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.
Canada’s federal government–deep in debt from policy decisions and now the COVID-19 pandemic–has pointed toward a focus on renewable energy as a way to “build back better” and strengthen the economy.
But will it work?
Wind Concerns Ontario took a look at what government incentives did in Ontario, when the McGuinty government had the same goal in 2009. Their aim was to make up for the devastating losses in the auto industry by fostering a new one: Ontario would become a world leader in green energy and benefit from a chain of economic endeavors from manufacturing wind and solar power components to generating “clean” “green” power.
The vision was to help “fledgling” companies grow and thrive.
Research on the companies that actually participated in the early days of wind power development in Ontario shows they were hardly “fledglings”. Names like Samsung, Enbridge, Suncor, SunEdison and more indicate, as the Wind Concerns Ontario report shows, companies from around the world flocked to Ontario to take advantage of lucrative, above-market contract rates. And then, many of them left. Today, much of the province’s wind power capacity is held by pension and investment funds who bought into the high yields from the rich contracts.
Prosperity for all? No. Ontario now has a new catch phrase: “energy poverty” as it watched manufacturing businesses hit the road for locations with more advantageous electricity rates.
In today’s edition of The Niagara Independent is an article by Catherine Swift, head of Working Canadians and former Chief Economist with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
She advises the Ford government to take the steps that are needed to get Ontario’s high electricity bills down—an action that was part of the government’s campaign promise in 2018.
“Most Ontarians also know that the reason for our outrageously high hydro costs is the ill-conceived Green Energy Act (GEA) of the previous Liberal government, which involved signing long-term contracts with solar and wind energy providers,” Swift writes. Those contracts were designed “guaranteeing them rates far in excess of any sensible market rates for electricity, while doing little if anything for the environment that would justify the massive added costs.”
Further, Swift says, “Despite strong rhetoric decrying the price of hydro power in Ontario and the negative impact it is having on businesses, households and the economy overall, the Ford government has in some cases merely perpetuated bad Liberal policy and has not attacked the underlying cause of high hydro rates – the ridiculous contracts awarded by the Liberals to generators of “green” energy at absurdly high cost.
“These contracts typically had terms of 20 years, and some as long as 40 years. The Ontario government has cancelled some of these contracts, at some cost to taxpayers but likely more benefit in terms of eventual savings. But the vast majority of the contracts remain in force and will keep hydro costs high well into the future. The bottom line is that the Liberals made a fine mess of the electricity market in Ontario, including all kinds of inequities in terms of the costs imposed on different groups of ratepayers, and foolishly committed Ontarians to contracts of much longer duration than any government should be permitted to do. Much of the Ontario economy has suffered mightily as a result, especially the job-creating small business sector. As the Ford government is finding, these policies are very difficult to reverse. And if this wasn’t bad enough news, many of the architects of this failed Green Energy Act are now advising the federal government, and advocating for similar policies on a national level.
It is true that the contracts negotiated by the McGuinty and Wynne governments will be difficult to unwind, and doubtless the Ford government’s lawyers are reluctant to get involved in more legal action (e.g., Nation Rise, which was handled badly), but it is possible. Queen’s University professor of law and economics Bruce Pardy wrote in a paper in 2014 that “However, government contracts are not the ironclad agreements they appear to be because governments may change or cancel them by enacting legislation.”
Whatever means is used, Ontario’s citizens do not deserve to continue paying high rates for intermittent, unreliable wind power via contracts negotiated by former, ideology-driven governments which never bothered, despite advice from the Auditor-General, to do a cost-benefit analysis of its pro-wind power program.
“It was basically like a death when we had to move from our home”
New research catalogues the reasons behind families in Ontario who decided to abandon their homes after wind turbines started up.
June 29, 2020
“I couldn’t sleep anymore”
“Nowhere to go, no hiding from it [the noise]”
“We had beautiful water–you couldn’t drink it afterwards [turbines began operation]”
“I asked my doctor [if my health problems could be” about [wind] turbines. She said, ‘Yes’.”
Those are just a few of the comments made by Ontario residents who participated in a special study done by a team of health care professionals, acoustics specialists and investigators. A new paper by Dr. Robert McMurtry, Carmen Krogh, acoustics specialists Robert Rand, Jerry Punch, Stephen Ambrose and others*, reviews the reasons behind the desperate choice made by dozens of Ontario families to leave their homes, to preserve their health–both mental and physical.
The new paper, published last week, is based on a study carried out over three years involving 67 Ontario residents and additional family members for a total of 165 people. They all lived within 10 km of industrial-scale wind turbines or wind power generators.
More than half reported adverse health effects after being exposed to noise emissions and vibration from operating wind turbines; stray voltage and disturbed water wells were also cited as key factors in decisions to leave the houses. The people participating in the study had lived in their houses for a mean period of 20 years, or a range of three to 66 years.
The aim of the paper is to present policy-makers with information on the “potential outcomes of placing wind turbines near family homes,” the authors state in their conclusion.
“The comments made by the people in this study are just heart-breaking,” said Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “We’ve seen them over and over in the Incident Reports we received from Freedom of Information requests, together with statements from people indicating they can’t put up with the turbines and the adverse effects anymore. It is well past time the government enforced the rules, changed the rules, and developed rules that truly protect the people of Ontario.
“Bravo to this study team, and all the work they’ve done to expose the terrible things that have happened to innocent citizens.”
Read the full paper here: https://m.scirp.org/papers/101098?fbclid=IwAR3XcUKEebiBR-sLAyIEbNpGHnP3-EQU3_hwtOx4_ovfW6f-cI6JQj7Igfc
*Other authors include community group leaders such as Anne Dumbrille (CCSAGE), Linda Rogers (Mothers Against Wind Turbines) and Debra Hughes.
The Concerned Citizens of North Stormont announced today that it will not pursue further legal action regarding the Nation Rise wind power project; Ontario’s Attorney General has determined that it will not appeal a court decision made a few weeks ago.
The community group negotiated several conditions with the power developer, including a fund to help people who perceive noise or other effects, a bat mitigation strategy that is planned to prevent bat deaths, and funding for wildlife research to be done by an Eastern Ontario research institute. As well, the community group’s considerable legal fees will be paid by the power developer.
The news release is as follows:
Resolution Reached between community and Nation Rise wind power project
June 19, 2020 – North Stormont
An agreement has been reached between community group Concerned Citizens of North Stormont (CCNS) and the developer of the Nation Rise Wind Project. CCNS appealed the project approval before the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal over concerns about the environment and wildlife; that appeal was dismissed. The Minister of the Environment subsequently revoked the Renewable Energy Approval on direct appeal from the community group but that action was recently reversed by the Ontario Divisional Court.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has now indicated the Minister will not be seeking leave to appeal the Court decision.
The negotiated agreement recognizes and respects that the project as proposed will have the most stringent bat mitigation of any wind power project in Ontario.
The agreement includes the creation of a community-based home improvement fund which will allow local residents to apply for up to $5,000 from a $150,000 fund, established primarily for noise and visual mitigation for homeowners who perceive impacts.
The agreement also provides for $50,000 to the St. Lawrence River Institute, based in Cornwall, Ontario, to fund independent bat-related research.
The agreement further provides for payment of fees and disbursements incurred by CCNS.
For additional information, please contact counsel for CCNS Eric Gillespie at 416-436-7473 (telephone/text) or by email egillespie@gillespielaw.
Minister cancelled wind power project approval to “exercise precaution” regarding endangered bats; judges say, No and side with wind power lobby and developer on all points
May 15, 2020
A panel of judges in Toronto in the Ontario Superior Court released their decision yesterday over the Nation Rise wind power project in North Stormont, “quashing” the environment minister’s decision to revoke the project approval.
The decision is important —- and worrying —- as it appears to limit the environment minister’s powers to act over risks to the environment. Lawyer for the community group which filed appeals of the power project over a number of environmental concerns published a news release early this morning. It is available here: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/court-denies-minister-s-ability-to-protect-ontario-environment-823653654.html?fbclid=IwAR0ZEpgR1PRHmtE4lgDFu5SCI-WcVu5I4-TzXPf-b8pnZOyqsJ70ebu9fYM
Lawyer Eric Gillespie says that the decision rules the environment minister is unable to act and raise further issues after the quasi-judicial Environmental Review Tribunal has made a decision, even if there are factual errors alleged.
“This appears to leave the entire Province highly vulnerable,” said Margaret Benke of the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont group, calling the decision a “tremendous step backward for environmental protection.”
The Attorney General’s Office, which defended the minister’s decision in court, has yet to respond to yesterday’s decision.
“This is astonishing,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “We know how difficult it is to present environmental concerns before the Tribunal and how the test was made very difficult to meet. Yet almost every wind power project in Ontario has been appealed, at a cost of millions to citizens and municipal government. To handcuff the minister like this is very concerning.”
While the community group learned of the decision Wednesday afternoon, power developer EDPR had workers back at the site earlier in the day. Somehow, the NDP energy critic was also informed and posted a message about the minister’s “batty” decision on Twitter Wednesday evening.
The judges’ decision is here: https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onscdc/doc/2020/2020onsc2984/2020onsc2984.html?resultIndex=3
Energy analyst and Ontario government historian Scott Luft has just published an important analysis of energy contracts post the Green Energy and Green Economy Act passed in 2009, and has made some starting calculations: those above-market contracts cost us plenty, and still are.
The good news is that the increase in the costs incurred by the GEA contracting slowed significantly after 2016. Additional costs are still to come as the largest, most expensive, single feed-in tariff contract only entered service for the last third of 2019: a full year of operation will add another $75 million. Hydro output from sites contracted under the HCI and HESA initiatives have been producing less in the past couple of years, while global adjustment cost components reported by the system operation (IESO) for this group have been fare higher than my estimates – so I suspect the system operator is hiding payments for curtailment. I have not accounted for biomass contracts, although some exist: over 80% of contracted generation from biofuels is either on FIT contracts or is the converted-from-coal Atikokan Generating Station. Reporting on the global adjustment shows biomass responsible for $230 – $287 million annually over the past 5 years.
Precision is elusive, but I am confident the current annual cost from procurement programs initiated in 2009 is over $4 billion a year.
Wind and solar contracts are for 20 years. A handful of smaller hydro facilities have contracts for less than 20 years, but most are 40 and the largest, most expensive contracts are for 50 years (for facilities on the Lower Mattagami river). By multiplying $4 billion (per year) by 20 years it’s clear the entire cost will be more than the $80 billion.
This is bad news for the current Ontario government that promised lower electricity bills—hard to do when you’re locked into lucrative contracts for years to come yet. But this is interesting for people who complained about cancellation of the 758 new energy contracts last year—we didn’t need that power, and we certainly don’t need the cost of intermittent, weather-dependent power, produced out of phase with demand.
Damage, not help for the environment—and plenty of money to be made, says new Michael Moore/Jeff Gibbs documentary
April 24, 2020
Just in time for Earth Day, doc filmmaker Michael Moore released his newest film, directed by and starring environment writer Jeff Gibbs, “Planet of the Humans.”
The film is a scathing indictment of how huge corporations adapted the public desire to have “green” sources of power and used it to make billions, while excoriating the environment through development.
See the video here; Moore made it available for 30 days for free, but the forces behind the renewables money grab are actively working to have the film taken down.
People who enjoy watching shows like Law and Order or The Good Fight on TV would find real court hearings quite dull. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of drama—that was the case last Friday when Spain-based power developer EDPR faced off against the Minister of the Environment no less, in a battle over approval of an Ontario wind power project.
EDPR, developer of the 100-megawatt Nation Rise wind power project, applied for a judicial review of the decision by the environment minister in Ontario to revoke the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) for that project. The Minister issued his decision last December, following a direct appeal.
Nation Rise was one of five wind projects that received REAs in 2016; almost all the others were cancelled, in 2018.
The court challenge is remarkable in that a power developer (and the industry lobbyist) is alleging the minister had no authority to make a decision for his own department.
The EDPR lawyer, John Terry of mega law firm Torys, claimed that the current government was “implementing its anti-green energy platform” and that the decision was not warranted. He claimed further that the appeal to the minister brought by community group Concerned Citizens of North Stormont (CCNS) was not proper, that the minister’s decision was not “reasonable,” that in fact he showed bias (they quoted a statement by Mr Yurek in the Legislature in support of his own community’s fight against a wind power development), and that he “simply revoked the REA” without a remedy hearing.
Mr. Terry said if only EDPR could have presented its mitigation plan to prevent bat deaths, that remedy “will completely take care of it [the threat to wildlife].” He said Minister Yurek in fact had “no authority” to do what he did.
The lawyer for CanWEA told the court that the community group appeal to the minister was an attempt to hold a new hearing; moreover, the Minister’s powers are “confined,” he said and there are very limited circumstances in which an REA can be revoked.
Not so, said the Ontario Attorney General lawyers acting for the minister who countered that “The Minister has broad, discretionary authority to consider the matter before him in the ‘public interest.’ “
They also disputed the applicants’ claims that the minister was biased and unfair, and that the applicant never got a chance to present its mitigation proposal:
“The Minister provided the Applicants with more than the minimal content of procedural fairness…they were provided an opportunity to be heard, including when the Minister sought additional submissions, specifically with regard to harm to bats.”
Last, lawyers Kathleen Coulter and Eric Gillespie, appearing for the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, asserted that the Minister had applied the “correct legal test” in his actions, he was able to act “in the public interest” and last, that allegations of bias are “completely unfounded.” Lawyer Eric Gillespie argued that the application should be dismissed, and told the panel of judges that, “The evidentiary record before this Honorable Court also establishes that, with respect, many of the factual assertions relied upon by the Applicants [EDPR] and the Intervenor CanWEA are incorrect. This results in both the Applicants’ and the Intervenors’ submission failing to provide grounds for judicial review to be granted.”
The matter is now before a panel of three judges.
This matter is important to everyone in Ontario, as the wind power lobby seeks to establish that the environment minister can’t revoke Renewable Energy Approvals, can’t act in the public interest, and must always give over to the importance of wind power.
Let’s help CCNS fight this! Their legal bills are piling up. Here’s how:
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 Postexplaining 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: https://nypost.com/2020/03/07/angry-us-landowners-are-killing-off-renewable-energy-projects/amp/
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?