Big Wind’s Big Problem: community opposition

Protesters march in Picton, Ontario over a large wind power project that was eventually cancelled. (Photo Wind Concerns Ontario]

March 8, 2020

New York State governor Cuomo’s move to pass legislation that essentially removes democracy for wind power approvals and rubber stamp the power projects is hardly surprising: community opposition is strong in the U.S. and Canada … and it’s having an effect.

Robert Bryce, author of Power Hungry: the myths of green energy and frequent contributor to publications like the Wall Street Journal, has  an article in the New York Post explaining why rural/suburban communities are fighting back against industrialization by wind and solar power developers.

“The truth is that growing numbers of rural and suburban landowners are resisting these types of projects,” Bryce writes. “They don’t want to endure the noise and shadow flicker produced by 500- or 600-foot-high wind turbines. Nor do they want transmission lines built through their towns, to they are fighting to protect their property values and views.”

In the U.S., jurisdictions are now passing zoning bylaws that enact much greater setbacks between turbines and houses, and specifying more stringent noise limits.

In Ontario, the government returned local land-use planning to municipalities but few have taken advantage of the timing to create new bylaw protection. If a pro-wind government is elected in 2022, it will be too late to take such action after a new procurement regime is announced.

Wind and solar power development takes up a lot of land, Bryce says; renewables will grow, but there must be a better way to “keep the lights on” than using up vast tracts of land for intermittent, weather-dependent power generation.

Read the full article here:



New research: wind turbine noise heard as far as 3.5 km

Cruel joke: Ontario’s 550 metre setback and government/industry notion that it is impossible to hear turbines past 1500 metres 

March 3, 2020

New research from Australia has been published in the Journal of Sound and Vibration which shows that wind turbine noise goes a lot farther than the wind power lobby and turbine manufacturers would have you believe.

A lot farther.

Ontario’s setback, supposed to protect people from sleep disturbance and other effects of environmental noise pollution, is just 550 metres. This was suggested to the McGuinty government by the wind power lobby, after the Ontario government proposed a setback of 1 km.

The Australian research demonstrates that indoor low-frequency tone was detected 20 percent of the time at distances up to 2.4 km; the noise dissipated somewhat but was still perceived 16% of the time at a distance of 3.5 km. The authors note that complaints made to the South Australian Environmental Protection Agency came from people living as far away as 8 km!

Here is an excerpt from “Prevalence of wind farm amplitude modulation at long-range residential locations”:

Overall, it is important to determine how often AM is present at residential locations near a wind farm. In this view, Australian researchers from the Flinders University: Dr. Kristy Hansen, Phuc Nguyen, Dr. Branko Zajamšek, Prof. Peter Catcheside, in collaboration with Prof. Colin Hansen at The University of Adelaide studied the prevalence and characteristics of wind farm AM of a certain windfarm in Australia. Their goal was to determine how often AM occurred at various distances from the wind farm and to assess the suitability of the IOA ‘reference method’ for detecting low-frequency AM of a tone that is generated by wind turbines. Their research work is currently published in Journal of Sound and Vibration.

Their approach involved outdoor measurements for a total of 64 days at 9 different residences located between 1 and 9 km from the nearest wind turbine of a South Australian wind farm, which at the time of measurements was made up of 37 operational turbines, each with a rated power of 3 MW. The motivation for their analysis was to investigate the prevalence of a low-frequency ‘thumping’ or ‘rumbling’ noise that had been mentioned in complaints from residents.

… In summary, the study investigated the prevalence and characteristics of wind farm AM at 9 different residences located near a South Australian wind farm. Their work showed that, despite the number of AM events being recorded to reduce with distance, audible indoor AM still occurred for 16% of the time at a distance of 3.5 km. At night-time, audible AM occurred indoors at residences located as far as 3.5 km from the wind farm for up to 22% of the time. In a statement to Advances in Engineering, Dr. Kristy Hansen pointed out that the adopted approach was successful, although more research was needed to quantify the annoyance and sleep disturbance potential of the recorded type of tonal AM.

In Ontario, wind turbines are approved using a noise assessment protocol (developed by acoustics consultants often contracted to do work for wind power developers), using a computer-generated predictive model of the noise. As well, Renewable Energy Approvals require post-operational audits, many of which are incomplete, or have not been submitted at all.

The environment ministry has held the belief that it is impossible to hear turbine noise at 1500 metres and callers to the ministry District Offices or Spills Line are told their complaint is not accepted, and their files are closed, Wind Concerns Ontario has discovered in reviews of Incident Reports provided under Freedom of Information requests. Wind Concerns ONtario has so far tracked 5,200 formal records of complaints held by the government. How many would there be if people had not been told their complaint was impossible?

See a summary of the research here: Summary of Prevalence of wind farm amplitude modulation-2019

The actual paper is available here for a fee.

P.S. Thanks to U.S. acoustics expert Robert Rand for publicizing the existence of this research.



The hidden and obvious costs of Ontario’s wind power

Wind power’s negotiated “first rights to the grid” mean other clean power is wasted–but paid for. By you.

March 2, 2020

The wind power lobby in Canada is busy crowing about “low-cost” and “free fuel” but the truth is something else. Entirely.

Sure, it’s fast and easy the whack up wind turbines, faster than building new nuclear (though not small modular reactors, but that’s another story) but there are many costs to wind that are both visible and invisible.

Parker Gallant documents the costs in his most recent article*, here. An excerpt:

An article posted February 10, 2020 highlighted how wind generation, on its own, represented a cost of $12.760 billion over the ten years from 2010 to 2019 to Ontario ratepayers. Industrial wind turbines (IWT) delivered 83.3 TWh and curtailed 10.5 TWh over that time.  The combined cost of the generation and curtailment represented an average delivered cost per kWh of 15.32 cents—without factoring in costs of gas plants being at the ready when the wind wasn’t blowing or spilling clean hydro.

Over the same ten years, exports of surplus power to our neighbours cost ratepayers about $12.5 billion dollars. Wind’s habit of generating power in the middle of the night and spring and fall when demand is low drives down the market price, the HOEP (Hourly Ontario Energy Price), resulting in export sales at prices well below contracted rates. This results in ratepayers having to pay the difference.

Last weekend (February 22 and 23) was no exception.  The wind was blowing for the two days but Ontario Demand was low, averaging 341,800 MWh.  IWTs however, were generating power we didn’t need with grid-accepted wind at 148,175 MWh and 14,900 MWh curtailed.  The cost of both was $24 million or 16.2 cents/kWh. IESO was busy exporting surplus power of 141,648 MWh or 96% of grid-accepted wind.

On top of that we were probably spilling water (and paying for it) at the same time.

The question is, how much were we paid for those exports?  Exports sold February 22 were at the average price of $1.99/MWh and $1.64/MWh on February 23, so total revenue earned was a miserly $239,000 versus a cost to ratepayers and taxpayers of the province of over $24 million just for what the IWT delivered.  Our US neighbours must love us!

Wind’s hidden costs

While the foregoing confirms IWTs are unreliable and intermittent and require backup from gas plants, they have other bad habits.  One example is their killing of birds. The Audubon Society has suggested it is anywhere from 140,000 to 328,000 annually. They also kill bats in large numbers. Bird Studies Canada in 2016 estimated the kill rate in Ontario was 18.5 kills per turbine (over 50,000 annually). Many killed are on the endangered list!  Additionally, tourism areas may also be negatively affected by IWT as noted in a poll in Scotland by the “John Muir Trust found that 55% of respondents were ‘less likely’ to venture into areas of the countryside industrialised by giant turbines”.

A recent report from Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) raises many other negative issues related to IWT.  The report is a synopsis of complaints about IWTs submitted by rural residents of Ontario living within close proximity.  Those complaints were submitted to the MOECC (now the MECP) in 2017. The report titled: “Response to Wind Turbine Noise Complaints” analyzed 674 complaints made during 2017.  The shocking issue revealed is: “Only nine of the 674 complaints, or 1.3% of total records, indicated there was a field response” [from the MOECC].  What that suggests is the MECP’s field offices are either not equipped to deal with complaints or believe the IWT-contracted parties will somehow resolve them.  In excess of 5,200 complaints have been logged by WCO since IWT first started to appear in the province and most of them were related to audible and inaudible (infrasound) noise levels. Other complaints have been associated with aquifer (water) contamination, shadow flicker, ice throws, etc.

Approximately 15% of the population will experience negative health effects from the proximity of IWTs, a similar percentage to those who suffer from motion sickness [on a ship or vehicle].  The effects of audible and infrasound noise will produce nausea, headaches, anxiety, ringing ears, feeling of exhaustion, etc.  Those individuals will naturally contact their doctors or other health care professionals for treatment, adding to the cost of Ontario’s health care system. Those costs are not attributed to the cause, which are the IWTs!

Let’s summarize the visible and invisible costs of IWT:

      1. Increased electricity costs due to the need for duplicate power sources such as gas plants.
      2. Increased surplus power which must be curtailed or sold for pennies on the dollar.
      3. Increased costs due to IWT inability to generate power when actually needed.
      4. Increased surplus power from IWT often means other clean sources must either spill (hydro) or steam off (nuclear) power which adds costs to our electricity bills.
      5. IWT kill birds and bats, many of whom are “species at risk” meaning insects, damaging to crops, are not eaten and farmers must spray their crops with insecticides adding costs to produce.
      6. IWT may affect tourism areas driving away tourists and thereby affect income to those regions.
      7. IWT cause various health problems requiring our health system to respond to individuals affected, thereby adding to health care costs.
      8. IWT cause property values to fall affecting the realty tax base where they operate and the value of the property should the occupants try to sell after the installation of those IWT has occurred.
      9. IWT lifespan is relatively short (20 years at most) compared to traditional sources of electricity generation and when unable to perform, create costs of remediation and disposal of recyclable and non-recyclable materials they consumed when built and erected.



*This is provided for information purposes only and does not represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy; the views and opinions are the author’s.