The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has insisted that there is no danger to two Collingwood airports from a wind power project, despite expert testimony at an appeal that danger was certain. Suddenly, the government has reversed its position. Is it enough?
Simcoe.com, October 3, 2016
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is pulling its support for two turbine locations at the Fairview Wind project because of safety concerns at the Clearview Aerodrome.
Dr. Raymond Cox, a risk assessment expert in public safety, energy, and transport, as well as fluid dynamics and turbulence, testified during the hearing in June the two locations were without a five-rotor-diameter distance from the Clearview Aerodrome approach centreline.
“As it was the opinion of all expert witnesses, who opined on turbine wake … that there was an unacceptable safety risk where turbines are located within five rotor diameters from the centreline approach, the director can no longer support the locations of turbines 3 and 7 as currently approved,” wrote MOECC counsel Sylvia Davis and Andrea Huckins in their closing submission to the tribunal in August.
Clearview Aerodrome owner Kevin Elwood, who is one of the appellants to the MOECC’s decision to approve WPD Canada’s renewable energy application, said it calls to question all eight turbines.
Elwood said in his correspondence with the ministry prior to the project’s approval, he was assured that Transport Canada and Nav Canada were being consulted, and a thorough technical review would be conducted to ensure there were no risks to human health through aviation.
“That’s what they always said, over and over. Now, they can no longer support two locations due to the risk to human health through an aviation accident; what assurances does the public have the remaining six turbines are not also a safety risk,” Elwood questioned. “If two were missed through that comprehensive review by the director, the other six were assessed the same way, in my mind, I question whether the ministry did a risk analysis of all eight turbine locations respecting Clearview Aerodrome and the Collingwood Regional Airport.
“All eight impact my airport; they just went for the two closest.”
As to the other turbine locations, Davis and Huckins wrote there was no risk to human health.
“The appellants have argued that the turbines combined with bad weather, poor visibility, a distracted or inexperienced pilot, and\or mechanical difficulties, will combine into a tragic confluence of events,” the lawyers stated. “However they have not provided any quantitative analysis of the probability of each of these events occurring during the lifetime of the project, either separately or together.”
Otherwise, the province stated in its closing argument, the appellants have failed to meet the test the turbines pose a health or environmental risk.
“The appellants have offered nothing more than a series of concerns and hypothetical situations which, if a number of variables align, may result in a collision or crash. That is not the test,” wrote Davis and Huckins. “Evidence which merely speculates rather than providing a quantitative risk analysis does not meet the burden of proof facing the appellants.”
WPD Canada has not yet responded to Simcoe.com for a request for comment.
A decision by the tribunal is expected in October.