Designed to fail: biologist criticizes wind farm environmental assessments

The Short-Eared Owl, a resident of Amherst Island. Are environmental assessments designed to protect wildlife? Or, not to find any?

An independent wildlife researcher with a degree in wildlife biology and 50 years experience tracking raptors, has written a critique of the wildlife assessment done by consulting firm Stantec, for a New York wind power project in St. Lawrence County.

Stantec has also been the consultant of record for environmental assessments done by many wind power developers hoping for approval of projects in Ontario.

While it is unfortunate that the researcher felt he/she had to choose not to attach his/her name to the document, the comments in it are interesting, and may point to an approval process that is geared toward success for the power developers.

Speaking generally on the surveys of raptors (hawks, eagles) to be used by Stantec for the wind power project, the author of the paper said, “they [defy] logic and are not based upon sound scientific research. These Stantec surveys are supposed to identify bird, bat and raptor usage in and around the North Ridge Wind Energy project, yet these surveys are designed to miss much of this species usage by breeding and migratory species. Stantec gives no reasoning for choosing the flawed and inadequate methodology planned for these studies.”

The author accuses Stantec of choosing to do a survey only of spring migration for the birds while birds are actually at greater risk in the fall because they are moving more slowly (there is not the push to build a nest and raise this year’s offspring), and because there are young birds making the trip for the first time. “It defies all logic,” the writer says.

As to surveys of breeding birds, Stantec’s timing is several months too late, and is very limited — a “keyhole” approach, the writer says. “This keyhole approach will miss most of the opportunities to observe nesting activities because nesting activities for some species start in January. For adult geese, this activity begins in late winter as soon as waters open up. This keyhole approach will also miss or eliminate all the vital migratory bird species data and site usage in the fall.”

Bats and the mounting kills seen at turbine sites are a concern but Stantec again designed its work for this power project to find no risk, the author says. “After all this lengthy Stantec discussion and distorted reasoning, this planned bat survey was designed to miss what is probably the most utilized and most important bat habitat located in the project site. Bats are attracted to wetlands and bodies of water because of the abundance of insects. Look at the image below and note the two reds circles. ”

The author provides a map that shows where the bat habitat is, and the study area done by Stantec.

The company’s post-operational survey work is deeply flawed too, the author says, and refers to work done at Wolfe Island, which is now known as a wind power project with one of the highest kill rates for birds in North America. But could the numbers be higher still?

The author of this paper says Stantec’s insistence on checking for carcasses very near to the turbines is giving false numbers: “The Wolfe Island studies conducted by Stantec reported hundreds of carcasses with just several reported beyond 50 meters. I believe the furthest carcasses distance reported was 59 meters. For 400 ft tall turbines this is not reality and it is simply not possible. What is possible is that 50-80% of the carcasses were not reported and this was never disclosed. The wind industry’s own data proves that any carcass hit by a turbine blade has a much better than 50/50 odds or 1 of 2 chance of this carcass landing at a distance beyond a turbines blade length.

Community groups who know their environment well have insisted that the wildlife studies being done are not realistic. On Amherst Island, for example, where more than 30 endangered or at-risk species shelter and where many thousands of migratory birds stop, the risk was determined to be negligible. In the Niagara area, the presence of a known Blandings Turtle habitat was dismissed, and the power project approved.

Once again, it appears that Ontario and the wind power industry — both well funded — are counting on citizens not to have the expertise or the resources to present the truth about wind power projects, and danger to the natural environment.

Read the paper here.

 

Wind power: Ontario’s high-cost “millstone”

“Wind wastes other clean supply and devalues exports.”

Ontario should reconsider its commitment to wind, policy consultant Marc Brouilette says. Two-thirds of Ontario’s wind output is surplus. [Photo Gary Moon]

In a stunning commentary published yesterday by the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy, energy policy consultant Marc Brouilette says that Ontario’s wind power program is an expensive adventure that does not achieve any of its goals for the environment or economic prosperity, and is in fact, making things worse.

At a cost of $1.5 billion in 2015, Brouillette says, the fact that wind power generation is completely out of sync with demand in Ontario results in added costs for constrained generation form other sources. Constrained nuclear and hydro cost $300 million that year, and a further $200 million in costs was incurred due to “avoided” natural gas generation.

And, the power isn’t even getting to the people who need it. “[O]nly one-half of total provincial wind output makes it to the Central Region and the GTA where most of Ontario’s electricity demand exists,” Brouillette states.

All things considered, wind costs more than $410 per megawatt hour, which is four times the average cost of electricity in Ontario. This is being charged to Ontario’s electricity customers, at an increasing rate.

Ontario should reconsider its commitment to more wind, Brouillette concludes: “these challenges will increase if Ontario proceeds to double wind capacity to the projected ~6,500 MW.”

Wynne government “let people down” on wind turbine noise

Thousands of noise complaints remain unresolved in Ontario.

Home in Huron County. [Photo Gary Moon]
In the current edition of Ontario Farmer is this story by writer John Miner.

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change received thousands of formal complaints from people living near industrial wind turbines, but did little about it, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to wind farm development is charging.

“People really trusted the government and they were let down,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario.

Two years after filing a Freedom of Information request for summaries of noise complaints received by the ministry, Wind Concerns Ontario was provided 450 pages* covering the period 2006 to 2014.

In that period, the Ministry logged 3,180 complaints with people reporting they were suffering from sleep disturbance, headaches, dizziness and other illnesses.

Some people said they had been unable to sleep for days, sometimes weeks.

In some cases, the Ministry arbitrarily dismissed complaints. In others, they closed the file without investigating if the complainant quit calling, Wilson said.

No action to revise regulations

In a 27-page report based  on the documents released, Wind Concerns Ontario said there is absolutely no indication that the Ministry took the complaints seriously, and took any steps to review and revise existing regulations and processes. based on real-life experiences of the people of Ontario.

Responding to the report, a Ministry spokesperson said in an emailed statement that they take all complaints seriously and follow up to ensure that the facility is in compliance with all provincial requirements.

“Our priority is to protect public health and the environment by promoting and ensuring compliance with ministry rules and requirements,” the Ministry Statement said.

Wilson said Ministry staff in the early days attempted to investigate noise complaints and sometimes recommended action be taken against the wind farm, but that was overruled by more senior staff.

Computer modeling, not real-life measurement

As the complaints piled up, the Ministry started to rely ion computer modeling provided by wind farm companies to determine if there might be a basis for a complaint, the report found.

“They kept saying, we went too the power developer and according to the predictive noise modeling this can’t be happening and therefore it isn’t, and took no action,” Wilson said.

A standard adopted by the Ministry based on information from wind farm developers was that no one could hear a wind turbine beyond 1,500 metres. Therefore, there was no need to respond to a complaint if more distance was involved.

Ministry staff were not allowed to investigate complaints at night and when there was high humidity. The equipment they had for measuring noise could not be used when temperatures were below zero degrees Celsius.

“We don’t blame the staff in any way. Some of the officers really seemed to want to help,” Wilson said.

Wind Concerns Ontario is calling on the Ontario government to halt wind farm approvals and adopt tougher noise standards.

Wind Concerns Ontario also hopes to be able to meet with Ontario Minister of the Environment Glen Murray to discuss the report.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: the 450 pages were Master Incident files, comprised of files with multiple Incident Reports, some as many as 90 reports of excessive noise, vibration, and health effects

 

 

MOECC staff knows about wind turbine health effects, WCO tells Minister

Environment Minister says health concerns “bogus” — staff acknowledge health problems in official records

Home in Huron County: the Minister says claims of health effects from turbine noise are “bogus” but his staff say different [Photo Gary Moon]
Last week, following a report by Global News based on information obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario, there was a barrage of questions in Question Period at Queen’s Park on wind power projects and related issues, including reports of adverse health effects from exposure to the noise emissions from the power generators.

In response to a question from MPP Laurie Scott of Haliburton-Kawartha-Brock, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray tossed back:

This government spent a considerable amount of money hiring the leading experts and doing medical research, as did the federal government, and found out the totality of the opposition party’s claims were completely bogus and like so much, not science-based.

In fact, the “science” the Minister Murray refers to, including the Health Canada study, supports concerns about adverse health effects from wind turbine noise, and the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario produced a brief review in 2010 that concluded that there were significant gaps in the information available at that time (seven years ago) and that actual noise measurement was needed.

But what the Minister seems not to know, says Wind Concerns Ontario, is that his own staff are aware of people experiencing health effects from wind turbine noise, according to official staff notes included in the information received n the Freedom of Information request. That information consisted of 3,180 Incident Reports and 100 Master Incident reports; several of the Master files contain dozens of reports to the government about the turbine noise and vibration, and include staff observations.

“It is very disturbing that a Minister of the Crown could be so dismissive of the health concerns of Ontario citizens,” Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson wrote in a letter to Minister Murray, sent yesterday. “While the view that there is no link between wind turbine noise emissions and any health effects may be that of the wind power development industry and its trade association, it is not supported by the Master Incident complaint records that your Ministry released to Wind Concerns Ontario via a request under Freedom of Information legislation.”

Of the 100 Master files, 59 contain specific reference to health complaints, Wilson said, chiefly loss of sleep, headache, and feelings of “pressure.” Some people reported not having slept for weeks, due to the noise.

“It is therefore completely inaccurate to say that there are no health effects from wind turbine noise in Ontario,” Wind Concerns advised the Minister.

In several records, staff noted that wind turbine noise exceeded regulations: ““Staff have attended at the complainants homes on multiple occasions … noise measurements were obtained…subjective observations were made by Provincial Officers…the conclusion of the POs were that the noise emissions from the wind turbines were causing an adverse effect contrary to S. 14 (1) of the EPA at the complainants locations…”

““…the conclusions of the Provincial Officers who conducted the inspections that the sound discharged into the natural environment by the wind turbines would cause an adverse effect…” was the staff note in another official record.

Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of 30 community groups and individuals and families, is asking that no new Renewable Energy Approvals be granted to wind power projects — five projects received contracts in 2016 but which do not have approval yet from the Environment Ministry.

“You have to ask why the government is treating the wind power industry and these huge corporations differently from other businesses,” Wilson says. “If this were any other product or service, with thousands of complaints, there would be a halt to exposure… instead, the Ontario government refers to the wind corporations as its ‘client’. We think the government should answer to the people of Ontario.”

 

 

Global TV News team on Ontario unresolved wind turbine noise reports

“What happens in Ontario when you report wind turbine noise?” asks Global National News reporter Shirlee Engel in a two-part special report? “Not much…”

@globalnews

Global News’ investigative team aired the two-part story last week, based on information obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change under access through Freedom of Information legislation.

The report was repeated this past weekend on Global’s news feature, Focus Ontario.

Part 1 is available here.

Part 2 is available here.

A story by Associate Producer Brian Hill is available online here.

Carla and Mike Stachura: their ‘dream home’ is now a power plant

Carla Stachura and her husband Mike thought they’d found the perfect spot to retire.

A house in rural Ontario where they run a wildlife sanctuary with lamas and a variety of birds, and planned to spend their retirement years enjoying the peace and quiet of country life.

But that dream was shattered when wind turbines began popping up near their Goderich, Ont. home. Since then, their dream has become a nightmare. The couple says they’ve been unable to sleep and exposed to prolonged periods of annoying noise. Adding to their frustration, they say the provincial government won’t lift a finger to help them, other than order more tests.

The couple purchased the property in 2003. They say it was paradise until the K2 Wind Farm, operated by Pattern Energy, started operations in the spring of 2015.

The Stachura’s complaints of government inaction are not unique. In fact, Global News has learned that Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change does not respond to the majority of complaints made by residents concerned about wind turbines.

Documents released through Ontario’s Freedom of Information Act and obtained by Global News reveal officials from the Ministry of Environment chose not to investigate or deferred responding to – meaning they did not make immediate plans to investigate – roughly 68 per cent of all noise and health complaints lodged against wind turbine operators in the province between 2006 and 2014. This represents nearly 2,200 individual complaints.

The documents also show limited resources sometimes prevented the ministry from responding to complaints.

Originally obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario, the documents include a list of 3,180 complaints. They also include a 458-page collection of “master incident reports,” which the ministry has verified as authentic, detailing the ministry’s response – or lack thereof – in cases where residents complained multiple times.

The documents show that in 54 per cent of all cases – more than 1,700 individual complaints – the ministry did not investigate residents’ concerns. In another 450 cases, roughly 14 per cent of total incidents, the ministry deferred responding to complaints.

In most cases, the documents do not reveal why the ministry chose not to respond. Instead, they tend to focus on whether the wind farm was compliant with ministry standards or past efforts to resolve residents’ concerns.

“The lack of response from the ministry shows just how unprepared they were for the potential effects of putting these giant machines so close to people and their communities,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario. …

Read the full article here, and see video interview with Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray.