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.
“We’re big, you’re small”: community leader on fight for the environment vs huge developer
September 27, 2019
Residents of North Stormont, between Ottawa and Cornwall, are now seeing the reality of having lost their fight against a giant power developer. Citizens spent over $100,000 to bring forward their concerns about damage to the environment and human health over having huge wind turbines erected in their communities, only to have the Environmental Review Tribunal (operating under an almost no-win set of rules) turn against them.
The Nation Rise wind power project is going up.
Access roads have been built, foundations are being poured, and the massive turbine parts have arrived by ship at the nearby Port of Johnstown.
Many people in the community don’t want the project, Ontario doesn’t need the electrical power, and wind power is now widely seen as an expensive, unreliable source of intermittent power, produced out of phase with real demand.
The project is being developed by EDP Renewables, which had revenues of 1.8B Euro in 2018; it was purchased by Axium Infrastructure, a large portfolio management company with 100 projects in North America, including K2 Wind in Ontario.*
And it’s tough to watch this happen when several other wind power projects were cancelled early on in the new Ford government.
Veteran Ottawa Citizen columnist Kelly Egan visited North Stormont this week, and his story is here.
Concerned Citizens chair Margaret Benke, 63, a retired [school] principal and lifelong resident of the area, was asked if opponents felt like they were viewed as a bunch of “kooks” who just don’t get it.
“Of course,” she said Thursday. The attitude, she elaborated, is: “We know, you don’t, we’re smart, you’re dumb, we’re big, you’re small.”
What Benke and others know, however, especially, from experiences in other parts of Ontario, is that the noise from big wind turbines is often an annoyance, that there is suspicion that vibrations are affecting the soil and possibly livestock and that wells could be affected both by digging the infrastructure and a constantly humming terrain.
(It is, indeed, a deep rabbit hole: what about so-called infrasound, stuff we can’t hear?; or shadow flickers, ice tossing from the blades; the effect on birds, bats, cows; the leaking of voltage into the ground.) On top of which, opponents say, Ontario doesn’t even need more power production.
In an oft-cited study that is being read different ways, Health Canada reported in 2014 that 16.5 per cent of respondents were “highly annoyed” when the turbine noise was at its highest level, but the investigation found no links to major health impacts.
And there is another important consideration. The project has created divisions in the community. “It has created an incredible rift,” said Benke, “and it is only just beginning.”
Wind Concerns Ontario is in the process of acquiring the noise reports filed with the Ontario environment ministry for 2017 and 2018. The 2018 data is due to arrive shortly but the 2017 request has already been the subject of one appeal based on a refusal to comply, and WCO has just filed another appeal.
*K2 Wind was recently found non-compliant with Ontario noise regulations for wind turbines and is under a Director’s Order for noise abatement related to the operation of more than 80 of its 140 turbines.
Many people will have missed this interview with MPP Vic Fedeli, as it was published in the West Nipissing community newspaper, but the comments from Mr. Fedeli on a recent report from the Fraser Institute are definitely worth a look.
Especially this week, as the wind power industry trade association and lobbyist CanWEA is in Ottawa, trying to persuade Ontario municipalities that wind power is a cost-effective way to generate electrical power that also brings jobs and prosperity to communities.
Not so, says former finance minister and nor Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade for Ontario. Wind and solar are among the most expensive ways to generate electricity, he told My West Nipissing News.
Wind power contracts were a waste of money because they produced power that Ontario didn’t need, and the surplus power is sold off, often at a loss, to competing jurisdictions in the U.S., Fedeli said. “We make about 30,000 megawatts of power a day but only need about 20,000,” Fedeli said. “So we end up paying the United States and Quebec every single night to take our surplus power. And it’s billions of dollars every year that we’re paying those competitors of ours.”
Referring to a recent Auditor General’s report, Fedeli says the AG identified that the solar and wind projects of the previous government resulted in “spending $37-billion in wasted money”. He added that former Premiers Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne pursued the wind and solar projects solely for ideological reasons and photo ops.
“The Auditor-General has proven it certainly wasn’t anything in terms of bringing relief for families,” Fedeli said.
The Fraser Institute report noted that solar and wind are intended to displace emission-producing forms of power generation, but also that many provinces in Canada get much of their power from nuclear plants or hydroelectric dams, neither of which energy sources produce greenhouse gas emissions.
Fedeli said Ontario gets 60 percent of its power from nuclear and additional power from its huge hydroelectric projects like Niagara Falls.
“We have clean energy from water and nuclear,” he said.
What Mr. Fedeli didn’t mention in referring to the Auditor General reports over the last 15 years was that the former McGuinty and Wynne governments never did any kind of cost-benefit or impact analysis for their wind power program which was essentially forced industrialization for rural communities. Impacts such as environmental noise leading to health problems and property value loss were never examined. The report from the Fraser Institute alleges the wind power lobby purposely ignores the consequences of wind power development, and the operation of wind power facilities.
New from the Fraser Institute is a report on renewable energy and the consequences of political encouragement of variable power sources.
The abstract is below but be sure to read the full report. A paragraph of page 6 is particularly damning of Ontario’s energy policy:
” … proponents of wind and solar power intentionally misrepresent the advantages of these technologies by focussing attention solely on the costs and benefits obtained whenever electricity is being generated. The costs of wind and solar power are considerably higher and the environmental benefits much lower when account is taken of the impact these technologies have on an entire electricity system. Ultimately, consumers do not pay for electricity generated using wind and sunlight but for electricity that is delivered to them continuously by the electricity system as a whole. Therefore, when VRE is introduced into an electricity system, ratepayers are interested in its system-wide impact, not just the cost of the wind and solar power entering the grid. The additional conventional generating capacity required to provide back-up electricity supply when VRE capacity is not generating electricity because of a lack of wind or sunshine is a significant incremental cost to the system.”
Generating Electricity in Canada from Wind and Sunlight: Is Getting Less for More Better than Getting More for Less?
Using wind and sunlight to generate electricity is controversial. Advocates urge increased reliance on these variable renewable energy (VRE) sources because they are seen as a low-cost way of mitigating a looming climate-change crisis. Critics take the opposite stance, claiming wind and solar power are costly, and the environmental benefits negligible at best. Some Canadian provinces have gone to considerable lengths to encourage adoption of these technologies, but the results have been mixed.
This study shows that both positions contain elements of truth. Electricity generated using wind and sunshine is relatively inexpensive. However, once the capacity is in place, it is only available at certain times of the day and/or when the weather cooperates. But consumers require a reliable electricity supply and integrating VRE into existing electricity systems while maintaining a continuous and reliable supply is complicated and costly, both financially and environmentally. Electricity consumers and taxpayers are interested primarily in the financial burden that results from efforts to increase electricity generating capacity using VRE sources. This includes the costs wind and solar power impose on the electricity system as a whole, not just the cost of the VRE-generated electricity supplied to the grid.
The incremental financial costs to the system fall into three basic categories: first, augmenting existing conventional generating capacity so that it is able to compensate for the unreliable supply of wind and solar power. Second, ensuring that the necessary investment in conventional generating capacity is forthcoming although the VRE in the system makes it impossible to use this capacity efficiently. This requirement is usually satisfied either with a capacity market or contracts with suppliers of conventional generating capacity. Third, adding transmission grid capacity and the configuration of grid services required to integrate VRE into the electricity system. Each category has repercussions for the environment. Cheap electricity from wind turbines and solar panels paradoxically results in larger bills for electricity users and taxpayers. Higher utility rates for businesses and households and higher taxes and cutbacks to public services dampen economic activity and reduce living standards.
Compared to conventional power sources, small and variable amounts of electricity are generated when wind and solar energy are captured and transformed by a dispersed array of VRE installations. Large areas of land, often in remote locations, are required. This inevitably results in significant additional costs in terms of delivery infrastructure (for example, high-voltage power lines) and back-up power generation (for example, natural-gas-powered turbines) that would not otherwise be incurred. The first part of this study examines how electricity systems work in order to evaluate the contradictory claims made about VRE. Whether or not wind and solar power are clean and cheap depends on how the evaluation is framed. Critics point out that the economic and environmental costs of the electricity generated using wind and solar technologies can be quite different from the impact of this source of electricity on a system-wide basis.
The second part of the study shows how the system-wide costs and benefits of adding wind and solar power to an existing electricity system are affected by the policies of provincial governments, the cost of electricity, the conventional generating assets already in place, and the structure of the electricity system. Comparing experiences with VRE in different provinces illustrates the importance of these factors.
Cross-Canada comparisons show that electricity utilities themselves are usually best placed to determine whether or not the system-wide cost of these technologies is justified. Prior to 2015, Alberta demonstrated how a competitive wholesale market for electricity determined the extent to which wind and solar energy is economically feasible. Neither is the involvement of provincial governments necessarily a bad thing. Prince Edward Island has successfully integrated a substantial amount of wind power into its electricity system under unique circumstances: a provincial Crown corporation operates several wind farms but the rest of the electricity system is privately or municipally owned. Problems arise when dramatic increases in wind and solar power receive political sanction and the economic consequences are underestimated or ignored. A bold initiative to increase wind and solar generating capacity in the Ontario electricity system backfired badly, leading to soaring electricity rates for both consumers and manufacturers. Between 2015 and 2019, the Alberta government worked towards installing even more wind and solar capacity than had proved politically and economically unsustainable in Ontario, but the electorate allowed that government only a single term in office.
A policy should be judged by whether or not the chosen means have delivered the promised ends. Our review of Canadian wind and solar energy policy shows that they led to consequences consistent with those in other jurisdictions: ramping up electricity production using these power sources results in increased costs for taxpayers and consumers when account is taken of the impact these technologies have on the electricity system as a whole and, when done on any significant scale, generally negative and unnecessary environmental consequences.
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 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.
Homeowners in North Stormont stand to make a big sacrifice to “green” energy if the proposed “Nation Rise” wind power project is constructed, says Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of community groups and Ontario families.
Using research completed recently by a land economist with the University of Guelph and published in Land Economics, Wind Concerns calculates that overall, the property loss for houses within 5 km of the 33 planned turbines could be $87.8 million. Using other research that is less conservative, however, the property value loss could be more than $140 million.
Research done in 2016 by the partnership of Clarkson University and Nanos Research on U.S properties with a view of Wolfe Island wind turbines showed an overall property value loss of 15 per cent for homes “with a view” of the turbines. Older research done by Ontario real estate appraiser Ben Lansink in 2012 found a more dramatic reduction for properties closest to turbines, an average loss of 37 per cent.
University of Guelph associate professor Richard Vyn found a property value loss in communities opposed to wind power projects of 8.98 percent for houses within 2 km of turbines, and 8.62 per cent for properties within 4 km, post-construction of turbines.
For the Nation Rise power project, there are 828 properties within 1,500 metres of turbines according to the wind power developer, Portugal-based EDP, and approximately 2,500 residences within 2 to 5 km of the turbines, according to community group Concerned Citizens of North Stormont.
The houses within 1,500 metres of a turbine in the “Nation Rise” project could see a loss of $21.8 million using professor Vyn’s estimate, $37 million according to Clarkson-Nanos, or as much as $91 million in losses using Mr. Lansink’s calculations.
The community group has appealed the project approval on the basis of environmental, safety and health concerns, and is worried about the effect of turbine construction on the water supply, which could be an additional factor in property value loss.
Wind power proponents and Ontario’s municipal assessment agency have maintained that there is no appreciable property value loss, but an energy commentator wrote in Forbes magazine in 2015 that “there’s a heavily funded public relations machine to make Americans think that wind power doesn’t impact property values.”
“Renewable energy and the ‘environment’ are big businesses and they include not just energy producing companies but also various agencies, interest groups, and even university researchers,” Jude Clemente wrote. “Their grant money and careers are at stake.”
Clemente added that “Many members of the Real Estate and Appraisal businesses, however, have been clear that wind power DOES impact property values … it would seem to me that these groups have no vested interest in supporting wind power or not supporting it.”
A decision is expected on the Nation Rise project appeal in the first week of January, 2019.
Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) says Ontario has an adequate supply of power until 2035. The 20-year contract for the Nation Rise project will cost Ontario more than $450 million.
A new study confirms the loss of property value near industrial-scale or utility-scale wind power projects, but flaws in the methodology don’t show just how bad the situation really is
November 28, 2018
University of Guelph associate professor Richard Vyn sent along his recent paper on wind turbines and property values, published in the current issue of Land Economics.
The paper, titled “Property Value Impacts of Wind Turbines and the Influence of Attitudes toward Wind Energy,” concludes with this paragraph:
“The results of this study provide strong evidence that wind turbines in Ontario have negatively impacted surrounding property values. The results also demonstrate that these impacts increase with the number of turbines in close proximity. Hence, this study adds to the evidence contributed by more recent empirical studies that wind facilities can impact property values.”
Mr. Vyn structured his study around the notion of comparing property values between willing communities and “unwilling host” communities as a way of examining the effect of “different attitudes toward wind energy.”
His supposition was that the “nature of turbine impacts … may be influenced by attitudes…” In fact, he writes, he investigates whether the “increase in concerns expressed publicly and through the media have contributed to a greater impact on property values.”
For property values in the “opposed municipalities,” Vyn estimates property value loss is 5.61% to 9.10% during the announcement period for a wind power project, and 7.93% to 9.42% in the post-construction period.
Citizen opposition a factor
The author blames citizen opposition and media attention to negative attitudes. Media attention due to active opposition by “grassroots organizations such as Wind Concerns Ontario,” he says, so impacts on health and property values have been covered in the media with the result that “This media attention, which has increased substantially in recent years, may have influenced attitudes toward wind energy and perceptions of turbine impacts.”
So, which is the chicken and which is the egg? The thousands of official government records of reports of noise emissions from wind turbines, adverse health effects, disturbed or failed water wells, and shadow flicker or strobe effect have nothing whatever to do with property value, it may just be down to citizen groups expressing opposition?
The word “noise” is not mentioned in the paper. Neither is the fact that leaseholders must acknowledge the negative impacts of wind turbines and sign a non-disclosure agreement. And, the study area was of “mature” wind power projects in which it must be acknowledged that people experiencing the worst effects have probably already left?
Expired sales omitted
We asked an accredited professional in real estate valuation to review the paper. His findings are summarized here.
Willing vs. unwilling: The bifurcation between willing and unopposed communities is artificial, and supposes that there will be minimal effects on value in willing communities. The fact is, almost every wind power project in Ontario—including those in the unorganized communities in Ontario’s North—was opposed to the extent that citizens took steps to appeal the projects and in many cases, also proceeded to court.
Flawed supporting studies: Among others, the author cites the Heintzelmann, Vyn and Guth study of properties on Wolfe Island, which was based on MPAC data, but “ignores key information from MLS sources which clearly demonstrate an active market on the east of the island where there are no turbines, and stagnant market conditions typified by expired listings and no sales on the west end among the turbines. Had the researchers looked at the geographic location of the sales data they used in relation to the wind turbines, it would have been immediately clear that the turbines were stifling the market on the west half of the island. Instead, they took it as a data set and did ‘hedonic magic’ to reach a conclusion that was clearly at odds with reality.”
Treatment of turbine impact: A “weakness in the study is found in the pooling of sales by wind farm leading to aggregation of impacts. Usually this results in an average and, given that there are fewer sales in close proximity to wind turbines—for obvious reasons—the average [property value loss] would tend to be lower, given the larger number of sales at greater distance from the turbines. The admission of a weak market close to the turbines says a lot … but the obvious conclusion is ignored by the author.”
The story is in the sales: “It is clear from the study that proximity to wind turbines dampens market activity and lowers property value but there is no support for the blame the victim aspect of their conclusions. As a result of pooling data, it is likely that the magnitude of property value loss is seriously understated.”
No credentials: Finally, our analyst comments that the author has no credentials in real estate or in the professional practice of valuation. “As a result, the analysis of the real estate market is without weight.”
For our part, while we are happy to see research into the negative economic impacts of industrial-scale or utility-scale wind power projects, this study didn’t go far enough, or use methodology that would really address the issues.
Once again, the fundamental belief seems to be that there is something wrong with the idea of people objecting to the presence of industrial-scale wind turbines. Again, the word “noise” is not mentioned. The Ontario Real Estate Association Seller Information sheet has a question pertaining to the existence of any plans near a property to be sold for quarries, garbage dumps, or wind turbines. So, the “disamenity” or reason why people would value the property less is noise and construction activity for quarries, and smell and again noise and truck traffic for a garbage dump. But for wind turbines, the author alleges the only possible reason could be how the turbines look and the possible negative influence of information from citizen groups in opposition.
In other words, the author doesn’t believe there could be any rationale for an objection to living near 500-foot noisy industrial structures.
Giant pro-wind PR machine
We are sorry to say that this paper appears to be yet another volley in what environment writer Jude Clemente said in Forbes magazine said is “a heavily funded public relations machine to make Americans think that wind power doesn’t impact property values, and it’s every bit as influential as the ‘Big Oil’ the anti-fossil fuel movement purports to be so against.”
“Many members of the Real Estate and Appraisal businesses, however, have been clear that wind power DOES impact property values,” Clemente concludes. “It would seem to me that these groups have no vested interest in supporting wind power or not supporting it…. Wind’s impact on local property values can no longer be ignored.”
So, while Mr Vyn acknowledges property value loss and impact on Ontario communities from being forced to “host” wind power projects, he does so in such a way as to diminish the effect, while apparently dismissing the valid concerns of residents for the impacts on health, the environment, and the economy.
Independent energy commentator Parker Gallant took a tour of the Lennox power plant in Bath, Ontario, last week, and was amazed at the capacity of the facility and its ease of ramping up in case of power demand.
He also learned that this natural gas power generation plant can fulfill any shortfall in Ontario’s power supply if needed, during the period when nuclear power plants are being refurbished.
And the cost? Amazing.
He will have more details soon but for now, his learning points out again the wisdom of two Ontario Auditors General who chided the McGuinty-Wynne governments on never having done any cost-benefit or impact studies before they launched and continued to carry out their ideology-based “green” energy program.
Now, Ontario ratepayers are carrying the burden via punishing electricity rates, and a new government is facing a dire financial situation.
Read Parker Gallant’s account of his Lennox tour, here.