ontario Board resets the rates based on the big jump year over year in just the first quarter. We should expect the additional MiniFIT contacts will result in higher prices as they are installed and the contracts click in, and we should expect the “smart grid” costs will grow much higher than forecast and add costs to our bills.
Finally we should expect the additional 600 MW of wind turbine capacity to be acquired under the Large Renewable Procurement II (set to begin in August) will result in increased costs due to both curtailment and an increase in surplus exports subsidized by ratepayers.
NB: The original cost estimate provided to the writer by IESO related to development of the “smart gird” (without costs of the smart meters) was $1.6 billion and contained in a Financial Post article on July 6, 2010.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy.
Two separate Ontario communities sought to appeal the Ontario government’s approval of local wind “farms” based on the idea that there is no research available that confirms the noise emissions from industrial-scale or utility-scale wind turbines are safe. Currently in Ontario, the government’s renewable energy policy allows for wind power projects to be located as close as 550 metres from homes; the Wynne and McGuinty governments have assumed an “innocent until proven guilty” while communities are asking for a more precautionary approach on siting the power projects.
WIND GROUPS DISMAYED WITH COURT RULING
Grey Highlands/Plympton-Wyoming, July 4, 2016 – Two citizen’s groups, situated hundreds of kilometres apart in Ontario, who are both opposed to wind turbine developments, are disappointed with the decision of the Superior Court in London released on June 28th, 2016, to confirm the decisions made by the Environmental Review Tribunals (ERT) on their respective wind projects. The two groups had joined forces to appeal their respective ERT decisions.
Gary Fohr of Grey Highlands stated one of the concerns. “The Green Energy Act puts the burden of proof on citizens to prove that wind turbines are harmful. We were asking the court to consider that wind turbines have never been proven safe. There is no scientific evidence to support the government’s claim that industrial wind turbines do not cause harm.”
The groups appealed based on the ruling made by the Divisional Court in an earlier case (Dixon). In that decision the court stated: “There is a difference between a negative determination that serious harm to human health has not been proven and a positive determination that engaging in the renewable energy project in accordance with the renewable energy approval will not cause serious harm to human health. Although no party raised as an issue on these appeals the failure of the Tribunal to confirm the decisions of the Directors, it is important that a tribunal follow its statutory mandate.”
We interpret that to mean the Tribunals are required to confirm that the evidence presented at the hearing provides proof that there will be no harm to human health.
At the Fohr ERT hearing, an expert medical witness for the project developer acknowledged that the current scientific evidence is insufficient to prove that wind projects will not harm nearby residents, and that additional scientific study is still needed in that regard.
In effect, the provincial government has been approving wind projects without definitive scientific evidence that the projects will NOT cause harm.
We believe this is not in keeping with the intent of the Environmental Protection Act which requires the developer for any non-renewable project, such as a mine or cement plant, to provide definitive proof that their project will not harm human health or the environment. Only in the case of renewable energy projects is the onus reversed; the residents must prove serious harm before the project can be stopped.
Many people living close to turbines continue to complain about adverse health effects. The scientific evidence is growing to support their claims. Apathy is turning to empowerment, as affected residents are encouraged to organize together and speak with one voice.
We’re not against renewable energy, but we believe such projects should NOT be located where they will cause serious disturbances and adverse health effects to nearby residents in their homes. This is not acceptable collateral damage, and it’s unfortunate this has to be such a painful lesson.
While we’re disappointed with this decision, we are not discouraged from our ongoing efforts to advocate for the responsible implementation of these projects.
July 6 is the final date for the proponent of the Ostrander Point wind power project to file an appeal of the Environmental Review Tribunal decision that revokes approval by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
Here is a summary of the situation by Charles Birchall of environmental law firm Willms & Shier. There is a lot riding on what happens this week, the lawyer says …
Wind Farms vs. Blandings Turtles — a decision at last?
On June 6, 2016 the Environmental Review Tribunal (“ERT”) released its decision determining the appropriate statutory remedy respecting the Director’s approval of the construction and operation of a nine turbine wind farm at Ostrander Point. The remedy hearing decision takes account of proposed mitigation measures for preventing serious and irreversible harm to the Blanding’s turtle population.
Summer is here. Trips and cottage time are being planned. Summer camps will be in full swing shortly. And, Canada Day is fast approaching.
As people prepare to spend a little less time in front of computers, iPads, and cell phones, it may be easy to miss an important date – at least in the context of the three and a half year battle over a renewable energy approval (the “REA”) issued by the Director, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (the “Director” and “MOECC”) on December 20, 2012, to Ostrander Point GP Inc. as general partner for and on behalf of Ostrander Point Wind Energy LP (“Ostrander”). The REA would permit Ostrander to install nine wind turbine generators (the “Project”) at Ostrander Point near Picton, Ontario.
July 6, 2016 is the last date on which Ostrander can appeal a decision rendered by the ERT to once again revoke the Director’s decision to issue the REA. This is the first REA appeal proceeding where an appellant has met the environmental harm test in s. 145.2.1(2)(b) of the Environmental Protection Act (the “EPA“) – namely a renewable energy project that will cause “serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or to the natural environment”. It is also the first hearing solely on the matter of remedy in the history of renewable energy approval appeals in Ontario.