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.
… and produced when it’s not needed. Consumers pay big
December 11, 2017
The wind power industry continues its refrain that wind power is cheap and getting cheaper … meanwhile, real-world stats tell a different story.
Energy commentator Parker Gallant has done analysis on two December days in Ontario last week, and shown that because wind power is produced out of phase with demand (this is a fact), it contributes to power surplus and waste.
“IESO forecasts indicated that wind could have delivered 23.8% (177,100 MWh) of total Ontario demand (755,200 MWh) via the 4,200 MW of grid-connected wind capacity. But wind turbines have a bad habit of generating power when it’s not needed (middle of the night, spring and fall),” says Gallant. “So the intermittent power must often be curtailed (constrained/wasted but paid for). It was! The IESO curtailed 41.8% of their forecast generation meaning 74,000 MWh were not used! Via the contracts in place with wind power companies, IESO is obliged to pay for both delivered and curtailed power at prices for grid-accepted power at $135/MWh and $120/MWh for curtailed power.”
In fact, Gallant says,”The cost of the delivered wind power for those two days was almost three times the current levied* ‘average’ cost of 8.22 cents/kWh, and 3.7 times the off-peak cost of 5.9 cents/kWh.”
Meanwhile, the surplus of wind meant other sources of power — clean, emissions-free hydro and nuclear — were constrained, too.
At this moment, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is considering approvals for five more wind power projects in Ontario. Intermittent, undependable, expensive power that isn’t needed, and will certainly add to costs for Ontario’s electricity consumers.
The final part of the ICI Radio-Canada series on wind power in Ontario aired December 8.
This is a translation of the E-zine version of the story.
[Photo: Nic Pham, ICI Radio-Canada]
Unserviceable wells, contaminated water, noise, citizens concerned about their health, wind farm issues are increasingly being blamed in southwestern Ontario, and many communities are mobilizing to oppose the development of their homes. New projects. Yet, for two decades, the number of wind farms has been increasing. So why do we need so many wind turbines?
Reportage and photos: Nicolas Pham Text: Marine Lefevre Edim and infographics: Vincent Wallon
Experts say that wind energy is not absolutely necessary in Ontario. The province has been experiencing energy surpluses for several years and the intermittent electricity produced by wind turbines is, at the present time, mainly an extra energy source.
A SATURATED MARKET
“We do not need these turbines for the moment,” says Jean-Thomas Bernard, visiting professor at the Department of Economics at the University of Ottawa. A message relayed by Pierre-Olivier Pineau, holder of the HEC Montréal Energy Sector Management Chair.
According to both researchers, demand in Ontario has declined significantly in recent years. The economic crisis of 2008-2009 brought down demand in the industrial sector, and rising prices at the residential level encouraged the public to save energy.
On the supply side, the province relies primarily on nuclear energy and hydroelectricity. The combination of these factors results in the production of wind farms being added to other energy production.
“With a low demand, we have surpluses. ” – Pierre-Olivier Pineau, who holds the Chair sector management Energy HEC Montreal
In addition to this, wind generation does not adequately meet the energy needs of consumers. In any case, this is indicated in a study published in June 2017 by the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy, which deals, among other things, with the effect of installing wind turbines on the province’s electricity grid.
“The analysis shows that the intermittency of the wind makes it an unproductive and expensive choice that does not meet the needs of customers and also compromises the price of electricity exports”, reads the introduction to the report by Marc Brouillette , Senior Consultant at Strategic Policy Economics (Strapolec)
Based on data from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the author indicates that in 2015 Ontario’s wind farms operated at less than one third of their capacity, approximately 60% of the time.
In addition, the report states that wind turbines are usually in operation when the province’s grid is least in need of electricity.
“Ontarians’ energy consumption is highest in winter and summer, and lowest in spring and late fall, which is almost a mirror image of wind generation models because the wind is the highest in spring and autumn, “says the author.
In conclusion, wind energy does not meet the needs and forces the use of other forms of energy to fill the gaps, but in addition this irregular production contributes to the average surplus of the energy production, which also has a cost.
In 2015, wind energy accounted for one-third of excess core production outside of peak periods in Ontario. That year, the only wind surplus cost consumers $ 370 million on a total bill of about $ 550 million.
In addition, these surpluses have an effect on the price of this energy, especially for exports, where this energy is sold at a loss because it is difficult to store. According to the author, this report puts into question the entire past, present and future deployment of wind resources in the province.
WHY INVEST IN WIND?
One of the reasons for this is the intention of Dalton McGuinty’s government (2003-2013) to make an industrial transformation in Ontario.
In a context where the province’s traditional industries such as pulp and paper, metal refining and even the automobile sector were losing their wings, the Liberal government of the day wanted to convert the province to renewable energy. solar and wind, to create a new industrial sector in Ontario.
At the same time, as the fight against climate change intensified, investments in this green energy sector became natural.
“It was done to encourage renewable energies when we were aiming for the closure of coal plants. ” – Jean-Thomas Bernard, a visiting professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Ottawa
For the government, massive investment in the sector also reflects a desire to diversify energy sources and protect Ontarians from unforeseen events, especially over the long term.
A reasonable approach even if it means having surpluses for several years, says Pierre-Olivier Pineau, particularly in a context where the objective is to have an electricity sector that no longer emits greenhouse gases.
“It may seem like a long time, but in electricity you invest for periods of 20 to 30 years. It is difficult to predict economic conditions and we always keep an extra capacity to be able to meet the demand, “he says.
According to him, the government announcements [were] a bit premature in the wind industry in Ontario, and elsewhere in Canada, a response to the positive perception of the electorate towards this [form of] energy.
“For politicians, we still have image gains to make by announcing green policies, focused on sustainable development. And pictures of wind turbines, and green energy contracts, these are beautiful images,” says the researcher.
THE FAILURE OF A POLICY
The wind shift did not happen as planned, however, explains Jean-Thomas Bernard. Ontario has been unable to create a new industrial sector.
“It did not work because Ontario produces little wind equipment. Major turbine manufacturers are Denmark, Germany, the United States and China. The Ontario market is not big enough to provide a foundation for development, “he says.
“We have invested in wind power, but the bill comes later, so it creates a political problem to announce an increase in the price of electricity. » – Pierre-Olivier Pineau
Wind power not justified by the market
The Ontario government put a halt to new project grants in 2016,* but it remains contractually bound to buy electricity from existing wind farms at fixed prices.
“There is no jurisdiction where the market price justifies wind energy investment. Once the government decides to have wind generation capacity, it is obliged to guarantee prices. » – Pierre-Olivier Pineau
This guarantee forces Ontario to purchase electricity at a fixed price, regardless of the demand and lower production costs associated with the technological evolution of the sector.
A difficult situation for the province, which has invested millions of dollars in a sector that looked promising as it faces an economic situation where electricity demand is lower.
“Electricity rates are increasing by 5% per year as a result of this firm price policy for renewable energy. If we had not developed them, today there would be a drop of 5% per year. “Adds Jean-Thomas Bernard.
Ontario is not unique, Quebec and Alberta have also had to guarantee prices to energy companies.
On the other hand, the manner of proceeding, by call for tenders in particular, made it possible to establish lower fixed prices. In addition, the importance of hydroelectricity in Quebec and oil in Alberta makes the wind industry very secondary in these provinces.
A COMPLEX SITUATION
For these experts, the energy sector in Ontario is generally in an unenviable position. Prices are high and the energy policies put in place for several years have not yielded the expected results.
“The current government has chosen to have both nuclear and wind power with the problems we know in terms of price. And these problems will not disappear in the future because the rehabilitation of nuclear power and wind will be very expensive in the years to come, “says Pierre-Olivier Pineau.
And even though over the last year the government has lowered rates twice, including reducing the sales tax, the real question remains: are we able to produce electricity at a lower cost? “Not today,” concludes Jean-Thomas Bernard.
WCO note: it is not correct to state the the Ontario government has halted its wind power procurement program. The Large Renewable Procurement program has been put on hold due to a surplus of power, but it is not gone. Meanwhile the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is currently processing five more applications for large-scale projects, for 300 megawatts of intermittent, unnecessary power.
In response to an invitation from Council for the Municipality of Kincardine, a senior manager with Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change confirmed to Council that nothing is being done about the hundreds of recent noise complaints about a local wind power project.
Rick Chappell, manager of the Owen Sound District Office, told Council that there is no completed audit of compliance with noise regulations for the Enbridge Underwood project. This is despite the fact the facility has been operating since 2007, and the audit was requested by the Ministry in response to early complaints about excess noise emissions.
His presentation also acknowledged adverse health effects from the noise and vibration produced by wind turbines, including low frequency noise and infrasound. When questioned, he stated that there is no peer-reviewed evidence that infrasound causes direct health effects. He was unable to provide an answer when the Councillor followed up with a question asking if there were indirect health effects.
Chappell provided details of the long history of incomplete audit submissions for the Enbridge project. The earlier submissions were deemed to still be incomplete under the new protocol and the company has submitted additional data to meet the requirements with the last submission taking place on November 15. He indicated that Enbridge has been given a commitment of expedited processing and they expect a decision on whether their submissions are complete by mid-December. Analysis of their data would follow that decision.
The post-construction audit for the nearby Armow project was submitted three months ago and is under review in Toronto. At present, he said, that he could not provide an update on the assessment of this audit except to indicate that there has been no decision and he was not aware of the timeline for a decision.
The fact is, Chappell admitted, the Ministry group reviewing the audit reports has large backlog of reports submitted by the project operators from across Ontario based on the new noise testing protocol.
Chappell advised Council that the new protocol recommends that noise audit submissions are only made public once they are accepted by the MOECC. This is statement does not align with the protocol which actually requires posting of submissions to the Ministry be posted on the project website within 10 business days of the submission to the District Manager. Neither Enbridge nor the Armow submissions have been posted.
Once a compliance audit is underway, the MOECC stops responding to complaints from residents living in the project until the results of the audit are known. In his view, the potential for non-compliance has already been identified and until this situation is resolved, there is no point in additional testing. This approach applies to the Enbridge project even though the audit process started in December 2011 and is still not complete.
Once Councillor questioned the whole compliance audit process, indicating she believed that the process is designed to generate results that showed compliance. Her concern was the more than 500 complaints from residents of the Enbridge project that are now essentially being ignored by the MOECC. Even if the project was found to be in compliance, she was looking for action on these complaints based on the approval held by Enbridge. Chappell’s answer did not satisfy the residents in the audience.
Chappell indicated that compliance audit process was posted for public comment prior to the release of the April 2017. This statement overlooks many citizen submissions regarding flaws in the old process, including a lengthy brief from WCO, which were ignored by the MOECC meaning that the flaws in the original process were not connected and the audit process excludes situations that generate any resident complaints about noise emissions from wind turbines.
Another Councillor questioned what steps that the MOECC would take if, hypothetically the audit process found the project to be out of compliance. Chappell indicated that the MOECC would ask the company to submit a mitigation plan to address the issues. Changes could be reduced operating speeds, shut-downs of problem turbines in specific wind conditions or times of the day. When pressed about the time required for this type of plan to be developed, implemented and approved by the Ministry, Chappell suggested that it would be weeks rather than months.
The situation is similar to many other wind power projects in Ontario where complaints have been filed by residents for years, with no resolution and in some cases, no action by the Ministry. Documents released under Freedom of Information to Wind Concerns Ontario show that there are now at least 500 formal reports of excessive noise and vibration from the Armow wind turbines.
The wind turbine in Port Elgin, operated by union Unifor, is also the subject of hundreds of complaints with no resolution — and no valid noise audit. “You are the regulator,” Deputy Mayor Luc Charbonneau has told the MOECC. “You are failing to regulate.”
Since 1995, more than 2,500 wind turbines have appeared in the Ontario landscape, but the green label attached to them is strongly criticized in some communities that are mobilizing to oppose the development of new projects. The problem is that these citizens do not always feel listened to by the public authorities.
Reportage and photos: Nicolas Pham
Text: Marine Lefevre
Infographics: Vincent Wallon
In 2014, the small community of Dutton-Dunwich, near London, rejected 84% of the proposed installation of 20 wind turbines on the territory of the municipality by a US multinational.
A plebiscite that does not prevent the provincial government from giving initial approval to Invenergy’s plan in 2017.
In Dutton-Dunwich, it’s incomprehension and anger.
“Everyone is furious. All my neighbors are really worried. I do not think we can compromise. I do not want these structures 200 m high next to me, “says Kristen Scheele, a resident who feels betrayed by the fact that the voice of the population is not respected.
“When, in the democratic process, the rights of a minority outweigh the rights of the majority? ” – Kirsten Scheele
A feeling shared by the mayor of the city, who has been fighting the idea since the beginning.
“We do not want it. My fellow citizens are frustrated that they are not being listened to and are concerned that their concerns are not being addressed, “said Cameron McWilliam.
At a public information meeting organized by Invenergy in October 2017, members of the Dutton / Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines Group (DDOTW) say that wind turbines are bad for the environment, for the economy and for themselves.
What they absolutely want to avoid is that their fate is identical to that of the neighboring municipality of Lakeshore, where a park of 100 wind turbines was built in 2016 against the advice of the population and the municipal council.
“Council passed a motion saying we had our share of wind turbines and we did not want more,” said Mayor Tom Baine. The government’s response has been: they are coming! ” – Tom Baine, Lakeshore Mayor
Why ignore the opinion of citizens and elected officials?
According to provincial legislation, the support of a community where wind turbines are built is desirable, but it is not essential.
“While community support can increase the chances of a project receiving a contract, there are many factors that affect its bid … Even though municipal and community support is an important factor in the evaluation. project proposals, it is not mandatory, “says the ministry by email.
A situation that many elected officials deplore, including Jeff Yurek, Conservative MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London.
“With the Green Energy Act, the government has removed the autonomy of the municipalities, so that it can decide where it [puts] these renewable energy projects. It does not matter if a city or village is a voluntary host or not. ” – Jeff Yurek, Conservative MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London
While more than 2,500 wind turbines have been built in Ontario since 1995, the number of housing starts has accelerated since 2009, when the Green Energy Act came into force.
But why do whole communities refuse ecological and sustainable energy?
In spite of the positive label attached to this so-called green energy, it is criticized for several inconveniences.
“People who live near these huge machines have problems. They are noisy, blink and vibrate with a vibration you can feel from your home, “says Jane Wilson of Wind Concerns Ontario, a citizen organization that provides information on the potential impact of wind power generation on the environment, economy, human health and the natural environment.
“A majority of our residents are against, they do not see their interest. They make noise and pose health risks, “said Lakeshore Mayor Tom Baine.
The situation of contaminated artesian wells in the Chatham-Kent area is also bothering citizens.
“When that happens, you can not go back, you can not fix it,” says Wilson.
For Kristen Scheele of Dutton, well water in Chatham and thousands of noise complaints are all sources of concern and questioning.
It worries me a lot about whether they really protect the public interest – Kristen Scheele, a resident of Dutton-Dunwich.
According to reports obtained under the Access to Information Act, thousands of complaints about wind turbines have been filed with the Ministry of the Environment, which, for the time being, has made no followed.
“The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has clearly not fulfilled its mandate in dealing with complaints in this area,” said Dutton-Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam.
PROBLEMS TAKEN SERIOUSLY?
In the wind sector, it is said that the concerns of residents are taken into consideration while complying with the requirements of the legislation, which was developed from scientific studies. A regulatory distance of 550 m is required for the installation of wind turbines near homes. Wind turbines must also comply with stringent sound standards.
“If, at a point in time, wind turbines exceed the noise threshold, the department has put in place a compliance mechanism to ensure that the impacts are mitigated,” says Brandy Giannetta, Regional Director of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
For its part, the Ministry of the Environment claims to take all complaints seriously. “Our priority is to protect public health and the environment by promoting and ensuring compliance with departmental rules and requirements,” reads an email.
The ministry ensures that systematic monitoring is done to ensure that wind farms comply with all provincial requirements.
“When a complaint is registered, the ministry responds by following up with the facility to make sure it complies with all provincial requirements,” says the email.
The ministry indicates that since 2006, 25 citizens are responsible for 60% of the complaints filed in this area with the Ministry. In this context, the department says it has conducted nearly 300 follow-up activities and continues to conduct proactive inspections of wind farm operations.
On the ground, energy companies do everything to reassure residents at public meetings such as those organized by Invenergy in Dutton-Dunwich.
“We understand that citizens have concerns or objections. But in the end, wind turbines are allowed in Ontario, period, “says James Murphy, vice president of business development of the company.
ARE THE STUDIES CONVINCING?
The energy companies are more confident in their efforts that several studies indicate that the noise and vibration of the turbines do not affect the health of residents and that their construction has no impact on the nearby artesian wells.
In 2014, a Health Canada study concludes that there is no evidence to establish a link between the noise exposure of wind turbines and the health problems reported by certain people living near these facilities.
“No statistically significant relationship was found between measured blood pressure, or resting heart rate, and noise exposure of wind turbines. ” – Health Canada study with 4000 hours of measurement of wind turbine noise data.
But the agency also has several reservations. According to her, scientific data on the subject are limited. It also states that the findings of this study do not in themselves provide definitive answers and that they “should be considered in the context of a larger evidence base”.
The public also does not trust the mandatory environmental studies submitted by the energy companies for any new project.
“People who have money can buy the reports they need. ” – Jane Wilson, Wind Concerns Ontario
Cameron McWilliam also questions the independence of this research.
“When you have the fox guarding the hen house, you expect that the studies will not be done by the opponent. It should be totally independent of the company and it did not happen. Because of wind farm liabilities, residents and our board are not ready to believe studies that say everything is fine, “he says.
But beyond research, living on a daily basis alongside wind turbines is difficult, say the inhabitants. Whether the vibrations felt by some or the discomfort caused by flashing air signal lights experienced by others, the effects of the presence of wind turbines are very real in the lives of these people.
It is in this context that the opposition is organized among citizens who see especially in this renewable energy the symbol of questioning their way of life in the countryside.
They are not ready to be imposed these huge machines. They do not want to be hijacked and most of all want to hear from a government that invests in green energy and from companies that claim to comply with government requirements.
Marc St-Pierre has not been drinking water from his well for four years since the water came out black.He is not alone: More than twenty families in his region have the same problem. The color is from black shale sediments suspended in the water. The residents of the Chatham-Kent say they are living in a nightmare.
Reportage and photos: Nicolas Pham
Text: Marine Lefevre
Ezine: Vincent Wallon
December 4, 2017
Report from Radio Canada Windsor by Nicolas Pham, Translated from original French
” We cannot do anything. We used water for everything. I cannot even take a bath. My world is completely upset because of that, “said Marilyn St-Pierre, a resident of Dover Centre. “Our water is finished and our life with it. I cannot even put on a sliding game for my kids and grandchildren, “says Christine Burke, who lives nearby.
Blame the wind turbines
In search of answers, residents’ eyes are quickly turning to wind farm projects being built near their homes. The problems, they say, began at the same time as the work in late 2012 and shortly after construction began on the East St. Clair wind farm at Dover Center.
“At the time, we did not realize what was happening. I did not want to believe that turbines could be involved. ” – Marc St-Pierre
It is only when other neighbors come forward that he realizes the extent of the disaster. All live within 7.5 km, near the wind farm.
Twelve wind turbines stand around the property of Marc St-Pierre, the nearest is located 550 m from his house.
The problem resurfaced in May 2017, just weeks after work began on another wind farm project, North Kent One.
“They do not want to confess. But it’s odd: my well is lost, the neighboring well is lost, the well on the other concession is lost. All is lost since they started with North Wind, “says Lucy Defraeye, another affected resident.
An assumption that Keith Benn, a professional geologist who has worked for many years in the mining industry in Ontario, is happy to believe. According to him, the relationship between the installation of wind turbines and the contamination of wells is obvious.
“It’s circumstantial evidence, okay. But when you have a [pure] water source for years and [transforms] a few days after the construction of an industrial facility. You do not have to be a genius to see that there is a link of cause and effect, “he notes.
“A belief shared by Bill Clarke, a geoscientist licensed in Ontario for 43 years. “We’re making the connection between the construction and the wind farm because that’s the only thing that has changed around Chatham-Kent,” he says.
“There are residents here for generations. This is the first time anyone has noticed problems with water quality. ” – Bill Clarke, Geoscience
An unaccountable company
Marc St-Pierre and seven of his neighbors look to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment in 2013 for answers. Water is declared fit for consumption by government inspectors.
“They did tests to check for bacteria, but they never did any sediment sampling. ” – Marc St-Pierre
Disillusioned and always struggling with black water, they simply decide to install filters, without ever receiving compensation.
The story is different for affected citizens around North Kent One Park. There, the presence of sediment is such that the wells are completely clogged.
Residents turn to Pattern Energy, the project’s owner, who claims it has nothing to do with the problem. According to the company’s engineers, it is impossible for turbine construction to cause such problems.
Gagan Chambal is Director of Works at Pattern Energy. He says that research done prior to the start of the project demonstrates that it is impossible for black shale particles, or anything else, to be transported from construction sites of turbines to wells hundreds of meters away. distance.
The study by the environmental consulting firm Golder Associates does not convince Keith Benn, mainly because it is based on models and not empirical field analyzes.
“A model proves nothing, it only predicts something. If he predicts something wrong, then this model is wrong. And it seems that’s the case here. ” – Keith Benn, geologist
While experts do not fully understand the causes of this situation, many point to the piling technique of wind turbine foundations that would damage the aquifer.
The company is clearing customs, but a few weeks ago, it had delivered to several residents huge water tanks to replace the wells. According to Mr. Chambal, it is a simple step of good neighborliness.
“Under our license, we were only supposed to supply tanks only if it was determined that our construction had an impact on the quality of the water. But being good neighbors, we took proactive steps to help the community. Residents who complain about water quality have access to clean water even during the survey, “he says.
A temporary solution that is far from satisfying residents who are also worried about the safety of this water.
“As for me, it’s a cistern to give water to animals or to work in the fields. [It] is dirty inside. We cannot drink that water, wash our vegetables or cook, “says Lucy Defraeye.
And the arrival of winter does not announce anything to reassure them.
“My tank is outside. Winter is coming, I’m going to get cold water, “adds Calvin Simmons, frustrated.
But beyond the disadvantages, these residents feel abandoned, especially by the government.
A little government listening
Kevin Jakubek is a spokesperson for Water Wells First, a drinking water protection association that has brought together affected residents since 2013. He says the government is not doing its job and should investigate all those wells that have become unusable.
“We have been asking the Ministry of the Environment to investigate for more than a year and a half and they are not investigating. They come, they do some tests, but they refuse to take samples of the pollutant, “he says.
An impression that Marc St-Pierre himself had.
“A ministry inspector came to the house and I showed him the water that came from the well it was coming out black, I asked him to take this to examine it. He did not want to touch. He did not take it. They do not want to know what’s in the water, “he says.
For Mr. Jakubec, it’s just the story that repeats itself.
“People started to notice that their water was black. The government knew about it and they did absolutely nothing.They allowed the construction of another park in another county. And again, there are contaminated wells. ” – Kevin Jakubek, spokeswoman for First Water Wells
Waiting for answers
Citizens are frustrated by their situation.
Even though the government claims that water is completely safe to drink once it has been filtered, experts say it contains heavy metals that are dangerous to health.
“I’ve already been through cancer and my biggest fear is to have another one. ” – Marilyn St-Pierre
What Water Wells First is asking for is that the work be suspended for a long time to identify the source of the problem. Residents have filed complaints with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change that are currently under review.
For Bill Clarke, these steps will take time, a time during which residents will not be able to enjoy the source of drinking water that [they] enjoyed so far.
Ontario’s electricity ratepayers paid more than $500 million in 2017 for nothing
With only one month left in the current year, the bad news on the electricity sector keeps getting worse.
Well before the official sources such as IESO report on how much power industrial wind turbines generated and how much was curtailed (constrained, or paid for but not added to the power grid), my friend Scott Luft has published his estimates for both the former and the latter for the month of November.
As he reports (conservatively), curtailed wind in November was over 422,000 megawatt hours (MWh) — that could have supplied 562,000 average Ontario households with free power for the month.
Instead, no one got free power; the cost of the 422,000 MWh of undelivered wind power to Ontario ratepayers was $120/MWh. That $50.7-million cost for the month was simply added to the costs of the electricity bills ratepayers will be obliged to pay, while some of it will deferred to the future as part of the Fair Hydro Plan.
Somebody’s enjoying cheap power — not you
No doubt the wasted wind power presented itself when it wasn’t needed; if it had been accepted into the grid, that extra power could have caused blackouts or brownouts, so it was curtailed. At the same time, much of the grid-accepted wind was exported to our neighbours in New York, Michigan and elsewhere, at discount prices! Curtailed wind for November 2017 compared to 2016 was almost 55% higher.
How bad is it? Let’s review the first 11 months of the current year, compared to 2016.
So far in 2017, curtailed wind is about 786,000 MWh higher (+33.8%) at just over 3.1million MWh. The cost of all the curtailed wind so far in 2017 is approximately $373.6 million, or $94.3 million more than 2016 costs.
WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO Note: the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is currently reviewing documents for five more wind power projects which received contracts in 2016, totaling $3 billion more for electricity costs for intermittent wind power, produced out-of-phase with demand in Ontario
MPP demands that wind power projects be cancelled over concerns about Black Shale and polluted wells
In Question Period on November 20, Monte McNaughton, MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex rose to ask the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change what action was being taken for people in his riding whose well water has been rendered “undrinkable swill” during construction for a nearby wind power project.
Minister Ballard responded with, in his own words, “generalities” and specifically skipped over answering the question about the quality of well water to say that “renewable energy projects are a necessity.”*
Here, from Hansard, is what the Minister said in response to Mr McNaughton.
Mr. Monte McNaughton: My question today is for the Minister of Energy. In my riding of Lambton–Kent–Middlesex, your ministry is pushing ahead with two new industrial wind turbine developments, the North Kent 1 and Otter Creek wind farms. These wind farms will generate electricity we don’t need and contribute to pushing hydro bills even higher than they already are.
These developments include turbines almost 200 metres high with foundations that require pile driving into black shale bedrock, rock containing heavy metals. This bedrock carries water of the aquifer. Since the start of construction on the North Kent project, 14 water wells have become turbid and undrinkable.
Mr. Speaker, we’ve seen the impact of pile driving into black shale from the North Kent project. Why is the minister allowing construction to continue there, and why is he jeopardizing the drinking water of another community by going forward with the Otter Creek project?
Hon. Glenn Thibeault: To the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.
Hon. Chris Ballard: I’m happy to speak in some generalities around the need for wind turbines, and the very vigorous process that our government puts in place to make sure that the turbines are sited safely and that there is good, strong consultation with the community.
Speaker, we take the concerns regarding the environment and human health very seriously. I’ll say that we adhere to a very strict renewable energy approvals process.
Thanks to clean air and clean energy—and let me speak to the fundamentals for a second—Ontario has saved more than $4 billion in annual health and environmental costs because of this government’s commitment to clean energy.
Unlike the PCs, we can’t sit idly by. Renewable energy projects are a necessity and a crucial part of our low-carbon carbon switch, and we’re not going to back down from our—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. I stand, you sit.
Mr. Monte McNaughton: Back to the Minister of Energy: These wind farms will forever end food production on some of the best agricultural land in our country. And we are talking about an environmentally sensitive area, home to 24 species at risk, and within a major flight path for migratory birds. It is fragmenting the bedrock, turning clear, clean water into dirty, undrinkable swill, yet the project is going ahead even though the government has suspended the large renewable procurement II process because there is no need for additional electricity.
When the minister made that announcement in September 2016, I said that North Kent 1 and Otter Creek should be cancelled as well. Had the minister cancelled these two projects, the long-term savings would amount to $570 million. If stopping turbine construction makes economic, environmental and public health sense, why would the Minister of Energy sign off on continuing to build industrial wind farms in my riding of Lambton–Kent–Middlesex?
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock, please. Be seated, please. Thank you.
Hon. Chris Ballard: Thanks for the opportunity to follow up on the North Kent wind farm. Again, I’m going to reiterate that our government takes these concerns regarding groundwater quality very seriously. The renewable energy approval process, in fact, requires these proponents to undertake extensive consultation with municipalities, indigenous communities and the public. Additionally, we have taken a very cautious, science-based approach when setting the standards for renewable energy projects in order to protect the health of the Ontario people.
Speaker, the proponent in this case has done extensive monitoring prior to construction, and we’re going to require them to continue to monitor the vibration data closely during construction and operation of the wind turbines. We require the company to conduct additional water quality assessments and we’re keeping an eye on this.
*WCO note: one of the key parts of the decision on the Ostrander Point wind power project, where the approval was rescinded by the Environmental Review Tribunal, is that wind power is not a “necessity” and does not trump everything. The approvals of wind power projects must achieve balance between the development of renewable energy and preservation of the environment.
The Association to Protect Amherst Island has filed a formal letter of Appeal to the Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Chris Ballard, reminding him that it is within his power (contrary to the wind power developer assertions) to review the current situation with regard to the Windlectric project now under construction, and revoke its approval.
In a letter dated November 14th, the Association wrote:
This is an appeal on “matters other than law”. Accordingly, you are not bound by precedent nor by the efforts of counsel for the Approval Holder, Windlectric Inc., and counsel for the Government to limit your authority to consideration of errors or to the narrow test required at the ERT to demonstrate “serious harm to human health; or serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment”. You are wrongfully advised by counsel for the opposing parties that even Government policy and political risk are irrelevant to this matter and that you don’t even have the authority to request the Director to require a modification to the project to reflect critical changes or to impose mitigation measures which Tribunal members accepted as essential. Please do not be guided by lawyers’ efforts to limit your authority. Your mandate is much broader than the restrictive views expressed by opposing counsel in the responses to APAI’s appeal.
You are respectfully requested to do what is in the public interest: to revoke approval of the Amherst Island Wind Project.
You have a real choice.
… The Association to Protect Amherst Island respectfully requests that you exercise your authority to revoke approval for the compelling reasons set forth in our earlier submissions:
Enforce and respect commitments made by the Approval Holder during the ERT to mitigate potential negative impacts on the environment. The ERT decision specifically states that the Tribunal Members considered commitments made by the Approval Holder that were not included in the REA conditions when coming to their decision. However, Mr. Paul Nieweglowski, Assistant Deputy Minister MOECC, advised that the MOECC has no mandate to enforce commitments not included in the REA conditions. The project under construction is now radically different from the project considered by the ERT and in layman’s terms appears as a classic “bait and switch” described more fully in our earlier brief.
APAI outlined the risks to the environment now being seen:
Safeguard Amherst Island residents’ access to clean water. All Island residents rely on wells. The potential adverse impact of the construction of 26 turbines on groundwater on a vulnerable and isolated Island and the failure of MOECC to heed the initial advice of its own expert hydrologist to implement a comprehensive groundwater monitoring requires your intervention. In the REA conditions, the MOECC required no studies and no monitoring. MOECC advised that no geotechnical studies have been conducted.
Be proactive and protect human health by consistent application of noise regulations. If the Amherst Island Wind Project were proposed today the noise regulations implemented in 2016 would require significant changes to the project. A minimum of ten homes would be subject to noise exceeding the new standards. Why should Amherst Island residents be subjected to noise that MOECC acknowledges exceeds today’s safety standards? You have an opportunity to take preventative action especially important when it has become widely known that MOECC has not investigated thousands of noise complaints related to wind turbines throughout rural Ontario.
Save $500 million by inviting the Approval Holder to terminate its FIT contract for the unneeded 75 MW Amherst Island project across the channel from the idle 2000 MW Lennox Generating Station paid monthly curtailment fees, the soon to be idle 800 MW Napanee Gas Plant to be paid over $13 million per month to NOT generate electricity, and 115 MW Northland Power whose offer of power at 5.6 cents per kilowatt was not accepted in contrast to the 14 cents per kilowatt to be paid on Amherst Island.
Address the many risks described in our submission to your predecessor, the Honourable Glen Murray, which forms part of this brief: construction of a cement plant adjacent to the Island’s only school (something that would not be allowed anywhere else in Ontario), impact of construction on lands considered historic by First Nations, conflict of barge traffic with the Island ferry in winter, impact on the Owl Capital of North America and an Important Bird Area, the decimation of the bat population, loss of grazing land for sheep farmers and consequent potential end of the farm, impact on health, damage to the rich cultural and natural heritage of the Island, and the high risk to public safety and the environment.
Well water problems continue in Chatham-Kent with neither the wind power developer consortium, the municipality (which is part of the developer consortium), or the Ontario Ministry of the Environment responding to citizens’ concerns about altered well water. People have complained about Black Water coming from their wells, or so much sediment that the wells stop working entirely.
Here is an excerpt from the current edition of Ontario Farmer, which contains interviews with two experts on water wells.
Of concern to Wind Concerns Ontario is not only the lack of acknowledgement, explanation or effective resolution but also the fact that yet another wind power project on the same hydrogeology is being considered for approval. Ontario needs answers as more projects on fragile hydrogeology are pushed forward.
Hydrologist blames turbines for well water issues
By Jeffrey Carter, ONTARIO FARMER
Ontario’s MInistry of the Environment and Climate Change should have already stopped the North Kent project in the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, according to hydrogeologist Bill Clarke.
It’s clear many wells have been compromised due to the vibrations created by wind turbine construction and by their operation, he said. Less clear is the level of risk for the people drinking the water. There are just too many unknowns to make a definitive statement on the matter.
Clarke, who is near retirement after a 40-year career in Ontario, has been working with Water Wells First citizens’ group that stands in opposition to wind farm development in the area, given the fragile nature of the aquifer.
“There are 13 families who are seeing a change in their water supply,” he said.
“Quantity is the issue now but not necessarily water quality. What’s happening is that particulate matter is getting loosened up at the base of the wells. In my opinion, there is well interference — there is no doubt.”
Proponents of the North Kent Wind project, consultants hired by the developers, have said that turbine construction has had no impact on the wells, despite the visual evidence that suggests otherwise. In the case of the complaints, which now number 14 according to Water Wells First, problems only arose after turbine pile-driving operations began.
Clarke said the consultants are correct in one respect: sediment shaken loose below the area where the turbines are being erected is not a concern. However, few people, experts included, have recognized the extreme delicate nature of this particular aquifer. The vibrations from pile-driving, and even from those created by the rotation of the huge turbine blades, are an issue at the well locations themselves. This accounts for particles from the underlying bedrock — Kettle [Point Black Shale] — being found in the contaminated wells.
The aquifer is very fragile
“The aquifer is very fragile and what we didn’t know before this all began is how fragile it is … They [the ministry] are being reluctant to get involved and, subsequently making a decision,” Clarke said.
Filtering systems have proven ineffective. Some have quickly clogged up within days or even hours of being put into operation. This may explain why the wind farm developers have offered to supply municipal and bottled water to affected well owners, though liability is still denied.
Also weighing in on the nature of the aquifer was Craig Stanton, executive director of the Ontario Groundwater Association. He said it’s long been known that when water is drawn too quickly from the area’s aquifer, cloudiness can become an issue.
“A lot of those wells are only good for a gallon or two per minute because if you were to pump harder, you would disturb that till with water pressure,” he said.
Kettle [Point Black Shale] is the bedrock underlying much of Southwestern Ontario. Across the northern part of Chatham-Kent, it’s located within 50 to 70 feet of the soil surface.
The “sweet water” lies in a layer of glacial till just above the bedrock. Particles of the bedrock are mixed into the aquifer layer.\
Clarke, while convinced that water wells have been compromised by the wind far development, said the level of risk from a human safety perspective, is unknown at this point.
In a well water evaluation conducted for Peter Hensel, just south of Wallaceburg*, uranium, barium and selenium were all flagged under the Ontario Water [Resources Act]. Unfortunately, due to test limitations, the level of uranium and selenium detected could not be determined. The level of barium did exceed the standard but only marginally.
Questions sent to the MOECC concerning the potential health threat from Hensel’s 2016 results were not answered. Hensel has not yet supplied the MOECC with his 2016 results although a copy was given to Ontario Farmer. The MOECC has also not answered why, in its own 2017 test of Hensel’s water, metals were not included in the evaluation.
The same questions sent to the MOECC were sent to Ontario’s environment minister Chris Ballard’s office. So far, there’s been no reply from the minister’s office.
They should have known …
According to Stainton and Clarke, an evaluation of metal content is a standard part of most water tests.
“Why would you test for just part of the Periodic Table, and who made the decision (at the MOECC) on what they would or wouldn’t test for?” Stainton asked. “It certainly seems to me suspect, and they should have known these things are in the black shale.”
Stainton and Clarke are both puzzled by the MOECC’s reluctance to investigate the situation further,. Especially since concerns were raised prior to the start of construction on the North Kent Wind project.
“I believe if they had been listening, they never would have allowed North Kent to move forward because they should have learned their lessons in Dover. There should have been so many red flags going up that they should have said no,” Stainton said.
… a spokesperson with the MOECC [told Ontario Farmer] that the Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health has determined there is no risk from the particulates in the water in the absence of bacterial contamination.
*The MOECC is now contemplating approval of yet another wind power project on the same hydrogeology, the Otter Creek wind power project. A citizens’ group has formed: the Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns.
Here is an excerpt from a report on the recent meeting in Clinton, announcing the launch of the Huron County public health investigation into wind turbine noise.
A few notes: as far as we are aware, the “study” is actually an “investigation” under the Health Protection and Prevention Act of Ontario, in which reports of adverse health effects may be reported and investigated. The only association with the University of Waterloo was the review by the ethics committee of that university — the university is not involved in any other phase of the project.
Wind Concerns Ontario had proposed to carry out Phase II of the study which would involve follow-up measurements in homes identified as problematic by the Health Unit, as part of a research study by a multi-disciplinary team. Although federal government funding was not achieved for that proposal, efforts to fund that initiative are ongoing.
This project is the first of its kind in Ontario; it was initiated based on reports of adverse health effects by residents of Huron County made to their health unit, and is supported by them.
For more information about the Huron County Health Unit project please visit the website here.
Huron County Health Unit launches wind farm study
By John Miner
ONTARIO FARMER November 7, 2017
Huron County’s on-again, off-again study on the health impact of wind farms is moving ahead with warnings from the researchers about what it can’t accomplish.
Even if the results in the end definitely show that wind farms are damaging the health of residents, the county’s health unit will not be able to order the turbines stopped, a public meeting was told.
“We do not have the authority to curtail or shut down wind turbines. If you are thinking of participating in the study in the hope that we will shut down the turbines, we want you to understand we cannot do that,” Dr. Erica Clark, an epidemiologist with the Huron County Health Unit, announced at the start of a public information session attended by about 60 people.
Courts have determined that Ontario health units do not have the legal ability to issue orders to protect public health in cases where the provincial government has given that responsibility to another body, Clark said.
In the case of wind farms, the government has given the power to regulate wind turbines to the Ministry of the Environment, not public health units, she said.
Dr. Maarten Bokhout: “If research indicates there are health issues, that can be raised with the Ontario government”
Dr. Maarten Bokhout, Acting Medical Officer of Health at the Huron County Health Unit, said while he cannot step on the Environment Ministry’s toes and he does not have the power to write orders against wind turbines, the results of the study will be published online, including interim reports.
The health unit’s one-year study, established in collaboration with the University of Waterloo and reviewed by the university’s ethics committee, will look at how people are annoyed by noise, vibration and light [shadow flicker] from wind farms.
The goal is to establish how many people are bothered by wind turbines in the county and determine if environmental conditions that make the noise, vibration light and sensations from wind turbines worse.
The study will rely on residents living within 10 km of a wind turbine who volunteer to keep a diary of their experience within their own home.
Participants are asked to record their observations at least once a week.
The researchers will not be making any actual sound or vibration measurements for the study.
Huron County is home to more than 300 industrial wind turbines and some of the largest wind farms in the province.
Some residents have blamed the turbines for a series of health problems, including headaces, nausea, dizziness and insomnia.
Clark, who is principal investigator on the study, said they want participation from both people who have been bothered by wind turbines and those who haven’t experienced any problems.
The 10-kilometre study zone around wind turbines means thousands of Huron County residents are eligible to sign up for the project, including all of the towns of Goderich and Exeter.
See the print edition of Ontario Farmerfor a related story: Rural residents skeptical government would act on wind