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.
Representatives of three community groups where wind turbine projects are currently under construction, addressed the Wind Concerns Ontario conference in Kingston this past weekend, and told hair-raising stories of violations of Renewable Energy Approvals, disobedience of municipal orders, ignoring conditions of road use agreements, and more.
The White Pines project was originally planned to produce electricity for Ontario’s surplus-laden power grid via 29 huge wind turbines. A successful appeal based on heritage aspects of The County reduced the turbine number to 27; another appeal (Hirsch v. MOECC) was partially successful and saw the project reduced from 27 to 9 turbines, based on harm to endangered species.
“We had been operating under the belief that having to meet the 75 percent of power requirement in the contract with the IESO [Independent Electricity System Operator] actually meant something,” said Walsh. “It turns out, it doesn’t. Contracts don’t mean anything — they can do whatever they want.”
Dumbrille echoed that with a litany of abuses. The White Pines project is way past its specified commercial operation date, she said, which should mean the IESO could terminate the contract, but it hasn’t. “The Long Stop Date has no meaning or relevance, despite being in the regulations,” she said. “The decision appears to be political.”
The public also expected that while the power project was being appealed, construction work would not be allowed, particularly in the areas presented as habitat for the endangered Blandings turtle, but in fact, both the MOECC and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry allowed it. Only when citizens took action in court was a stop work order achieved.
“Why must citizen groups rather than government protect habitat destruction?” Dumbrille asked.
The land clearing in turtle habitat continued after the appeal for the nine remaining turbines outside the limits imposed by the Environmental Review Tribunal. Again, citizens went to court, and again a stop order was issued, but not before habitat was destroyed. A transmission station is planned to be built in a stream bed which is against regulations and will require the taking of water. Again, the MOECC appears to side with the power developer on all issues.
“All the rules are made to be broken,” said Dumbrille, “to benefit the wind power developer. And the public has no right to information, apparently.”
Janet Grace, past chair of the Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI), described numerous violations of the Renewable Energy Approval, road use agreements, and provincial safety regulations by “Windlectric” a shell company developing a power project on the island for Algonquin Power. Construction staff and vehicles are supposed to be using a barge to get to the island, she said, but they’re not: instead, they use the passenger ferry which is resulting in delays for Island residents, many of whom work across the water in KIngston, and concerns about safety.
Roads are blocked without notice, and construction throughout the winter has virtually destroyed roads, so much so that the municipality Loyalist Township issued a stop work order. Resident photographs indicate however, that the order was ignored, with the power developer construction firm continuing work. In addition, Grace said, the company is supposed to stop work at 7 PM, but in reality is working until 11 PM.
“The sad thing is, Grace said, “we know this is just the beginning of what is being done to our Island. There are rules being broken, and violations … the MOECC gives them exemptions. They’re just getting away with it all.”
Being asked to do a presentation at Wind Concerns Ontario’s annual conference this past Saturday, to describe the costs associated with industrial wind turbines was something I relished!
The presentation I developed used IESO information for 2017.
Discovered in the preparation of my presentation was the fact that that nuclear and hydro power alone could have supplied over 100% of all grid-connected consumption for 2017, at a average cost of about 5.9 cents per kilowatt hour.
The cost for Class B ratepayers in 2017 however, was almost double, coming in at 11.55 cents per kwh.
So why the big jump? Have a look at the presentation to see why and look at Slide 6 in particular where you get an inkling of how IESO view the reliability of industrial wind generation in their forward planning process!
With few details on how a fragile geology will be affected by wind turbine construction, and no information on noise assessments of turbines that are just prototypes, citizens are worried about water supply, health and safety
January 21, 2018
Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns
Community Group demands a reset of the Otter Creek application
Citizens’ group Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns (WAWC) has asked the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) to halt the Otter Creek application process until all the missing data is complete, to follow the REA process for public input, and to hold another public meeting to present this information to the community.
The group sent a letter to the MOECC Tuesday via its lawyer.
Executive members of WAWC met with representatives of power developer Boralex and members of CK council December 7. At that meeting, WAWC learned that the noise assessment data for the as yet untested Enercon turbines was not complete, and there was no timetable for when it would be available. Boralex also indicated that the developer is considering another option for the turbine foundations, and that geo-technical testing was being planned, but again there was no date for the testing.
“We’re very concerned that there is not enough information for two critical aspects of this power project, noise and the foundations,” says Violet Towell , WAWC spokesperson. “We have asked repeatedly for the facts about the effect of the noise from these huge turbines on residents, and what the impact on water wells will be from construction and vibration during operation.”
In spite of the lack of information that is clearly required for the Renewable Energy Approval for this power project, requests for a public meeting have been denied.
Last week, residents in the Wallaceburg area were shocked to learn that pile driving had begun at a number of sites for the Otter Creek project. The developer had sent letters to a handful of residents with limited information and even more limited notice. Most of the larger community was uninformed of the activity by Boralex.
WAWC has questioned the choice of project site in an area where the soil conditions are not conducive to wind turbine construction, and also so near a town of 10,000 people. The developer’s response to WAWC was to confirm that the site was “far,far from ideal” but the company proceeded because Chatham-Kent was so accommodating.
“The Otter Creek power project must not be approved until residents of our community have accurate information about this project,” says Towell. “There are many compelling questions not answered, key information that is missing, and changing project details. In order to protect our health, our homes and our community, we want answers now.”
The Ontario government is still processing five wind power contracts awarded under the 2016 Large Renewable Procurement I (LRP I), despite concerns about the environment and health and the fact that Ontario has a surplus of power. With thousands of noise complaints recorded with the government unresolved, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) refuses to acknowledge that it has a problem, and refuses to look for causes, relying instead on its clearly inadequate set of regulations.
One of our favourite quotes in 2017 came from a hydrogeologist who pointed out, referring to the problems with water wells in Chatham-Kent, if you have a model that says you’re not going to have problems, then you experience problems, then it’s the model that is wrong.
The fact that wind power development on the industrial or utility scale has many significant problems — energy poverty, environmental damage, adverse health effects, negative impact on rural communities — is now better understood by the people in Ontario, and the media. In 2017, two major networks, Global News and Radio-Canada, carried multi-part investigative reports this past year. The three-part Global News feature spurred questions in the Legislature and forced the then-minister to act on noise complaints for several Huron County families.
The Huron County public health follow-up of noise complaints was finally launched by the Health Unit there; other health units are watching attentively. We believe 2018 will be the year when the Government of Ontario is forced to live up to its mandate and take steps to protect the health of its residents.
And, the legal battles continue, with actions taking place both inside the legislated appeal process for wind power projects, and in the courts. There have been victories: there will be more.
In her Christmas Message this year, the Queen spoke of the importance of “home”: ” … the idea of home reaches beyond a physical building, to a home town or city,” she said.
We in Ontario think of our “home” as being our communities, the landscape, the natural environment — indeed, the entire province and all the people in it. We will continue to fight for justice for the environment and for families this year.
WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO
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Wind power a bonanza for power corporations on Christmas, but meant a bad day for ordinary consumers
December 29, 2017
A quick review of IESO data for Christmas Day 2017 shows our Energy Ministry delivered lumps of coal to all Ontario’s electricity ratepayers, whether they were good or bad. Those lumps of coal can be seen as a gift from all past and present Energy ministers who signed contracts for the industrial wind turbines liberally sprinkled throughout the province.
This year, the IESO data shows about 54,327 MWh* was curtailed (paid for but not delivered to the grid) and paid $120/MWH. That means wind power corporations were paid over $6.5 million ($6,519,240 to be more precise) for NOT delivering that power.
The curtailed or wasted power was enough to supply almost 2.2 million average homes with power for the day, free.
Meanwhile, the IESO accepted about 25,680 MWh, so the curtailed/suspended generation was actually 2.1 times as much as grid-accepted wind power. Wind power corporations were paid $135 per MWh — that’s another $3,467,800 so the total bill for wind power for the day was $9,987,040.
What you paid them: 39 cents a kWh
Here’s what else it means: the 25,680 MWh of power actually accepted by IESO into the grid cost $388.77/MWh* or 39 cents a kWh! And, that 39 cents a kWh doesn’t include the costs of gas plant backup, spilled hydro or steamed-off nuclear, all of which applied on Christmas Day.
What you got paid: 1.9 cents
That’s not all: at the same time, the IESO was busy exporting surplus power to our neighbours in New York and Michigan at an average of 1,993MW (net-total exports less imports) per hour. We practically gave away 48,000MWh (rounded) at a cost to Ontario ratepayers of over $4 million. So, Christmas Day, the day of giving, ratepayers coughed up $14 million for unneeded power whether they could afford it or not! That $14 million raised the cost to electricity customers by about $40/MWh or 4 cents/kWh.
Christmas Day is supposed to be a day of joy and giving. In Ontario though, it was a day when the result of government energy policies and mismanagement furthered hardship for many.
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.
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.
As reports of contaminated well water in Chatham-Kent rise, the Ministry of the Environment is strangely silent. They can’t dodge this any longer
November 3, 2017
It must be getting harder and harder to work in Communications at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) in Toronto: passing on all those media clips to management which then doesn’t respond, is not how they tell you things work in college or university.
Usually, when a company, or a government has a problem — especially with a public health issue — they meet it head on, and respond.
Not the MOECC.
A few months ago, we published a report that thousands of complaints of excessive noise and vibration from wind turbines were being ignored by the Ministry, with the staggering figure of actually NO RESPONSE for more than 50% of the citizen complaints, and a resolution rate of 1 %.
And over the summer and into the fall, the reports of problems with well water in Chatham-Kent continue to mount, as residents link the failed wells to wind turbine operation and construction.
“Black water” and heavy sediment is being found in 14 water wells near the North Kent wind power project, now under construction, which residents say is linked to vibration from pile-driving for the turbine foundations.
They’re not the only ones saying that: geoscientists and hydrologists are worried too, with one retired professional actually saying, he couldn’t believe they hadn’t stopped construction to get to the bottom of this issue.
The wind power developer claims no responsibility, relying on a consultants’ report which says well water interference is impossible.
Really, said another geoscientist. Speaking at a public meeting last week in Wallaceburg (where the province is thinking of approving another wind power project on the very same geology), Keith Benn said, If you have a model with predictions that are being countered by facts and evidence, it’s the model that might be wrong, not the facts.
This is serious business and, believe it or not, it is even worse than the situation described here.
Residents say there have been problems with well water since the first North Kent power project began but because most of the people having problems were leaseholders who had signed contracts with non-disclosure clauses about negative wind turbine effects, the well water problems were not public. So, a potential public health problem has gone unreported, essentially because the government gives a pass on most things to the “clients,” the wind power developers.
The media is all over this story, with reports every week; residents are writing to the Ministry, complaining to the so-called “Spills” line, and even writing MInister Chris Ballard. Nothing but platitudes; promises to act, promises of testing, even, but no action.
Chatham-Kent’s Council is concerned, and worried about what a crisis in the water supply might mean for residents and taxpayers if the municipality is forced to supply municipal water to farms and homes formerly supplied by their own wells.
We think the Ontario government, and specifically this Ministry whose mandate it is to protect the environment and people’s health, should act.
But the Ministry has been notably Missing in Action.