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.
What future for wind energy? The position of the top four parties in Ontario
Colin Cote-Paulette, ICI Radio-Canada
Ontario has nearly 3,000 wind turbines on its territory in 2018. The facilities, especially the way they are “forced” in some communities, are generating heated debate in many parts of the province. In the middle of the election campaign, the leaders of the four major parties told CBC whether they intend to amend the Green Energy Act.
Ontario’s wind development has accelerated under the Liberals.
Since the introduction of the Green Energy Act in 2009, 2,446 wind turbines have been installed in the province, according to statistics provided by the Canadian Wind Energy Association at the end of 2017.
According to this legislation, the support of a community where the wind turbines are built is desirable, but it is not essential to go ahead with a project.
Some experts also said that Ontario does not need this surplus energy and that the growing number of wind turbines is contributing to the increase in residents’ electricity bills.
The next Ontario government will determine in what direction the wind will blow in the next few years.
Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner is in favor of wind energy, but not how it has been implemented by the government in recent years.
“I understand that [residents opposed to wind power] are angry at the Liberals, but do not be angry at a technology that has been successfully implemented everywhere else in the world,” said the politician.
Mr. Schreiner believes that wind energy can create jobs and wealth in communities hosting this type of project, as long as certain measures are respected.
“We would have the same rule as in Denmark, that is to say that 20% of renewable energy projects belong to members of the community where they are located,” he says.
If elected, Schreiner also promises to amend the Green Energy Act .
Long before the election campaign began, Conservative leader Doug Ford decried the province’s wind farms during his public outings.
” Kathleen Wynne’s Green Energy Act is a disaster,” says the Conservative leader.
However, it must be mentioned that when the law was passed, it was Dalton McGuinty who was Premier of Ontario and not Ms. Wynne.
Mr. Ford promises to abolish the law.
Asked how he will do it, the politician remains elusive.
“We will have an energy policy that puts people who work hard before the Liberals’ friends,” answered Mr. Ford.
New Democratic Party
New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath says she supports the Green Energy Act concept , but laments the fact that the Liberals have given Ontario’s green energy sector to private companies.
“Green energy should go hand in hand with the participation of municipalities, Aboriginal communities and cooperatives,” she says.
Without promising to amend the law to give more powers to municipalities, Horwath proposes to ease the tension around wind projects in order to restore their image.
“The wealth from these projects must go to municipalities and communities,” says the New Democrat.
The Liberal Party defends its record by saying that the province’s wind projects are all subject to environmental impact studies and public consultations.
If Kathleen Wynne is re-elected, it is not yet clear what will happen to future wind farms.
“We reached a point in 2016 when, after years of investing in clean energy, we did not need to go further. That’s why we have suspended our program of major renewable energy projects, “wrote a party spokesman.
In relation to rising bills that would be related to wind energy, the Liberals claim to have inherited a provincial electricity system neglected by previous Conservative governments, although the Liberal Party has been in power since 2003.
Three wind farm projects are still awaiting approval from the province: Otter Creek, LSRA Solar and Strong Breeze Wind.
According to the Wind Concern Ontario Citizens Group, these contracts are worth several million dollars.
The vote will be held on June 7th.
Wind Concerns Ontario note:
-the Liberal Party statement that they have halted wind power development is not quite complete — they have “suspended” the program because of a surplus of power. They had the option to not issue five contracts for 300 more megawatts of power in 2016, but they did not take that option. The five projects represent $1.3B, not “millions.”
-the Green Party statement that wind power has been implemented “successfully” around the world is not quite accurate. Many jurisdictions are now backing away from utility-scale wind, removing subsidies and halting procurement.
-the Progressive Conservative Party does have more details on their plans, including cancelling contracts where possible, renegotiating the costs in contracts where possible, and enforcing noise regulations in Ontario.
-the NDP position is not detailed as described here: by saying projects should go “hand-in-hand” do they mean that municipal approval would be critical for wind power projects as 116 Ontario municipalities have demanded?
A profile of who’s who in Ontario wind power development
Tax benefits and subsidies were important incentives to foreign companies
By Wind Concerns Ontario
April 15, 2018
With the recent announcement that the Canada Pension Plan decided to purchase some of U.S. energy giant NextEra’s wind and solar portfolio (a $741M CAD deal that also involves assuming $800M in debt), many people are suddenly noticing ownership of Canada’s renewable power sector.
A popular view of the wind industry in Ontario is that it is composed predominantly of Canadian companies in an “infant industry” that needs government subsidies to survive. The reality only becomes clear when one looks behind the scenes at the actual participants in the industry.
Ontario’s industrial wind generators enjoy the benefits of many federal and provincial programs, all of which were intended to ease their access to financing and improve investors’ returns. The list of special incentives is a long one, but here are the five most important:
The implementation of special feed-in-tariff (FIT) rates far above the market rates received by conventional energy producers; these rates started at $135 per megawatt hour (MWh) and have only recently declined to $125 per MWh;
The guarantee of these rates for the twenty-year life of the contracts;
Granting wind and other renewable energy sources priority access, or “first-to-the-grid” rights, requiring the Independent Electricity System Operator to take their production whenever it was available, even when that meant curtailing the purchase of other generation or dumping surplus energy at distressed prices on export markets;
Special tax benefits, including the federal government’s accelerated capital cost allowances and the Canadian Renewable and Conservation Expenses allowance and the Ontario government’s cap on the property taxes that industrial wind turbines pay to local municipalities;
Other subsidies, including the federal government ECOenergy for Renewable Power Program, $1.4 billion over five years in Budget 2017, and continuing large research and development assistance.
As a result, the Ontario wind industry, in general, has found the “pot of gold”, a level of income and wealth that far exceeds its general image. To illustrate this, let us examine some of the most prominent firms in the industry.
Here is a summary of the companies active in Ontario both as developers and operators, with financial statistics gleaned to the best of our knowledge and ability.
Acciona: With headquarters in Madrid, Spain, Acciona develops and builds power projects for itself and third-party companies in 20 countries worldwide. In Ontario Acciona operates the 76-MW Ripley wind power project. As part of its “wind power value chain” the company also manufactures some turbine components. Revenue in 2017 was €7.2B and net income was €220M or $350M CAD. Chairman is José Manuel Entrecanales; no compensation data is available.
Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners: Headquartered in Bermuda with an office in Toronto, Brookfield is “multi-technology, globally diversified, owner and operator of renewable power assets” which includes more than 70 wind power projects around the world. In Ontario the company operates the 189-MW Prince project, Comber (165 MW) and Gosfield (50.6 MW) Brookfield also owns 51% of US-based Terraform Power, which operates the Raleigh Wind Farm. North American revenue in 2017 was $1B USD. CEO is Sachin Shah; 2016 compensation was $3.8M USD.
Capstone Infrastructure: Capstone Infrastructure is a subsidiary of U.K.-based Irving Infrastructure, and owns and operates thermal and renewable power facilities. Headquarters for Canada are in Toronto. In Ontario, projects are: Erie Shores-Port Burwell-Malahide (99 MW), Skyway 8 (9.5 MW), Goulais (12.8 MW), Grey Highlands (18.5 MW), Grey Highlands ZEP (10 MW), Ganaraska (8.8 MW), Snowy Ridge (5 MW) and Settlers Landing (4 MW). Revenues for 2017 were $154M CAD. CEO is David A. Ave, whose 2016 compensation was $500K CAD.
EDF Renewables: This company is associated with EDF or Electricité du France, the Power utility in France. Headquarters for EDF Renewables is in San Diego, California; the company operates in Canada as EDF EN Canada (EDF Energie Nouvelles). EDF EN Canada currently has a contract for the 60-MW Romney Wind power project, which was the first of the LRP I projects to receive Renewable Energy Approval on April 16, 2018. CEO is Tristan Grimbert. No further financial data is available.
EDP Renewables : EDPR is a division of EDP or Energias du Portugal. The company’s headquarters are in Oviedo, Spain. EDPR claims to be the world’s fourth largest wind power developer. In 2017, the company states, it produced 27,600 GWh of power from wind. In Ontario, it operates the 30-MW South Branch project between Ottawa and Cornwall, and currently has a contract for the 100-MW Nation Rise project in North Stormont, south of Ottawa. Revenues in 2017 worldwide were €1.6B or $2.5B CAD. CEO of EDPR is Joᾶo Manso Neta; there is no compensation data available for the CEO. In June 2017 it was announced that the CEO of parent company EDP was being investigated on corruption charges related to power contracts; the CEO of EDPR was also being investigated, but there has been no news since of any charges.
Engie: Based in France, with North American Headquarters in Houston, Texas, and an Ontario office in Markham. This company bought AIM Power Gen (operated by Mike Crawley who is known to many Ontarians, and is now VP at Northland) which had become GDF Suez; it now operates the wind power projects at Cultus-Clear Creek Frogmore (30-MW), Harrow (40 MW), Erieau (99 MW), East St. Clair (99MW), Plateau (27 MW), and Point Aux Roches (49 MW). Revenues company-wide for 2017 were €65B or $101B CAD. CEO is Isabelle Kocher, whose 2016 compensation was €2.8M or $4.4M CAD.
Horizon Wind: See EDPR. The Horizon “Legacy” company operates the 10-MW Ernestown Wind project near Kingston.
Invenergy: This U.S.-based company has its headquarters in Chicago, and offices in Toronto, Denver and Mexico City plus a European office in Warsaw. It currently manages or has developed 82 wind power projects. Net worth is approximately $1B USD. Current Ontario project: Strong Breezes Dutton Dunwich (57.5 MW). Invenergy also developed the 78-MW Raleigh Wind project, which it sold to TerraForm and Sun Edison. Invenergy had proposed a project in North Perth, but the contract with IESO was terminated when it became impossible for the company to meet the contracted amount of power generation, due in part to citizen action and community opposition.
Longyuan Canada Renewables/China Longyuan Power Group: With 10,000 wind turbines worldwide in its portfolio producing 17,000 MW of power, the China Longyuan Group is the world’s largest wind power developer. The company also produces power from coal, and has minor interests in thermal, biomass and solar. Wholly owned subsidiary Longyuan Canada Renewables is headquartered in Toronto with nine employees, and operates the 91.4-MW Dufferin Wind power project (Melancthon). President is Zhu Dong; no compensation data is available. The company recently applied for an amendment to its renewable energy approval, to install optimization software which will increase power output but not exceed its nameplate capacity of 99MW. Operating profits for China Longyuan in 2017 were CNY 8.3B ($1.7B CAD), up from 2016 due to higher prices for coal. The President/General Manager is Li Enyi whose 2016 compensation is reported by Bloomberg as CNY 1,074,00 ($219,000 CAD)
NextEra Energy: NextEra Energy Canada is a division of NextEra Energy Inc. The company’s headquarters are in Juno Beach, Florida FL with a Canadian office on Bay Street in Toronto. NextEra operates the following Ontario wind power projects under contract to the provincial government: Conestogo (22.9 MW), Jericho (149 MW), Adelaide (60 MW), Bluewater (60 MW), Summerhaven (124.4 MW), Goshen (102 MW), Cedar Point II (100 MW), Bornish (73.5MW), and East Durham (22 MW). Income of the parent company was $5.3B USD; president and CEO James Robo earned a base salary in 2016 of $1.3 M USD but topped it up with incentives, bonuses and stock options for a total compensation package of $16M USD. On April 2, 2018, it was announced that the Canada Pension Plan had agreed to purchase four NextEra wind facilities, plus two solar projects, in Ontario; the deal is subject to Canadian regulatory approval and if approved, may close in the second quarter of 2018.
RES Group, operating in Canada as RES Canada: Headquarters are in the UK with a Canadian office in Montreal. RES’ slogan is “Power for Good.” The company boasts a portfolio of more than 7,000 wind turbines and asset management of 2 GW of wind power generating facilities. RES Group was the subject of a BBC documentary called “Blown Apart” which featured an RES employee “Rachel” who infiltrated a village community with dreams of a green future for her community, only to be revealed eventually as a corporate operative trying to get people to sign wind turbine leases. In Ontario, RES was involved in construction of South Kent Wind, Brooke-Alvinston, Grand Valley 3, and Gunn’s Hill, and as a developer, has a contract for the 32-MW Eastern Fields in The Nation, near Ottawa. RES bills itself as a full-service provider, offering asset management and project design services. No data found on earnings, and no information on compensation for CEO Ivor Catta.
Pattern/Pattern Energy Group: The company’s slogan is “Transitioning the world to Renewable Energy.” Headquarters are in San Francisco; the company operates the Belle River (see Samsung), and North Kent projects in Ontario, is a partner in K2 Wind, and is constructing the Henvey Inlet 300-megawatt project. 2017 revenues were $411.3 million USD. CEO/President is Michael Garland, whose 2016 compensation was $2.7 MM ($430.7K salary, $456K bonuses, and $1.8MM stock).
Prowind: Prowind is a very small player but managed to attract attention for its 18-MW Gunn’s Hill project near Woodstock, which it claims is a totally community endeavour. In fact, the lone community member in the investment leadership group went on to be president of Prowind Canada, and other “community” members were Toronto-based environmental organizations. The community launched an appeal of the REA, but was not successful. Prowind is a subsidiary of Prowind GmBH of Germany; president and CEO in North America is Frank Mascia and chair is Johannes Busmann. No financial data is available.
Samsung Renewable Energy: The company is a division of Samsung C&T Investment Trading Group. Samsung C&T is headquartered in Korea; there is an office in Canada located in Mississauga. Samsung developed the huge K2 Wind project (with Pattern and Capital Power, 270 MW) but has since sold its interest to a consortium which includes insurance giant ManuLife, the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund and Toronto-based equity fund manager Axium. Samsung operates Belle River (100 MW) , Armow (180 MW), and South and North Kent (270 and 100 MW respectively). Samsung, also known as “the Korean consortium,” was given an extraordinary contract by the Ontario government in 2010 to buy $9.7B CAD worth of electricity. The contract amount was slashed by a third in 2013; the government claimed Samsung had missed some deadlines, but the fact is, that much power was not (is not) needed. Canadian vice-president is Steve Cho; Samsung C&T president and CEO is Chi H. Choi; no compensation data is available. Samsung C&T operating profits in 2017 were 881.3B won or $1.05B CAD.
Saturn Power: Saturn operates the 10-megawatt Gesner project. It is a private company so no financials are available; headquarters are in Baden, Germany.
Terraform Power: Headquartered in Bethesda, MD, Terraform is the “owner and operator of a 2,600 MW diversified portfolio of high-quality solar and wind assets, primarily in the U.S., underpinned by long-term contracts” which includes the 78-MW Raleigh Wind project, which it purchased from Invenergy. Revenue for 2017 according to the company pro forma was estimated to be $585 M USD. CEO is John Stinebaugh; no compensation data available.
Veresen Inc.: Veresen was the owner and operator of the 20-MW Grand Valley 1 wind power project; the company was recently acquired by Pembina in 2017 for $6.4B CAD.
WPD Canada: This is a wholly owned subsidiary of WPD Europe/WPD AG, a private company headquartered in Bremen, Germany. The Canadian office is in Mississauga. The company is active in 18 countries and says it has installed 1,700 wind turbines. In Ontario, WPD operates the Springwood (8.2 MW), Whittington (6 MW), Napier (4 MW) and Sumac Ridge (10.25 MW) projects, and has a contract (currently being disputed in the courts by a citizens’ group) for the 18-MW White Pines project in Prince Edward County. WPD Power’s CEO is Dr. Gernot Blanke; no compensation data is available
Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp.: Algonquin is described as a Canadian utility involved in the generation, transmission and distribution of power. The headquarters are in Oakville, Ontario. At present in Ontario, the company’s wholly owned subsidiary Windlectric Inc. sold half its lone wind project to Newfoundland-based construction company Pennecon to build a 75-MW wind power project on Amherst Island. Algonquin Power is estimated to have $10B CAD in assets. With a five-year return of 73% the company has been the darling of Canadian investors but has tumbled with a more recent 1-year return of 2.06%. CEO of Algonquin is Ian Robertson, whose 2016 compensation was $3.5M according to Reuters; Pennecon’s president is David Mitchell for whom no compensation data is available.
BluEarth Renewables: With headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, BluEarth is described as a “private independent” company whose major shareholder is in fact the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. It operates two wind power projects in Ontario: Bow Lake Wind (60-MW), and St Columban (33 MW). In February 2018, BluEarth announced a deal with Veresen in which it would acquire an interest in three Ontario wind power projects, with a view to own and operate, in the long term. Net worth is estimated at $10B CAD. President and CEO is Grant Arnold; no compensation data is available.
Boralex: Boralex was created in 1990 as a joint venture between the leaders of three companies; the name Boralex is derived from the names of these companies: LaduBOR, ALbany Oil (U.S.) and EXar (U.S.). Headquarters are in Kingsey Falls, QC. Boralex is active in Canada, France and the U.S. Ontario Projects are Port Ryerse (10 MW) and the proposed/contracted Otter Creek (50 MW). The company was involved in the development of the Niagara Region Wind Farm (230 MW) and acquired at least part of the project from Enercon in 2017. Revenue from energy sales in 2017 to September 30 were $285M CAD. Total equity: $2.7B USD. Compensation for CEO Patrick Lemaire was $1.2M CAD in 2016.
Capital Power: Based in Edmonton, Capital is involved in a variety of power generating enterprises, including wind; Capital is a partner in K2 Wind, and operates the 40-MW Kingsbridge project in Ontario, and the 104-MW Port Dover and Nanticoke facility. Revenues in 2017 were $1B and net income was $144M. CEO is Brian Vaasjo whose 2016 compensation was $2.9M.
Enbridge: The company is best known as a producer of fossil fuels in Canada. Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta the company says it transports, generates and distributes energy, in that order. It operates 16 wind power projects in North America, including the Talbot (98.9 MW) and Underwood (181.5 MW) power facilities in Ontario. Adjusted earnings for 2017 were $3.2B CAD of which “green power” earnings were $101MM. CEO until recently was Al Monaco who is listed as one of Canada’s 100 highest paid executives with a base salary of $1.377MM and total compensation of $11.391MM.
Kruger Energy: Kruger is a family-owned company headquartered in Montreal that is involved in paper, paperboard recycling, and energy. Kruger Energy was founded in 2004 to develop power projects in Canada, and currently operates the 101.2-megawatt facility at Port Alma, and the 99.4-MW Kruger Chatham Wind Farm in Ontario. The company also put forward a proposal in 2015 for another Chatham-Kent facility. The company is privately held by the Kruger family. CEO is Jean Roy; no compensation data is available.
Northland: Northland is a rare bird in wind power development in Ontario, with headquarters in Toronto. The company operates two wind power projects at present: McLean’s Mountain on Manitoulin Island (60 MW), and the Grand Bend facility in Zurich (100 MW). Profits for 2017 were up 37% to $1.2B CAD, with net income up 45% to $276 MM. Northland is involved in two offshore wind projects in Europe and owns 100% of the Nordsee wind power project. Northland is also involved in solar projects in Ontario. CEO is John Brace whose 2016 compensations was $1.9MM CAD ($473K salary, $1MM stock, and $9,000 “other”). Also on Northland’s executive team is Mike Crawley, former CEO of AIM PowerGen and also famously chair of a McGuinty government panel that looked at a mix of energy resources for Ontario, and he was later president of the Ontario Liberal Party, and subsequently, the Liberal Party of Canada. Mr. Crawley’s 2016 compensation was $923K.
Suncor: The company describes itself as an “integrated energy company.” With headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, Suncor currently operates four wind power projects in Canada, one of which is the Adelaide power project. But the company used to own more: in 2015, however, Suncor announced it was divesting almost all its wind assets, particularly in Ontario, and so sold off Ripley and Cedar Point as well as its share in the Kent Breeze project. Funds from operations in 2017 were $3B CAD. CEO is Steven Williams who is also listed by Canadian Business as one of Canada’s 100 highest paid executives. His base salary in 2017 was $1.375M, and total compensation was $11.482M.
TransAlta: Based in Calgary, TransAlta owns and operates the wind power project on Wolfe Island (famous for being one of the wind power projects with the highest number of bird kills in North America) and phases 1 and 2 of the Melancthon project in Shelburne (199 MW). The company claims production of 2,300 megawatts of power, of which 54% is from wind, in 18 facilities around the world. Wolfe Island and Melancthon 2 receive payments not only from their power purchase agreements with Ontario but also federal ECOenergy payments. Revenues for 2017 were $2.3B with operating income of $138M. The President and CEO is Dawn Farrell whose compensation came under fire in 2017 at the shareholders’ meeting; they objected to the 60% rise in compensation. Ms Farrell was paid $7.4M, which included a base salary of $960,000 plus stock options and bonuses.
Ownership at a glance
Megawatts in operation/planned Ontario
More than 75 percent of Ontario’s wind power projects are owned by non-Canadian companies
Wind power development suppliers:
Enercon Canada: Enercon Canada is a subsidiary of Enercon GmbH of Germany, which is the fourth largest turbine manufacturer in the world. Its Canadian offices are in Montreal. Enercon Canada developed and had the majority interest in the 230-MW Niagara Region Wind Farm until selling at least a 25% stake to Boralex in 2017. CEO is John D. Richardson; no compensation data is available.
Senvion Canada: Senvion Canada is a division of Germany-based Senvion S.A., one of the world’s leading turbine manufacturers. The company began operating in Canada in 2009 and now has more than 660 turbines installed. Senvion Canada is headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, with offices in Toronto, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia. Senvion’s 2017 revenue was €1.8M ($2.8 CAD), sales or “order book” were €5B ($8B CAD). Senvion is owned by Centerbridge Partners, a New York-based private equity firm. CEO is Jurgen Geissinger; no compensation data is available.
GE Renewable Power is a division of GE or General Electric, which is aiming to profit from the renewables sector by manufacturing equipment including turbines. GE headquarters are is Boston, Massachusetts. In Canada, GE manufactures wind turbine blades at a plant in Gaspé. Profits have been down lately for the company, with a 1-year return on investment of -54%. In 2017, operating cash flow was $10B USD. CEO of GE Renewables is Jérôme Pécresse; no compensation data is available.
Vestas Wind Systems: Based in Aarhus, Denmark, publicly owned Vestas is perhaps the best known among wind turbine suppliers. According to one 2015 industry article, Vestas is the number one company in the world for turbine installations. Annual revenues for 2017 were €9.9B or $15.5B CAD, and operating profit was €1.6B or $2.5B CAD. CEO is Anders Runevad, who came on board in 2013 to help shift the company back to good fortune. Mr. Runevad maintains a low public profile and there is no compensation data available.
Siemens Canada is a division of worldwide engineering firm, Siemens AG, headquartered in Munich, Germany. Siemens Canada claims expertise in the fields of electrification, automation and digitalization and is involved in sustainable energy, “intelligent infrastructure,” healthcare and manufacturing. One of the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, Siemens is a foremost supplier of power generation and power transmission solutions. The company is also a leading provider of medical imaging equipment and laboratory diagnostics as well as clinical IT. With Headquarters in Canada in Oakville, Siemens Canada has approximately 5,000 employees, 44 offices and 15 production facilities from coast-to-coast. Siemens AG assets as of 2017 were €134B or $214.6B CAD; revenue was €83B ($9.61B CAD); operating cash flow was €6B ($132B CAD). Siemens Canada President and CEO is Faisil Kazi; no compensation data is available.
Aecon: This Canadian construction company is engaged in infrastructure and energy projects throughout Canada. The company is currently in negotiations to be sold to Chinese company CCCC International, but the sale is under review by the federal government on the grounds of national security interests. Aecon has headquarters for various regions but the Canada East office is in Toronto. Financial results were presented under Infrastructure and Energy—we’re not sure where the company’s work for wind power developers fits. Results for 2017 are: Infrastructure revenues $685M CAD and operating profit was $32.5 M CAD; Energy revenues were $395.7 M, and operating profits were $23.1M. Total assets for Aecon were $2.5B. President and CEO is John M. Beck whose 2016 compensation was $3.6M.
WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO
The information is complied from publicly available information. It is not an exhaustive list of Ontario wind power projects but we have elected to include developers of power projects 10-megawatts and more. Sources: company financial reports, Bloomberg, Reuters, Canadian Business
Thanks to energy economist Robert Lyman and energy commentator Parker Gallant for their input.
Noise abatement plan accepted, but what does it really mean?
March 19, 2018
Port Elgin residents forced to live near the single wind turbine operated by the union Unifor, which has resulted in hundreds of noise complaints since the moment it began operating, were “vindicated” recently when the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) announced that noise testing revealed the turbine was not in compliance with regulations.
See a report from CTV London reporter Scott Miller, here.
The MOECC told Unifor that as the turbine operator, they would have to put a noise abatement plan in place by today.
Wind Concerns Ontario has learned that the plan was submitted and has been approved by the Ministry. Noise testing will now continue, said MOECC District Manager Rick Chappell, to confirm compliance with regulations. The Ministry expects the new Imissions Audit or I-audit by the end of June.
Port Elgin resident Greg Schmalz says the admission of non-compliance is vindication for residents who have been complaining for years, but the fight is not over. And many serious questions remain.
“If ongoing tests show non-compliance for a second time, does that result in the MOECC permanently revoking the operating certificate?” he asks. “Will resident complaints filed during the abatement period and ongoing testing be confirmed, or do they not count? And why did it take so long from report dates to release [of the information]?”
The engineering report was filed with the MOECC in January, and the MOECC did not announce the status of non-compliance until March … and then to the wrong municipality.
Documents received by Wind Concerns Ontario via Freedom of Information requests show that the MOECC received 236 reports of excessive noise up to the end of 2014, and more during the 2015-2016 time period. People complained of noise “like a helicopter” overhead, and of sleep disturbance at night, which in turn produced other health effects.
Read the report by engineering consultant firm HGC here.
There were so many people attending the hearing at the Ontario Superior Court in Belleville Monday that there was a half-hour delay in the proceedings so a larger courtroom could be found.
That was just the beginning of the changes that day, as the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) took on the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) over its awarding a new contract to Germany-based wind power developer wpd Canada and the White Pines project. The power project was diminished from 29 to 27 then nine turbines in various citizens’ appeals, and it was thought since the power developer had not only missed all its milestones stipulated in the contract it also now failed to meet the 75% of power required, the contract might be null and void.
That’s where things changed.
The public has “no right” to know what’s in multi-billion-dollar contracts that are the result of public policy. Not in Ontario. Not where “wind is green, wind is good” and citizens’ voices don’t matter, nor do communities, or democracy. No: instead, the IESO simply cut the developer a new contract. And the public? You have “no right” to know anything.
Our favourite quote of the day came from APPEC lawyer Eric Gillespie who said, “The contract [for White Pines] was made public, but some pretty important changes weren’t.”
Here is a formal report by APPEC.
APPEC Report on
APPEC v. IESO and WPD
Belleville Superior Court
January 29, 2018
Mr. Justice Kershman presided over the hearing of final submissions at the Belleville Courthouse. The turn-out was excellent with Mayor Quaiff, Councillor Ferguson, Wind Concerns Ontario President Jane Wilson and about 75 County residents attending. In fact, the Court Clerk was forced to find a larger courtroom to accommodate the crowd.
APPEC Final Submissions
Eric Gillespie began by pointing out that this case raises broader public policy issues of access of information from the IESO. On June 12, 2017 APPEC contacted the IESO for information about the status of WPD’s FIT contract. The IESO indicated in its reply that it could not disclose this information, citing confidentiality. Mr. Gillespie argued that this information should have been disclosed for the following reasons: (1) the IESO describes the FIT program as a standardized, open and fair process; (2) APPEC and Ontario communities are affected by the FIT Program; and (3) the information APPEC was seeking, and the IESO withheld, could not have been confidential at all as it was ultimately disclosed to the Court in November 2017.
Mr. Gillespie clarified that contrary to what the IESO contends, this is not about how to interpret clauses in the FIT contract. The clauses are negligent misrepresentation, in that APPEC was led to believe that the generation capacity of the White Pines project could not go below 75% of the generation contracted for in 2010, when the FIT contract was signed. The central issue for APPEC is that information that became known to the IESO was not made publicly available. The IESO had a choice, when it became clear that WPD could not meet the 75% condition in the contract. It could have said that things had changed, that WPD’s FIT contract would need to be amended, that WPD was in default of contractual milestone dates, etc. Mr. Gillespie noted that it’s what the IESO and WPD did with their choices that has brought us here today. WPD’s first public announcement that it was proceeding with the 9-turbine project was September 21, 2017. The IESO informed Councillor Ferguson that it had agreed to amend the FIT contract on October 12, 2017. APPEC only obtained the information it had sought in June when the IESO disclosed it to the Court on November 30.
IESO and WPD Closing Submissions and APPEC’s Reply
Alan Mark, IESO’s legal counsel, criticized APPEC’s “assumption” that it has some right to insert itself into the contractual relationship between the IESO and WPD. Mr. Mark stated that any rights are owed exclusively to WPD, the IESO’s contractual partner; there’s nothing in the statutory framework that gives APPEC “the right to anything”. Mr. Mark went on to suggest that a contract is just a statement at a point in time with no guarantee that it won’t change in the future and members of the public don’t need to know about that either. Mr. Mark added that “with all respect to APPEC, APPEC is just made up of members of the public that feel strongly about wind power projects.”
Mr. Mark indicated that the IESO has made no representations to APPEC at any time, so it could not have made a negligent representation. When Judge Kershman asked whether APPEC’s allegation is that the IESO made a representation in 2010 that the Project would not be able to proceed if the project’s generation capacity fell below 75%, Mr. Mark responded that this isn’t the case APPEC is making.
Mr. Mark noted a statement in the Skypower Decision that the FIT contract is a bilateral commercial contract between two parties. Mr. Gillespie noted that in the same Skypower Decision, Judge Nordheimer rejects this characterization of the FIT program, and says that the suggestion that this is a commercial nature entirely and not a matter of public policy is fictional.
Mr. Mark said that APPEC had all the information it needed and ignored this information at its peril. In reply, Mr. Gillespie asked why APPEC would base its ERT appeal rights on a complete unknown, i.e., would the IESO amend the FIT contract, or not?
Patrick Duffy, legal counsel for WPD, also took up the argument that APPEC had no right to insert itself into the contract between the IESO and WPD. Mr. Gillespie replied that if that was so, then why did the IESO make FIT contracts available on its website for public viewing in the first place? Mr. Duffy stated that the terms “open” and “transparent” only apply to FIT Program Applicants, not to members of the public to which Mr. Gillespie replied that we still have not been told what there was about the information APPEC sought that was privileged. Mr. Duffy noted that FIPPA (Freedom of Information and Privacy Act) is the law that applies to disclosure. However, Judge Kershnan reminded Mr. Duffy that Mr. Gillespie had already noted in his submissions how long the FIPPA process takes. Mr. Gillespie also noted that there was nothing in any of the other Party’s materials about FIPPA.
Mr. Gillespie concluded by noting the right of County residents to natural justice and procedural fairness. The IESO has not told the whole story to the community that will be affected by the White Pines wind project.
Justice Kershnan thanked the Parties and stated that he would reserve his decision. The hearing was adjourned at about 5:30 p.m.
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.”
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.
A Kincardine area couple has filed hundreds of formal reports of excessive noise and vibration from nearby wind turbines with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), but has never had any resolution of the problem.
CTV’s Scott Miller interviewed the Walpole family and learned of their plight. The vibrations in the home are so strong, they said, light bulbs come loose in their sockets.
The Walpoles have filed more than 200 reports with the government and are told testing is ongoing, but somehow, the tests are never completed, and the problem continues.
The Municipality of Kincardine is frustrated by the MOECC’s apparent inaction and failure to resolve residents’ problems, says the Mayor in the CTV interview.
Last week, a representative of the MOECC appeared before Kincardine Council to answer questions on the situation. Rick Chappell, manager in the Owen Sound District Office, claimed there was a backlog in the Ministry’s processing of reports.
The wind power project in Kincardine has been operating for more than eight years.
Earlier this year, Wind Concerns Ontario received documents from the MOECC with records and staff notes on wind turbine noise reports to the Ministry, which showed that there was no response to more than half the complaints made and in fat, only one percent received a “priority response.” The Ministry was aware of hundreds of complaints even before the Green Energy Act was passed in 2009, which facilitated the development of even more utility-scale or industrial-scale wind power projects in Ontario.
At present, with thousands of unresolved reports of noise and vibration, and questions of interference with water supply, the MOECC is in the process of considering Renewable Energy Approvals for five more projects.
The recording of Mr Chappell’s appearance before Kincardine Council is now available here, after minute 11.
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.