UN ruling a “game changer” for wind power in the UK

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe UNECE has released a startling decision that could well have repercussions as a precedent for Ontario. Responding to a complaint filed by a resident of Scotland, the UNECE ruled that the UK was not employing full public participation in environmental issues and further –hear this, Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Energy–that the government should ensure that the full range of effects, both positive and negative, should be disclosed for wind power projects.
   The report is here.

Exclusive: UN ruling puts future of UK wind farms in jeopardy

Tribunal warns that the Government acted illegally by denying public participation

Plans for future wind farms in Britain could be in jeopardy after a United Nations legal tribunal ruled that the UK Government acted illegally by denying the public decision-making powers over their approval and the “necessary information” over their benefits or adverse effects.

The new ruling, agreed by a United Nations committee in Geneva, calls into question the legal validity of any further planning consent for all future wind-farm developments based on current policy, both onshore and offshore.
The United Nations Economic Commission Europe has declared that the UK flouted Article 7 of the Aarhus Convention, which requires full and effective public participation on all environmental issues and demands that citizens are given the right to participate in the process.
The UNECE committee has also recommended that the UK must in the future submit all plans and programmes similar in nature to the National Renewable Energy Action Plan to public participation, as required by Article 7.
The controversial decision will come as a blow for the Coalition’s wind-power policy, which is already coming under attack from campaigners who want developments stopped because of medical evidence showing that the noise from turbines is having a serious impact on public health as well as damaging the environment.
Legal experts confirm the UNECE decision is a “game-changer” for future wind-turbine developments in the UK. David Hart, QC, an environmental lawyer, said: “This ruling means that consents and permissions for further wind-farm developments in Scotland and the UK are liable to challenge on the grounds that the necessary policy preliminaries have not been complied with, and that, in effect, the public has been denied the chance to consider and contribute to the NREAP.”
The UN’s finding is a landmark victory for Christine Metcalfe, 69, a community councillor from Argyll, who lodged a complaint with the UN on the grounds that the UK and EU had breached citizens’ rights under the UN’s Aarhus Convention.
She claimed the UK’s renewables policies have been designed in such a way that they have denied the public the right to be informed about, or to ascertain, the alleged benefits in reducing CO2 and harmful emissions from wind power, or the negative effects of wind power on health, the environment and the economy.
Ms Metcalfe made the legal challenge on behalf of the Avich and Kilchrenan Community Council at the Committee Hearing in Geneva last December. She and the AKCC decided to take action after their experience of dealing with the building of the local Carraig Gheal wind farm and problems surrounding the access route, an area of great natural beauty.
The retired councillor said she was “relieved” by the UN decision. “We were criticised by some for making this challenge but this result absolves us of any possible accusations of wrong-doing… The Government needs to do more than just give ordinary people the right to comment on planning applications; they deserve to be given all the facts.”
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesperson said: “We are aware of this decision and we are considering our response. Wind is an important part of our energy mix providing clean home-grown power to millions of homes. Developers of both offshore and onshore wind farms do consult with communities and provide generous benefits packages.”
The Aarhus Convention: What is it?
The Aarhus Convention, or the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, is named after the Danish city where it was first established by a UN summit.
It sets up a number of rights for individuals and associations in regard to the environment. People can request to know the health risks linked to the state of the environment and applicants should be informed within one month of the request.
It also ensures the public get a say in any environmental project such as a wind farm. Public authorities must provide information about environmental projects, and those affected by such schemes must be told if they are going ahead and why.

Wind power project announced for Quebec nickel mine

Here is a story today from the Globe and Mail announcing a wind power project for a nickel mine in Quebec’s Nunavik region.
  Many people (including the lawyers for Gilead Power at the recent Environmental Review Tribunal) try to characterize Wind Concerns Ontario and our members as being opposed to anything “renewable” or “green.”
  Not true.
  Here you have an industrial use of power generation from wind (note that otherwise, the mine would be totally dependent on diesel fuel for power generation) for an industrial use. There are several diamond mines in the Northwest Territories also using wind energy to generate power.
  These examples simply underscore how wrong-headed Ontario’s policy is regarding wind power: these industrial-scale turbines are more appropriate for an industrial use–they should never be placed near homes and schools.

Harper announces wind energy project for Nunavik mine 

Stephen Harper used the final stop in his annual northern Canadian tour to champion a project that would harness wind energy to help power a massive nickel mining operation in Quebec’s Nunavik region.
Remote communities and industry such as Xtrata Nickel Inc.’s Raglan Mine are dependent on diesel-based energy generation today.
   The Harper government has given $720,000 to TUGLIQ Energy Co. and Xstrata Nickel Inc. to study the feasibility of integrating wind energy into an existing diesel-based electricity system in Nunavik.
   The proposed system would generate energy from wind and store surplus wind energy through hydrogen, providing a stable and sustainable source of energy at Raglan Mine.
   If the plan works, a clean energy project could be operating at the mine by March 2016.
“Canadians … expect that Canadian resources will be developed with future generations in mind … in ways that make sensible use of energy and respect the environment,” Mr. Harper said.
   “If this technology works here in the way we hope it will, the implications for power generation across the North are enormous. In other words, it could be a ’Eureka!’ moment.”
   This project is one of the 55 that aim to produce and use energy in a cleaner, more efficient way. Support is being provided through Natural Resources Canada’s ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative.
Raglan Mine, located in the sub-arctic permafrost of Northern Quebec, was brought into production in 1997. Raglan employs almost 1,000 full-time workers, many of whom come from local communities.

 

Not a Willing Host communities heard at AMO

Representatives of the now 64 communities in Ontario who have declared themselves Not a Willing Host to giant wind power developments, made their voices heard yesterday at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario convention, in Ottawa. Questions were raised during the afternoon “bearpit” session, during which Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli appeared to contradict himself, by saying that preserving valuable Ontario farmland and the quality of rural communities was a priority and then later saying that wind power was necessary for the province. He also said that there is no chance of giving municipalities a “veto” on wind power projects.
   Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott remarked later that he was appalled by the Minister’s “doublespeak.”
   The municipal representatives held a meeting later in the day, and discussed what the effects of wind power had been on their communities to date, and what options were left open to them as they struggle to protect the health and financial wellbeing of their citizens.
   Here is a report from today’s Ottawa Citizen. Comments are open at the time of writing.
  

Windmill opponents demand province give power to municipalities

 
By Teresa Smith, OTTAWA CITIZENAugust 20, 2013
 

 
Windmill opponents demand province give power to municipalities
 

Sixty-two Ontario communities have declared themselves ‘unwilling hosts’ to provincially approved industrial wind-power projects. They are demanding that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government allow municipal governments to choose whether and where to put them.

Photograph by: Peter J. Thompson , National Post

OTTAWA — A coalition of 62 communities in Ontario have declared themselves “unwilling hosts” to provincially approved windmills and they’re demanding that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government allow municipal governments to choose whether and where to put industrial wind projects.
A group of residents in North Gower, a region of Ottawa that the province pegged for a large-scale wind-power project, is supportive of the coalition’s demands, but Ottawa is not officially a member of the unwilling hosts coalition.
Progressive Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak told 1,600 delegates gathered at the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference this week that, if elected, he would “scrap the Green Energy Act” entirely. If communities don’t want windmills, the municipality should not be “forced” to house “industrial wind turbines,” Hudak said.
New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath said “short-sighted” decisions on the energy file have created a needless backlash against wind power in communities that feel inadequately consulted.”
The Liberal government’s 2009 Green Energy Act gave the province control over the location of wind energy projects but, in May, the province announced changes that will require developers to work more closely with municipalities. Energy projects that are part of a co-op, owned by a First Nation or at least half-owned by a municipality, will get priority for the Feed-in Tariff program “which is good, because if the private company has community support already, then the project will be more successful,” said Kristopher Stevens, executive director of Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA).
To that end, Wynne has asked the OSEA, a non-profit organization, to raise awareness in communities slated for the turbine projects about the benefits of hosting, including the financial gains that can come from being power generators in a cash-strapped economy.
“It’s going to require a transformation in the way we think about energy,” said Stevens, who noted one of the best things about the Green Energy Act is that it supports smaller scale projects.
“What we want is to have lots of points of light — sort of like the Internet — so that if part of the system goes off, the rest of the system can isolate it and keep running.”
He said such a change would prevent blackouts like the one that happened in much of Eastern Ontario and the Northeastern United States 10 years ago. “What happened in Ohio affected everyone because were pushing power from one centralized place,” said Stevens.
So far, 62 municipalities across Ontario have declared themselves not willing hosts to wind-power projects, citing health problems and loss in property values as their main concerns.
However, while research into the issue is limited. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, in a 2010 report, concluded that “the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.”
The report said that while some residents might find the sound and vibrations from nearby wind turbines annoying, the sound is not sufficient to cause hearing problems and there is no scientific evidence the vibrations cause health issues.

The report recommended that “community engagement at the outset of planning for wind turbines is important and may alleviate health concerns.”
Health Canada has launched a major study into the effect of wind turbines on health.
The Marlborough 1 project in North Gower is on hold until the province announces its new procurement process. However wind developer Prowind, headquartered in Germany, has said it intends to reapply when the new process is in place.
In a letter to Ottawa Wind Concerns, a North Gower anti-wind turbine group, Mayor Jim Watson reiterated that the province is responsible for granting approval for wind projects and called the regulatory regime “quite onerous.” However, before any project is approved, he said, the city “will review all documentation and information relating to the proposed development and fully participate in any such consultative process.”

Wind ‘farms’ not a success: letter to Hill Times

In this week’s edition of the Hill Times, following last week’s feature, the following letter to the Editor:

Ontario’s wind farms not a success

Published: Monday, 08/19/2013 12:00 am EDT
Last Updated: Monday, 08/19/2013 3:37 pm EDT

Bob Chiarelli is quoted in The Hill Times as saying “wind power produces no greenhouse gases and is part of a program of modernization of Ontario’s power system. It’s a tremendous success story” (“Critics call Ontario’s wind farms ‘a disaster’ in rural areas but Energy Minister Chiarelli says government is working with municipalities,” Renewable Energy Policy Briefing, Aug. 12),
   I beg to differ with that statement. Mr. Chiarelli is either uninformed or very disingenous and he is totally wrong. It takes several thousand tons of coal to produce one industrial wind turbine. How is that modernizing the system? Coal produces greenhouse gasses.
   Ontario has spent millions of dollars ($60-million in 2009) for the Bruce Power Plant not to produce power. We do not need nor can Ontario afford IWTs. It is all a financial disaster for Ontario.
IWTs were forced on us by the McGuinty/Wynne Liberals. They turned our rural area into an industrial zone.  
   As a result, we are “enjoying” our senior years surrounded by IWTs. We have tried to sell and move to a smaller property but no one is looking. The whole area is in turmoil as family members, neighbours and friends are about to start a class action law suit against the land owners and wind proponents. Many are suffering health problems related to IWTs and Mr. Chiarelli calls this a “success story?”
Frank and Helen Belbeck
Fisherville, Ont.

The Hill Times:critics call wind farms in rural areas a disaster

In this week’s edition of The Hill Times, is a profile of how wind power is being rolled out in Ontario.
    Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson is quoted as saying, wind power represents an almost insignificant portion of power supplied to the province, but the wind power installations themselves have a “huge impact on rural-small urban communities.”
    Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment Gideon Forman persists with the wind industry claim that there is no research showing direct effects to health from the noise and infrasound produced by the wind turbines: “there is annoyance for some people…but in terms of a direct causal effect between a wind turbine and health effects, we just haven’t seen it.”
   Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli is quoted by the Hill Times as saying wind power produces no greenhouse gases and is part of a program of modernization of Ontario’s power system. “It’s a tremendous success story.”
   The article is here.
   Letters to the Editor may be sent to news@hilltimes.com

New website on the “human face” of wind in Ontario

A new website has been launched called the Human Face of Wind, which documents the stories of people and communities that are now living with wind power generation projects in Ontario.
The website features real-life accounts of what the local wind power projects have done to families and communities.
The host has also travelled extensively in Ontario and taken pictures—these are a far cry from the media photos (supplied by the wind industry) of single turbines all alone in a field, far from homes or schools or other buildings.
Visit the site today at: http://www.humanfaceofwindturbines.ca/

turbines loom over small island

Turbines loom over Wolfe Island

Some councils putting health and safety concerns ahead of developer dollars

Several municipalities in Ontario are taking a stand against wind power development out of concern for their citizens, reports the Windsor Star, in spite of the fact they may be risking revenue and largesse from corporate wind developers.

Cash-strapped Amherstburg council declared the town an “unwilling host” for wind turbine projects and is potentially turning away big bucks from future developers in property tax revenue and payments turbine operators make to towns per unit.
Lakeshore gets $100,000 in property tax revenue from its 120 wind turbines and will receive $4 million over 20 years in annual payments made by the wind turbine companies per unit to the municipality, said Steve Salmons, Lakeshore’s director of community and development services.
“It’s been a financial windfall for us,” Salmons said. “We also have $1 million in road improvements and repairs (developers made) that wouldn’t have gotten to.”
Lakeshore council is “open for business” when it comes to wind turbines. Salmons estimated the turbines will have a $7 million economic impact on the town including lease payments made to land owners. Amherstburg Coun. Diane Pouget is unconvinced by the financial benefits. “We don’t know what the health issues are associated with (wind turbines). We have asked for no further wind turbines to come into our community until we receive all of the (health) information.”
While the town may be passing up sources of revenue, Pouget said health and safety are a paramount concern for council. She said it was her understanding that Ontario pays the U.S. to take its power when it has generated too much, partly because there is no way to store renewable energy The federal government is doing a study on the health effects of wind turbine noise and results are due next year.

It is approximately 70 weeks until the next municipal election in Ontario.

http://www.windsorstar.com/health/Taking+stand+wind+turbines/8740263/story.html