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.
Glenn Thibeault claims his energy policies saved lives. Photo: Darren MacDonald Sudbury.com
In a recent interview, Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault spoke in defence of his government’s energy policies, which he admits have been responsible for escalating electricity bills and creating “energy poverty” in the formerly prosperous province.
The Minister claimed that his government didn’t self-promote the benefits of its policies often enough, and offered some public health figures as proof.
“When I talk about energy,” the Minister said, “we don’t [talk] about the fact we haven’t had a smog day in three years. Our air pollution hospitalizations are down by 41 per cent, deaths are down 23 per cent.”
Parker Gallant took the initiative to query the Minister’s office on the source of those dramatic figures and learned that whoever provided them to Mr. Thibeault for “talking points” had actually taken them from a report which in turn referenced another report, which had nothing whatever to do with energy and electricity generation in Ontario.
The figures actually came from a report by Toronto Public Health on air pollution in that city, Gallant says in his Energy Perspectives blog.
Here is the relevant excerpt:
These estimates include the impact of pollution originating in other parts of Ontario and the United States and represent a decrease of 23% in premature deaths and 41% in hospitalizations as compared with 2004 estimates. Air pollution in Toronto comes mainly from traffic, industrial sources, residential and commercial sources, and off-road mobile sources such as rail, air, and marine sources. Of these sources, traffic has the greatest impact on health, contributing to about 280 premature deaths and 1,090 hospitalizations each year…”
To be sure, air pollution is a major concern in public health, but for a Minister of the Crown to misappropriate figures to bolster policy in another area entirely is unacceptable, and deceitful.
We recall again the fact that two Auditors General for Ontario chastised the government for having implemented a green energy program including highly invasive wind power projects in quiet rural communities against their wishes, with no cost-benefit analysis. The truth about health benefits might have shown up, if a real independent analysis had ever been done.
“…in the public interest … to remove from the REA turbines … in Blandings turtle habitat”
The Environmental Review Tribunal released its long awaited decision on the remedies proposed by wind power developer WPD for its White Pines project in Prince Edward County Ontario to protect the endangered Blandings turtle and Little Brown Bat.
Relevant sections of the decision:
 In light of all of the circumstances, based on the evidence provided and taking
into account the purposes of the EPA in support of environmental protection and
renewable energy, the Tribunal finds that it is in the public interest to alter the Director’s
decision by amending the REA in part. The Tribunal finds that it is in the public interest
to add the Approval Holder’s proposed Condition L2 to the REA, but to alter that
condition by removing Tables 3-1 to 3-3, in the NRSI Plan. The Tribunal further finds
that it is in the public interest to remove from the REA the turbines proposed to be
accessed by the proposed upgraded secondary and tertiary municipal road segments
and by the intersections in Blanding’s turtle habitat, specifically Turbines 12, 13, 14, 15,
Condition J7.1. The Company shall implement the Mitigation Plan
for Operation of the White Pines Energy Project, dated July 21,
2016 prepared by Stantec Consulting Ltd., including:
1. Implement the monitoring and mitigation measures as
outlined in Table 2 of the Mitigation Plan;
2. Adjust cut-in speed to 5.5 m/s between sunset and sunrise
from May 1 to September 30 at all turbines for the operating
life of the Project; and
3. In the event of a mortality of a bat species that is a species
at risk, successively increase the operational mitigation as
detailed in Table 2 of the Mitigation Plan.
The question that remains is, with 60 percent of the project effectively removed, how can WPD meet its obligation to provide 75 percent of the power in its contract?
The entire project may have to be reformulated…it remains to be seen whether the company will opt to do that by using 4.1 MW turbines perhaps, or by finding other locations, but the company may have run out of time to do that.
Here is a recording of lawyer Eric Gillespie’s closing remarks at the remedy hearing held in Wellington, last January. “The only remedy is to revoke [the approval]. … the result of mitigation will be to extirpate a species.”
As in, little or no understanding of the problems with wind turbine noise emissions.
On Friday, April 21, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change released a new protocol document intended for “assessing noise from wind turbines that have already been built. It is used by industry and ministry staff to monitor compliance.”
While in the absence of guidance for staff, and the complete lack of compliance audit information from wind power developers and operators, this is a step forward, the truth is, the protocol doesn’t change much.
the protocol still relies on audible noise only, when many of the complaints registered with the MOECC concern effects that are clearly linked to other forms of noise
the protocol does not take into account lower wind speeds, which is where problems are being experienced, particularly with newer, more powerful turbines
there is no comment on any sort of transition between the protocol that existed before and this one
the Ministry’s action in producing this protocol is an indication that they know they have a problem
the description of Ministry response is a good step forward
requiring wind power companies to actually have, and to publish, compliance audit documents could be a sign of expectations of greater accountability among the power developers/wind power project operators.
This table outlines the critical gaps in the new protocol document.
Assessment of noise at wind speeds between 4 m/s and 7 m/s
MOECC testing indicates problem noise starts below 3 m/s which is outside of wind speeds involved in the protocol.
Narrow time period assessed
Wide seasonal variations while wind turbine noise constant
Only test outside of home
Very different inside noise conditions
Uses criticized techniques
Narrow band analysis shows tonal noise present.
Resident concerns drive other MOECC procedures
Elevated levels of infrasound in homes
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change needs to acknowledge that there is a problem with wind turbine noise, and accept that it must play a role as a government agency charged with protecting the environment and people in it — preparing an industry-led document may look like a positive step, but this document does not meet the needs of the people of Ontario forced to live with wind turbines, and their noise emissions.
“A careful reading of this paper shows that the conclusions are not supported by the data provided …”
A paper by Jalali et al was published in the journal Environmental Research last year, concluding that psychological factors contributed to distress and changes in sleep pattern, not the actual wind turbine noise emissions. Many people already living close to wind turbines were disappointed (not to say, astonished) by its conclusions, particularly those who trusted the research team and allowed them into their homes in the hopes of a meaningful and accurate research study.
Engineer and Ontario resident William Palmer did a detailed analysis of the Jalali paper; his comments have just been published by Environmental Research.
It remains a continuing disappointment that ideology (wind power is good and trumps all other concerns) seems to underlie research into the growing public health/environmental health issue associated with industrial-scale wind turbines and the noise emissions they produce. It is also disappointing that researchers continue to look for “psychological” factors instead of taking a public health approach to doing real-world investigation into a real-world health effect.
We say, BELIEVE the complaints from people. Then look for the cause of the problems.
Short-Communication: Revisiting conclusions of the report titled, “The impact of psychological factors on self-reported sleep disturbance among people living in the vicinity of wind turbines”.
by Leila Jalali, Mohammad-Reza Nezhad-Ahmadi, Mahmood Gohari, Philip Bigelow, & Stephen McColl, published in environmental research, volume 148, July 2016, 401–410
The research report concluded, “It appears that self-reported sleep reported of participants may be associated to the indirect effects of visual and attitudinal cue and concern about property devaluation rather than distance to the nearest WT’s or noise as itself.”
Careful reading of the report shows that the conclusions presented are not supported by the data provided in the report.
The Office of the National Wind Farm Commissioner recently released its first full Annual Report to the Parliament of Australia.
In the Summary, the Commissioner reported:
With regard to complaints received, our Office has received a total of 90 complaints about wind farms during the period up to 31 December 2016.
Of these 90 complaints received, 46 complaints were about operating wind farms and related to nine wind farms. As at 31 December 2016, a total of 32 of these complaints have been closed by our Office.
A further 42 complaints received by our Office were about proposed wind farms and related to 19 wind farms. As at 31 December 2016, 33 of these complaints have been closed by our Office.
The remaining two complaints did not specify a wind farm and have been closed.
Almost immediately, pro-wind forces in Australia claimed that the number of complaints noted was very small relative to what had been expected, and noted further that a significant number of the complaint files were closed because the individuals reporting chose not to pursue the matter further.
An obvious explanation for that is, like Ontario, people file complaints with the wind power developers and government but when their reports of adverse health effects and disturbance are met with inaction, they give up.
Conflict of interest
The Commissioner noted that the practice of using acoustics experts so developers may provide reports to government indicating compliance with noise regulations is open to a conflict of interest.
It is very common that the experts engaged to perform the design assessments and reports during the planning phase are the same experts engaged by the developer to perform the post-construction assessments. Developers often use the same experts on multiple projects.
The selection and use of the same expert in both the design and then operating phases of a wind farm may give rise to perceived or real conflicts of interest between the developer and the expert. As a compliance with the noise standard and is then engaged to assess the operating wind farm for actual compliance, may be placed in a difficult situation if the acoustician discovers the operating wind farm is in fact non-compliant, particularly if areas of non-compliance may be a result of errors made in the original acoustician’s pre-construction assessment.
There is certainly scope for a better separation between the experts used for the predictive assessments versus the experts used for the post-construction assessments of a wind farm, along with peer review of the expert’s work so as to minimise errors, maximise transparency and better manage perceived or real conflicts of interest. (page 28)
Wind power companies not managing complaints properly
What the pro-wind forces fail to point out too, is that the Commissioner was harsh in his criticism of how wind turbine noise complaints are managed by the wind power companies.
… our observations are that many wind farms are not following their own documented procedures when handling complaints, leading to situations including:
• multiple complaints from a resident about the same issue with no action being taken by the wind farm operator to investigate or resolve
a lack of rigour in investigations and correspondence, and
• a lack of clarity regarding next steps in the process leading to numerous complaints that remain unresolved and/or have not been closed.
Even if the endorsed complaint handling procedures were being followed, there is also a wide range of wind farm complaint handling procedures in place that vary by developer and project, resulting often in a lack of consistency in the quality and effectiveness of the procedures. Although wind farm operators possess a wide range of complaint handling skills, there are further opportunities to improve the capability of staff and effectiveness of the wind farm industry’s complaint handling procedures.
We have encouraged a number of wind farm developers and operators to voluntarily publish their complaint handling procedures on the wind farm’s website… (page 29)
Moreover, the Commissioner said, noise emission audits are not covering the full range of noise produced by the turbines, including “tonal” or “low frequency noise.”
In assessing noise-related complaints, the objective ‘tests’ currently in place do not necessarily capture the tonal character of noise emissions that a complainant may be experiencing. For instance, insufficient maintenance of infrastructure (for instance, a turbine or a substation transformer) may lead to harmonic frequencies that produce a harsher tone to the human ear. While this is not typically represented in noise assessment data, contemporary noise measurement or recording devices can be used to indicate that the tonal character of a particular noise emission may reasonably be considered to be disturbing or offensive to a complainant. (page 29)
Adverse health effects
As to specific adverse health effects reported, the Commissioner said that in the absence of actual medical reports it was difficult to make any conclusions.
Complaints regarding health concerns received by our Office, to date, have provided only anecdotal evidence regarding stated health issues and causality. It has therefore been difficult to confirm whether or not the stated health conditions reported by complainants are a direct result of the wind farm’s operations or from some other cause.
It is possible that stated health conditions may be caused by other known causes not related to the wind farm’s operations. Of concern is the potential situation whereby a resident may fail to seek and obtain appropriate medical advice for a treatable condition due to the possibly incorrect assumption that an operating wind farm is perceived as the cause of the health condition.
Health conditions may also arise as a result of stress, annoyance or anxiety related to the presence of an operating wind farm or concerns about the effects of a proposed wind farm. Further, uncertainties in relation to whether a proposed wind farm will actually proceed (a period which may extend for several years) may also contribute to stress and anxiety. Again, affected residents may need to seek appropriate medical treatment for their health conditions as well as seek ways to resolve their concerns.
The Commission recommended:
9.2.1. Federal and state governments should continue to assess the outcomes of research into wind farms and health, including outcomes of the two NHMRC funded wind farm health studies and recommendations of the ISCOWT. Environmental standards should be monitored and reviewed in line with any recommendations arising from these programs.
9.2.2. Residents living in the vicinity of an operating or proposed wind farm that are experiencing health conditions should be encouraged to seek appropriate medical advice to properly diagnose and treat any health-related conditions accordingly.
9.2.3. Medical practitioners who identify causational links between a patient’s health condition and their proximity to the operation of a wind farm should report such incidences in an appropriate way to the relevant professional body, association and/or government agency.
9.2.4. Residents who are experiencing unacceptable noise levels from a wind farm should be encouraged to report such incidents to the wind farm operator, the compliance authority and/or the appropriate regulator.
Don’t stop reporting
People wishing to report excessive noise or vibration from industrial-scale wind turbines should call the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change at 1-800-268-6060; if the call is placed during business hours, the caller may be referred to the local District Office.
The caller should receive an INCIDENT REPORT NUMBER.
The MOECC has told Wind Concerns Ontario that callers should be prepared to provide:
name and telephone number
direction of the wind
wind speed (this is available from the weather network on TV or on your “smart” phone)
location relative to the nearest turbine(s)
a rating of the noise and/or vibration/pressure on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most severe.
Parker Gallant and Scott Luft have put together the numbers for the electricity sector over the Easter weekend … and it’s nowhere near as pretty as an Easter bonnet.
Demand is so low that 99,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of wind power had to be “curtailed” or constrained at a cost of $11.9 million for the three days, and the total cost of wind power was estimated to be $20 million. That brings the cost of delivered wind power to 33.5 cents per KWh.
The nice weather on Easter weekend in Ontario disguised the fact that April 14th, 15th and 16th were really bad days for electricity customers.
Scott Luft’s daily reports detailed the bad news, even before the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO got out their daily summary for April 12th. Some of the information in Scott’s reports are estimates, but they have always proven to be on the conservative side. These three reports paint a disturbing picture of what’s going on, and how badly the Ontario government is mismanaging the electricity file.
Here are a few of the events that our Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault and Premier Wynne should find embarrassing. They also confirm what many of us have been telling them for several years.
First, Thursday April 13th saw a disclosure from the Energy Ministry that Ontario paid out $28,095,332 including about $240,000 in interest to Windstream Energy to satisfy the award made to them under the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) tribunal, due to cancellation of a 300-MW offshore industrial wind turbine project.
Wasted, unneeded wind power
Second, the HOEP (hourly Ontario electricity price) market, traded all of Ontario’s generation over the three days at “0” (zero) or negative value. While total demand for electricity was 1,031,448 MWh over the three days the HOEP market valued it at -$869,220 or an average of -.84 cents/MWh. The “0” and negative values for the HOEP lasted 77 continuous hours, breaking a prior record of 62 hours.
Third, during the three days, ratepayers picked up the bill for 99,109 MWh of curtailed wind which exceeded the transmission (TX) and distribution (DX) connected wind by 60.2%. Curtailed wind at an estimated $120/MWh alone cost ratepayers $11.9 million, driving the price of delivered wind (61,882MWh) to a cost of $335.34/MWh or 33.5 cents a kWh. Total wind costs were $20.8 million.
Fourth, solar power over the three days generated and curtailed (1,124 MWh) 35,539 MWh at a cost of $16.8 million, which works out to $472.86/MWh or 47.3 cents/kWh.
Fifth was the cost of gas which in three days produced 18,433 MWh, but the cost was $12.5 million and $676.56/MWh or 67.7 cents/kWh. The 9,943 MW of IESO grid-connected gas operated at 2.6% of actual capacity during the three days.
Sixth was the generosity shown to our neighbours in New York, Michigan and Quebec who took delivery of 157,768 MWh of free power along with a payment of $132,525.
The quick math on the above indicates a cost of wind, solar and gas generation plus the payment for exported power comes to $50.2 million.
Nuclear and hydro was all we needed
That’s bad enough, but if you look at nuclear and hydro generation during those three days, clearly the $50.2 million was “money for nothing” paid for by Ontario’s ratepayers. Nuclear (including steamed-off of 49,118 MWh) was 688,981 MWh and combined with hydro generation of 324,001 MWh of could have provided 1,012,982 MWh versus Ontario’s demand over those three days of 869,232 MWh leaving 143,750 MWh of surplus. Three days of nuclear and hydro cost $61.9 million or 6.1 cents/kWh.
Bottom line? Ontario ratepayers picked up the bill for not only the $28.1 million paid to Windstream for a canceled offshore wind project, but also another $50.2 million, making the past four days very expensive for everyone.
The $78.3 million could have been better spent on health care or so many other pressing needs!
It’s time to kill the Green Energy Act and cancel any uncompleted wind and solar contracts before all our weekends turn out like this one!
MOECC admission of ‘tonality’ a step forward but more action needed
(C) Wind Concerns Ontario
Residents living near the K2 wind power project in the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh have received a report from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change following noise testing done at their property, Wind Concerns Ontario has learned.
WCO received a copy of the MOECC report and other correspondence from the residents, who are members of the coalition of Ontario community groups and individuals in Ontario concerned about the impact of wind turbines on the economy, natural environment, and human health.
The noise testing was done at their request, connected to complaints made to the MOECC about excessive noise and sound pressure or vibration being emitted from industrial-scale wind turbines at the K2 power project.
The MOECC report’s Executive Summary states that
Based on the results of the analysis, it is acknowledged that sound from the wind turbines was audible during the measuring campaign at levels that appear to exceed the applicable sound level limits, and based on C3 measurements conducted at a nearby receptor (the distance is about 1250 m from R876; where the same turbine(s) within 1500 m distance impact both receptors) it was further concluded that there is a possibility that sound from the nearby turbines could be tonal. To confirm compliance, it is recommended that a tonal audibility assessment and detailed noise audit be undertaken in accordance with Part D of the draft Compliance Protocol for Wind Turbines Noise, NPC 350, 2017.
This is remarkable as it is the first time MOECC supervisory staff have admitted to “tonality” in wind turbine noise emissions. And also because, in previous noise testing by the MOECC, the Ministry claimed results were “inconclusive” due to other noises such as birds chirping and tree leaf movement.
A tonal audibility assessment is a step forward.
Is it enough?
The Ministry needs to acknowledge that there is a problem with wind turbine noise emissions, and in the case of this particular report and recommendation, immediate action is required, including comprehensive testing including for infrasound which was excluded by the equipment used for these tests.
It is time for government to accept responsibility for its wind power program and the impacts on people who were given no choice but to live with them.
The sitting Liberal government persists in “green” ideology despite energy poverty, no environmental benefit from industrial-scale wind turbines
Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara-West Glanbrook, put forward a Private Member’s Bill in the Legislature yesterday, proposing the government halt all wind power approvals in unwilling host communities.
An excerpt from his speech:
Industrial wind turbines are one of the reasons people are facing a choice between heating and eating. Expensive and counterproductive power subsidies for turbines we don’t want or need have contributed to the soaring hydro prices that are among the greatest burdens the people of Ontario have to face.
Whether they are spending billions of dollars to stretch out future debt payments or handing out rich subsidies to industrial wind turbine operators, this government will always stick Ontarians with the bill.
I’m not just tilting at windmills like Don Quixote, but a comparison is in order. Cervantes, in his famous novel, wrote about a dreamer of no substance who could not perceive reality—sounds a lot like the Liberals and their hydro plan. This government’s scheme does nothing to address the root cause of the Ontario energy affordability crisis: the Liberals’ Green Energy Act. We call it the bad contracts act because it was designed to benefit Liberal corporate donors, and locks taxpayers into a 20-year contract for overpriced wind and solar power. It’s also for energy we don’t need.
Since 2009, Ontario has given away $6 billion—$6 billion—in surplus energy to US states. States that have lower energy costs than Ontario are getting electricity from us at discount prices. We’re giving businesses across the border a competitive edge over our own Ontario businesses. Truly, Premier Wynne is the best Minister of Economic Development the United States has ever had.
Speaker, I’d like to remind everyone that although the NDP also like to complain about high hydro costs and say that they too are on the side of local communities, they were complicit in setting the stage for industrial turbines being forced down the throats of rural municipalities across Ontario. The NDP joined the Liberals to pass the bad contracts act that enabled the government to sign contracts with big hydro companies that aren’t transparent and can’t be examined. Municipal governments also say that their planning authority was eliminated by this provincial legislation. …
The Minister of Energy has acknowledged that this government has made mistakes with the energy file. The Premier has acknowledged that there are serious issues on the energy file that her government is going to be working on. Yet they don’t seem willing to address the fundamental reasons behind those mistakes. Today, I’m giving them a chance, and I hope they’ll take up the chance that this government can make remedy. If they’re actually sorry, they will vote for this motion. If the Liberal government is actually willing to listen to rural residents, to listen to municipalities and to follow up on the words of their throne speech, I hope their caucus will vote in favour of my motion.
Several other MPPs spoke as well, including Jim McDonell, PC Energy Critic Todd Smith, and Michael Mantha and Gilles Bisson for the NDP.
Read the transcript and the results of the recorded vote here.
Testing being done for audible noise alone–residents’ symptoms indicate other problems
Two Ontario municipalities are supporting the call for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to do comprehensive testing for the full range of noise emissions from wind turbines.
Last night, Kincardine Council supported residents Norma and Ron Schmidt, who have been forced from their home because of adverse health effects from the noise and pressure produced by turbines near them, in sending a letter to the Ministry.
The situation echoes that of Port Elgin where hundreds of complaints have been filed with the Ministry about the turbine on the property owned by Unifor. The municipality of Saugeen Shores has repeatedly asked the Ministry to conduct the necessary investigations, to no avail.
“The government said they were safe”
See the video by CTV London reporter Scott Miller here.