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 win by Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) on Tuesday may mean changes ahead for the corporate wind power industry’s aggressive plans for the province.
According to industry publication Windpower, Premier-designate Jason Kenney has said he will not hold a new auction for renewable energy sources in Alberta.
Mr. Kenney has said he does not support the subsidies for renewable power and prefers a “market-driven” approach, instead.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) stated it “looks forward to working with the new government to ensure market-driven approaches are in place” to aid wind power development.
CanWEA also says that wind power in Alberta is a very competitive 3.7 cents per kWH but Ontario energy commentator Parker Gallant says that ignores a variety of subsidies. In Ontario, the cost of wind power must factor in the cost of wasting other forms of emissions-free power because the wind power companies negotiated “first to the grid” rights.
Wind Concerns Ontario has discovered through research that the length of the distribution lines planned for the Nation Rise wind power project in North Stormont is in violation of both the Electricity Act and Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks policy.
The length of the distribution lines as planned is 125 km; the allowed length is 50 km.
The relevant section of the Electricity Act is as follows:
(4) and (5) of Electricity Act, 1998
ONTARIO REGULATION 160/99 under the Electricity Act
Definitions and Exemptions
(4) For the purposes of the definition of “renewable energy generation facility” in the Act, the following associated or ancillary equipment, systems and technologies are prescribed:
Transmission or distribution lines of less than 50 kilometres in length that are associated with or ancillary to a renewable energy generation facility.
Transformer stations or distribution stations that are associated with or ancillary to a renewable energy generation facility.
Any transportation systems that are associated with or ancillary to the provision of access to a renewable energy generation facility, during the construction, installation, use, operation, changing or retiring of a renewable energy generation facility. O. Reg. 328/09, s. 1 (2).
The prescribed 50 km length is also mentioned in a regulation as part of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks “Technical Guide” as follows:
Technical Guide to Renewable Energy Approvals
4.3.1. Scope of Transmission or Distribution Lines Ancillary to the Project Subject to the qualifications discussed below, transmission or distribution lines ancillary to the renewable energy generation facilities are included as part of the facility and thus must be considered in an application for an REA. These facility components will contribute to the size and dimensions of the project location for the purposes of setbacks and will require assessment for negative environmental effects that will or are likely to occur from their installation, operation or decommissioning in the REA application.
Since transmission and distribution lines are interconnected with the broader electrical grid, it is important to describe what is meant by an “ancillary line” so that REA requirements are applied appropriately. Ancillary equipment for renewable energy generation facilities are defined in O. Reg. 160/99 under the Electricity Act, 1998. Transmission and distribution lines are defined as lines 50 km in length or less ancillary to the renewable energy generation facility. [Source: O.Reg.160/99, s. 1 (5)3)]
As well, this excerpt is from a letter that was sent to the lawyer for the White Pines appeal from Sarah Paul, Director, Environmental Approvals Access and Service Integration Branch, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, May 14, 2014: “It is the Ministry’s position that the limit of 50 km applies separately in respect of each type of line (transmission or distribution) in order for them to be considered part of the facility. Therefore, the length of the transmission line and distribution line independently (and not combined) must be less than 50 km.”
It would appear that according to the regulations and government policy, the Nation Rise wind power project should not have been granted a licence to generate electricity, and neither should it have received a Renewable Energy Approval.
“Here we have yet another example of how these projects appear to somehow skate through the application process and get an approval regardless of the rules,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “This isn’t the only project in which the distribution lines exceed the allowed length—how does this keep happening? Where is the oversight and accountability?”
The Nation Rise project received its Renewable Energy Approval during the last days of the Wynne government prior to the 2018 election, an approval that was full of “conditions” for the developer to meet; then, while the new government was elected but not yet sworn in, the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO determined Nation Rise had met all its “developmental milestones” and was given a Notice To Proceed.
The project has gone through every appeal possible and is currently the subject of a direct appeal to the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
Wind Concerns Ontario has written to the ministers of Energy and Environment to request clarification.
In a recent meeting with senior officials in the Ontario Ministry of Health, members of Wind Concerns Ontario executive were told that “not that many people” are affected by wind turbines in Ontario.
We launched a research project to estimate the numbers of people now forced to live with wind turbines and discovered:
THOUSANDS Ontario citizens are living near turbines, and inside turbine arrays in wind power generation projects.
Going back over project documents and wind power developer noise impact estimates, we learned that in fact, there are over 30,000 homes located within 1,500 metres of a wind turbine in Ontario. Applying a conservative figure of 2.5 people per residence, that means that 91,300 people are exposed to the highest levels of noise, vibration and other wind turbine noise emissions.
In other words, the number of people being exposed to wind turbine noise is equivalent to the population of the City of Pickering.
“This puts an end to the notion that there are only a few people in Ontario living next to these industrial power generators,” says Jane Wilson, RN, president of the Wind Concerns Ontario community group coalition. “We know from the calls and emails we get that there are many people in Ontario suffering from exposure to the noise. At a minimum, they have sleepless nights from the noise they can hear. At worst, they have other problems including severe headaches, vertigo and cardiovascular symptoms.
“This is a major public health problem that is being ignored.”
Wind turbine noise regulations* only apply to homes within 1,500 metres; the government has assumed that beyond this distance, people will not experience any effects of wind turbine noise emissions.
Records of noise complaints dispute this, however, and even the poorly designed Health Canada report on wind turbine noise indicates that problems persist beyond the 1,500-metre distance.
So, what does that mean in terms of the likelihood of adverse health impacts from the noise produced by the huge power generators?
Strong health impacts
According to a paper published in 2012 by the Acoustic Ecology Institute, “up to 20 percent of nearby neighbours [of turbines] are strongly impacted with sleep disruption, stress issues, and their sense of home and place is forever changed.” The paper notes that some impacts may be “extreme” and result in noticeable changes to health status.
The Ontario government was aware of this very early on in its wind power program, when a report by consultants under contract to the McGuinty government contained this statement:
“The audible sound from wind turbines is nonetheless expected to result in a non-trivial percentage of persons being highly annoyed.** As with sounds from many sources, research has shown that annoyance associated with sound for wind turbines can be expected to contribute to stress-related health impacts in some persons …”
Today, the Ontario government has records of thousands of reports of excessive wind turbine noise and vibration, which are largely unresolved. In a review of Master Incident Reports prepared by Provincial Environmental Officers, Wind Concerns Ontario discovered that 35 percent of the files contained notations from the officers about adverse health effects from the noise emissions reported.
Burden on healthcare system
Many people seek medical attention for the symptoms being experienced due to the exposure to wind turbine noise, and often have many interactions with our healthcare system. For example, one member of one family reported multiple visits to the family physician who arranged both MRI and CT scans and consultations with audiology, ear, nose and throat, as well as neurology specialists. The cost to the healthcare system to investigate the physical effects of exposure to wind turbine noise in just one person is considerable.
The Nation Rise power project in North Stormont will add hundreds more people exposed to wind turbine noise, with virtually every resident in a nearby hamlet living within 1,500 metres of a turbine. The project is being appealed currently to Environment Minister Rod Phillips.
Sample of Ontario wind power projects and the number of receptors within 1,500 metres
# of turbines
# of “receptors”/houses
# of People
Melancthon 1 and 2
Niagara Region Wind
Note: Receptor numbers based on Noise Reports prepared by the proponent as part of the REA approval process. Population estimates were reached by applying a factor of 2.5 per residence. Vacant receptors were not included in this survey. Source: Wind Concerns Ontario
Copyright: Wind Concerns Ontario
*Section 6.2.4 of Ontario’s Noise Guidelines for wind power facilities
**”Annoyance” in this context is used as a medical term denoting stress or distress.
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Wind power lobby cajoles Ontario to ignore all the problems and take another chance on invasive, problem-ridden wind turbines.
April 2, 2019
Canada’s lobbyist and trade association for the wind power development industry, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), has just launched its campaign to make the Ontario government reconsider its position on wind power.
On Sunday, March 31st, CanWEA published a blog post entitled “Why wind energy is Ontario’s best option for new electricity supply.”
Ontario director Brandy Gianetta then lists five points.
Not a single one of them is true.
But here’s what is true:
Wind doesn’t work.
Everyone wants the best for the environment, and we all want “clean” electricity, but here’s what we know about the giant wind experiment in Ontario over its 13-year history:
Industrial-scale wind turbines have a high impact on the environment for no benefit
Wind power never replaced any form of power generation: coal was replaced by nuclear and natural gas
Wind power is intermittent, and produced out-of-phase with demand in Ontario; the Coalition for Clean & Reliable Energy notes that almost 70% of wind power is wasted in Ontario … but we have to pay for it anyway.
Wind is not “low-cost”; claims of 3.7 cents per kWh prices from Alberta ignore government subsidies. Wind power contracts are a significant factor in Ontario’s high electricity bills, and the trend to “energy poverty.”
Wind power has had multiple negative impacts in Ontario, including thousands of complaints of excessive noise reported to government. These have not been resolved, and many power projects may be out of compliance with their approvals; enforcement of the regulations is needed.
The promised jobs bonanza never happened.
In fact, a cost-benefit/impact analysis was never done for Ontario’s wind power program, according to two Auditors General.
Ontario doesn’t need more power now says the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), but if we did, why choose an intermittent, unreliable source of power that has so many negative side effects?
No cause for hilarity this April Fool’s Day. Noise complaints unanswered, wells contaminated, a huge job ahead to unwind the damage
April 1, 2019
It’s now almost a decade since Ontario passed the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, which opened the door to industrial-scale wind power developments throughout the province, and heralded ten years of environmental impact … for nothing.
In fact, the province had already approved a gigantic wind power project in Melancthon, and racked up hundreds of noise complaints before the Green Energy Act was passed — the government went ahead anyway.
Today, we have high electricity bills which are harming ordinary families and discouraging business investment; the government has records of thousands of complaints about wind turbine noise and vibration (mostly unresolved); there are 40 or more families in Chatham-Kent who trace the failure of their water wells to construction and operation of wind turbines on a fragile aquifer there; and, we are seeing the environmental impacts that were brought forward in citizen appeals of Renewable Energy Approvals now becoming reality.
Ontario citizens spent close to $10 million in after-tax dollars to protect their communities from the onslaught of large-scale wind power, according to a survey Wind Concerns Ontario did of our coalition members.
The Ontario wind power disaster should not have been a surprise.
Auditor General Jim McCarty chastised the McGuinty government for never having done a cost-benefit or impact study on the wind power program; subsequently, current Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk estimated that Ontario electricity customers overpaid for renewable energy by $9.2 billion.
Guaranteed to fail
The program to encourage large-scale wind power (the province had a choice back in 2004 onwards to go for small-scale power generation–that’s not what they chose, guided by wind lobbyists) was based on ideology and was criticized by such informed analysts as Michael Trebilcock, who said “This combination of irresponsibility and venality has produced a lethal brew of policies.”
Economics professor Ross McKitrick predicted, “If the goal [of the Green Energy Act] was to promote industry and create jobs, it is guaranteed to fail.”
And Tom Adams, who said, “Urban Ontario, including city-bound journalists, are largely unaware of the corrosive effects some wind developments are having on communities, neighbourhoods, even families. This is expropriation without compensation.”
The jobs never materialized, electricity bills went up, a new phrase “energy poverty” was coined, businesses closed or left, and families were forced to leave their homes because of unbearable noise.
Noise complaints are so prevalent in Huron County that the health unit launched a follow-up study (results will be published later this year). Preliminary data showed that 60% of the people participating in the follow-up were experiencing problems because of wind turbine noise.
Wind Concerns Ontario presented the government’s own noise complaint data as evidence at the appeal of the Nation Rise power project last summer; the approval was upheld regardless of citizen concerns about noise, and damage to a provincially designated “highly vulnerable aquifer.”
Meanwhile, reports of noise are investigated on behalf of the wind power operators by the same companies who prepared the original noise impact assessments for them; one such acoustics firm even boasts that it created the government’s noise assessment protocol.
The fox is not only in the hen house, he built it to ensure easy access.
As Ontario’s new government struggles with all this (Energy Minister Greg Rickford told the Legislature last week that this is a “very difficult” file), there is little to laugh about in Ontario today as the spring winds blow, and families face more sleepless nights.