Ontario family waits years for action on wind farm noise

Family suffers through night after night of noise while government, wind power operator do endless rounds of testing that go nowhere

Government lacks courage to order shutdown, says Wind Concerns Ontario

Noise measurement at a location within K2 Wind suggests non-compliance; the family has been waiting years for action. [Supplied photo]
March 21, 2019

One Ontario family living inside the K2 Wind power project in Huron County has been waiting for more than three years for resolution to their complaints about wind turbine noise, according to emails between the Ontario government and the family.

In 2015, the family received this email from the Owen Sound district office of the then Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), in which the staff person writing the email notes that there are concerns about the noise being experienced at the home based on the ministry’s own measurements. The government staff member acknowledges noise recordings submitted by the family, then says “This … caused us to require the company to conduct a tonal assessment…”

From: PollardHeather (MOECC) <Heather.Pollard@ontario.ca>
Date: Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 12:15 PM
To: [identity concealed]; Gass, Scott (MOECC) <Scott.gass@ontario.ca>, Chappell, Rick (MOECC) <Rick.Chappell@ontario.ca>, Munn, Natasha (MOECC) <Natasha.Munn@ontario.ca>, Pietz, Kimberley (MOECC) <Kimberley.Pietz@ontario.ca>

Since Scott is out of the office today, I am replying on his behalf.   We have received your recording and, while the recording does not give us an idea about the volume of the noise, it helps give an idea of the types of noise you are hearing. The swishing sound seems fairly typical of wind farm noise that we have heard before, however, the ‘wooing’ sound is also evident. This is similar to the observations that we made that caused us to require the company to conduct a tonal assessment. Additionally, the detailed acoustic audits that we have required the company to conduct will assess the overall levels of noise coming from the wind farm.

 Thank you for submitting this. It is helpful.

Heather G. Pollard

District Supervisor, Owen Sound District Office, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

Now, after more than three years of testing by the ministry and no action on the part of the wind power developer, the family recently hired an engineer to do independent noise measurement, which it has again, submitted to government as an indicator of problems. This testing was done simultaneously with noise measurement by an acoustics firm hired by the wind power operator.

The independent results appear to indicate that at times, the noise emissions from the wind turbines were over the legal limit for wind turbines in Ontario by as much as 20 decibels, or more.

According to the requirements of a wind power Renewable Energy Approval, the wind power operator must investigate the cause of noise complaints, and take action to ensure that the situation causing the complaint does not recur.

The family has been filing reports with the Ontario government since the wind power project began.

K2 Wind is owned by a consortium led by Axium Infrastructure with a minority stake held by the Alberta Teachers pension fund. The 270-megawatt power project has 140 2.3-MW turbines.

Problems predicted during citizen appeal

At an appeal of the K2 Wind launched by Shawn and Tricia Drennan, testimony by MOECC environmental officer Gary Tomlinson noted that there had been hundreds of citizen complaints about noise and vibration from other Ontario wind power projects, and that complaints continued even though turbines had been found in compliance.

A witness for Appellant, acoustician Rick James, testified that the noise assessment model used by the MOECC “will not predict a worstcase scenario and thus will underestimate the actual noise levels for many receptors within the project.” (Appeal 13-097/13-098, page 76) And, because of the deficiencies in the noise modeling process, Mr. James testified, “the predicted noise assessment was off by 5 dBA” ( paragraph [114]). Mr. James, an expert in audiology and sound monitoring and testing, also referred to the potential for tonal noise, infrasound and low frequency noise which would create a “significant risk” to health ( paragraph [115]).

In an email sent to Wind Concerns Ontario today, in response to emails from the coalition to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks on behalf of the family, District Manager Rick Chappell noted the testing is once again ongoing at the residence and that the ministry will “assess compliance against the Renewable Energy Approval”.

No courage to order shutdown?

“The length of time this family has waited for help is an outrage,” says WCO president Jane Wilson

“The regulations and compliance rules were put in place along with a complaint logging system to protect Ontario residents, but all we’re seeing here is testing, testing and more testing. Clearly, the Ministry is not doing its job as a regulator, and the endless testing suggests they do not have the courage, or political will, to actually order turbines to be shut down.”

Wind Concerns has copies of thousands of citizen complaints about wind turbine noise dating back to 2006, obtained under a Freedom of Information request; most remain unresolved, and the government response rate for recent complaints is less than seven percent.

 

Energy Minister refuses to confirm wind farm cancellation

Independent MPP Amanda Simard: tough question for the Ford government, no answer. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia

March 19, 2019

Independent MPP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell Amanda Simard rose in the Legislature at Queen’s Park yesterday to ask the Ontario energy minister whether he could confirm that the “Eastern Fields” wind power project in The Nation was actually cancelled.

The project was on a list of “cancelled” projects announced last July by the Minister, Simard said, but residents were shocked to learn the project has now been granted a 20-year licence to generate electricity by the Ontario Energy Board.

Is this project cancelled, “yes or no,” the MPP pressed the Minister, in two questions.

“This has been a difficult file,” Rickford answered, and then followed up with boilerplate comments on the Ford government being “committed” to reducing electricity rates for Ontario businesses and consumers.

So, in other words, no: he cannot confirm the project is cancelled.

Because it isn’t.

In an email received by Wind Concerns Ontario and community group Save The Nation, program evaluator Sarah Raetsen, with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, said:

The government has not cancelled these renewable energy projects or any renewable energy approvals (REAs) that they have obtained (with the exception of the White Pines Wind Project).  Winding down of the IESO contracts does not mean automatic cancellation of REA applications currently with the ministry – these are two separate matters.

and

At this time, the MECP is still undertaking the technical review of the REA application for Eastern Fields Wind Project.

 

See MPP Simard’s question here, at minute 27 onward.

The fact the people of The Nation believed the project was cancelled means they have lost seven months of valuable time in which they could have been gathering data on the environmental impact of the power project, and contacting subject matter experts to prepare for any legal action they might take.

The project has been proposed to provide a potential of 32 megawatts of intermittent power, at a cost of more than $130 million to the people of Ontario over 20 years.

In an article in local paper The Review, an RES Canada spokesperson said the Eastern Fields project was “on hold” and could not offer details as to the company’s plans, but suggested that RES had spent “millions” developing the project. That number is very high, considering the project is in development, and only at the application stage: no actual physical work toward construction has been done.

For more information on the community group Save The Nation/Sauvons La Nation, please go here.

New government, same old decisions

Citizen efforts to protect the environment rebuffed in favour of big business: shouldn’t it be the other way around, writer asks. [Photo: Dorothea Larsen]
March10, 2019

The Ontario government under Premier Doug Ford is beginning to “wear” the repercussions from decisions on development by the Environmental Review Tribunal, says a writer with Ontario Farmer.

In his “Eastern Limits” column in the weekly farm publication, writer Tom Van Dusen says “For the second time is only a few weeks, an Eastern Ontario community action group has been rebuffed by the provincial Environmental Review Tribunal in its efforts to preserve pristine farmland and a rural quality of life.”

Van Dusen refers to the recent decision to allow approval of a major landfill site that has been inactive since its first approval 20 years ago, and to the decision to dismiss the appeal of the Nation Rise wind power project, despite multiple environmental concerns.

“It’s enough to make you think that the Tribunal designated under the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks tends to favour big business over preservation of natural landscape.

“Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

Van Dusen cites the fact that the approval for Nation Rise, a 100-megawatt wind power project in North Stormont, came days before the writ period in the last election, and more crucial, the final clearance was granted by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO)  June 13, a week after the election which saw the LIberals turfed out of government. While this decision came during the “caretaker” period and should probably not have been made, it was the critical factor that made the Nation Rise contract with government “iron clad” — the Ford government now claims it cannot get out of the contract.

That date, by the way, was only obtained by citizens under a Freedom of Information request — the IESO would not release the information voluntarily.

“That seems completely unethical,” Raymond Grady of North Stormont told writer Van Dusen, who concludes, “ethics in politics tend to be loosely and conveniently interpreted.”