Grey Highlands to fund wind farm noise study

The Flesherton, November 9, 2015

Wind Turbine Sounds Study

by Don Crosby

Grey Highlands council was about to lend $120,000 to a special interest group. Then it decided instead to approve $75,000 for a municipal study on health effects of wind turbine sounds.

Municipality of Grey Highlands council had already agreed to lend money, that it would borrow from a bank on behalf of the group, to the Grey Highlands Wind Concerns, an anti-wind turbine citizen’s group.

However, strong public objection against the municipal loan prompted council to apply some terms that the group was concerned about meeting. The group has now arranged to borrow the needed money from a private lender, Flesherton businessman Kevin O’Brien.

Stewart Halliday, deputy-mayor, announced at the November 2 council meeting that Grey Highlands Wind Concerns withdrew its request that the municipality lend it $120,000 to pay off expenses it had incurred in its failed appeal of two wind projects to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT). On August 13, the ERT dismissed the appeal against Zero Emission People (ZEP) project – a five wind turbine project near McIntyre – and on October 16, the tribunal dismissed the appeal against Grey Highlands Clean Energy, a nine wind turbine project planned for the Brewster Lake area.

But, at the same November municipal council meeting, councilors voted to spend up to $75,000 to gather acoustical and infrasound information on a total of five sites within the ZEP project and the Grey Highlands Clean Energy. The two projects will have a combined total of 14 wind turbines.

Voting in favour of spending the $75,000 were Mayor McQueen, Deputy-mayor Halliday and Councilors Silverton and Desai. Councilors Terry Mokriy, Cathy Little and Peggy Harris voted against the motion.

Halliday, who crafted the motion calling for the study, says he wants the municipality to use the information gathered in the study to develop a bylaw protecting residents from the effects of unregulated infrasound waves.

The study would be conducted around the clock over a minimum seven days period on five homes located close to proposed wind turbine sites within the two projects prior to construction and then again once the projects are working.

Councilor Little says the proposed study is beyond the capacity of the municipality. “The $75,000 is just the initial cost to get the baseline data; there will be further studies to be conducted once the project is completed, there will be future costs. In addition the study would have to be peer reviewed and that would be an additional cost,” she says.

“If you’re committing to the $75,000 you must know you are committing to more than that because if you don’t it’s a waste of the $75,000,” she says.

Councilor Mokriy, who also voted against the expense, questioned the effectiveness of a small municipality spending $75,000 on a study.

Money for the Grey Highlands baseline study will come from the building services department. It is proposed that the money will be repaid from the future property tax revenues received from the industrial wind installations yet to be constructed.

A Health Canada study has found no evidence to support a link between exposure to wind-turbine noise and ill health effects reported by people living near the towering structures.

The Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study, conducted over a four-month period in 2013, involved more than 1,200 residents in southwestern Ontario and PEI whose homes were located at various distances from almost 400 of the electricity-generating structures in 18 wind-turbine developments.

The same study did find a relationship between increasing levels of wind turbine noise and residents’ annoyance related to that noise, as well as to vibration, shadow flicker from the rotating blades, and aircraft warning lights atop the towers.

According to a story in Canadian Lawyer magazine from September, 2015, “There have been nearly 30 hearings before the Environmental Review Tribunal, seeking to stop so-called wind farms, since the enactment of the Green Energy Act in Ontario in 2009. Each time, local residents, usually in rural areas, have been unsuccessful in meeting the legal test to revoke or change the terms of a permit issued by the province for a wind energy project.”


WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO EDITOR’S NOTE: the statements here on the Health Canada study are not accurate. The study was never designed to find a causal link between wind turbine noise and health impacts (which begs the question: what was the $2.1 million study for? to back up the wind industry’s claims their product is safe?), but it did find a link between the turbine noise and vibration and “annoyance” which when used as a medical term denotes stress or distress—Health Canada found that 16.5% of the respondents living less than 1 km from a turbine were stressed, and that number rose to 25% for people living at 550 metres, the distance Ontario claims is a safe setback.

Irish medical study links wind farm noise to poor health: “environmental insomnia”

Residents against wind farms protest in Kilkenny

Irish citizens protest in Dublin (Source: Photocall)

Irish Daily Mail, October 16, 2015

Leah McDonald
Irish scientists link them to cancer, stroke and heart attacks – wind turbines ‘too near family homes’

WIND farms can contribute to people getting diseases such as cancer and heart attacks, two leading Irish health experts have warned.

They say that noises emitting from turbines lead to sleep deprivation that can cause cancer and heart disease, along with a number of other illnesses.

Professor Graham Roberts, head of the Department of Endocrinology at University Hospital, Waterford, and Professor Alun Evans, an expert in public health at Queen’s University, Belfast, met Alan Kelly yesterday to warn the Environment Minister that the current guidelines in Ireland are a cause for alarm.

The rules allow turbines and power lines as close as 500 metres to a family home, while international standards demand they should be at least 2km away.

Prof Evans, recently wrote a report pointing to ‘serious adverse health effects associated with noise pollution generated by wind turbines’. The risks were due to sleep disturbance and deprivation with loud noise being one of the main causes.

He pointed out that sleep deprivation is associated with memory impairment in children and disturbed cognitive function in adults.

He told the Irish Daily Mail yesterday that distances between homes and turbines should be increased.

He said: ‘The bad effects of low frequency noise has been known for at least 40 years, the thing is 500 metres does not protect people. It is insufficient.’ He warned that there is evidence that the ‘infrasonic signatures’ that cause the damage can be picked up from 50 miles way, adding: ‘It is a serious problem. It doesn’t affect everyone the same way. Something like a quarter of people are more susceptible.’

Prof Evans explained: ‘It is a problem, the big thing being noise and sleep deprivation. Once you deprive people of sleep you make them more liable to become overweight and you delay their learning because while we sleep we reinforce memory.

‘Depriving people of sleep is not a good idea, overweight children become obese adults and obese adults are far more likely to [develop] a whole range of diseases particularly cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.’ He added that the noise doesn’t have to have a direct effect to cause a problem. ‘It can be indirect but it is still very important,’ he said. ‘And you can prevent diseases by preventing the more distant causes.’

And in his recent report, Dr Evans said that there had been no proper cost-benefit analysis in Ireland before the widespread introduction of wind power.

Both he and Dr Roberts believe there are fundamental technical errors in reports on current wind farm and power-line projects here.

They are concerned over the consultation process with the public. Some parents of autistic children have particular fears about the effects turbines and high-voltage pylons have on their quality of life.

John Callaghan has objected to wind farms in Co. Meath, which he fears will affect the environment and health of his autistic son.

The engineer, who has studied renewable energy at postgraduate level, said his seven-year-old son is autistic and very sensitive to noise and says he has ‘grave concerns’ about the impact of the proposed wind farm on his son, himself, his family and the local area, including wildlife, heritage and the cultural landscape.

The meeting between the professors and the minister was organised by community campaigner David Reid of the Westmeath Alliance. Mr Reid said there are significant concerns about noise pollution for people living close to wind turbines. He said the World Health Organisation refers to this as ‘environmental insomnia’, if the noise is above a certain threshold.
Irish Daily Mail

Dutton-Dunwich seeks noise protection bylaw

St. Thomas Times-Journal, October 19

Dutton/Dunwich council is vetting bylaws to regulate wind turbines in the municipality

Several bylaws drafted by Dutton/Dunwich to counter the anticipated impact of industrial wind turbines have been referred to legal counsel for review before final adoption.

Council voted Wednesday for two readings only on bylaws designed to limit light flicker and noise generated by turbines.

One bylaw seeks to regulate noise from industrial wind turbines. The other is aimed at controlling shadow light flicker from a turbine.

The preamble to the bylaw defines it as: “Being a bylaw to prohibit shadow flicker from any source including, but not limited to, industrial wind turbines …”

Coun. Dan McKillop said the municipality should get clarification on certain points before it proceeds with final adoption and implementation of the bylaws.

McKillop suggested it would be better to spend the time having the bylaws reviewed to make sure Dutton/Dunwich is in sound legal position before they are passed into law.

First and second reading of the bylaws was passed unanimously on recorded votes for each.

One other building bylaw regulating permits and fees for construction of buildings, etc, specifically stated issuance of permits also applied to industrial wind turbines. That clause should be referred to legal counsel for review, McKillop pointed out.

Both light flicker and noise have been targetted as potential byproducts of industrial wind turbine operation.

Invenergy has aplied to erect wind turbines in Dutton/Duwnich and is awaiting approval.

Ontario’s Green Energy Act limits what steps municipalities can take to control wind turbines.

Australia’s first Wind Commissioner has ties to renewables industry

Australia's wind industry says appointing a commissioner to ensure complaints are dealt with is a waste of time
Australia’s wind industry says appointing a commissioner to ensure complaints are dealt with is a waste of time

The Guardian, October 9, 2015

The Turnbull government has appointed an academic and company director with strong ties to climate and renewables research as its new “wind commissioner”, in a move the clean energy industry says should help return the wind energy debate to “sensible”.

Andrew Dyer serves on the boards of Climateworks Australia and the Monash University sustainability unit. The government says his primary role will be to “refer complaints about windfarms to relevant state authorities” – which are already responsible for dealing with them.

The wind commissioner was promised by the former prime minister Tony Abbott in response to a Coalition and crossbench-dominated Senate committee report into the alleged health effects of windfarms. The senators demanded moves against wind energy in return for their essential votes on changes to the renewable energy target, which went beyond the deal the government had struck with Labor.

The Clean Energy Council’s chief executive, Kane Thornton, said he hoped Dyer’s appointment – and appointments to a new scientific committee on wind – would “return a more sensible tone to the debate, which had entered some strange territory during the recent Senate inquiry into windfarms.

“We expect that these new appointments will help to blow away some of the conspiracy theories about windfarms that have been championed by a small number of federal senators over the last few years.”

Dyer serves on multiple boards including Climateworks – a body that aims to facilitate substantial reductions in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next five years – and the Monash University sustainability institute. The institute brings together academics from all disciplines to tackle “climate change and sustainability, and their intrinsic multiple crises”, as well as the question of how the Australian economy can become carbon neutral.

Dyer will sit in Hunt’s federal environment department. His role does not appear to involve determining the veracity of any complaints but rather passing them on to the state authorities and collating scientific information.

When Abbott pledged to appoint a wind commissioner, he told the radio announcer Alan Jones he found windfarms visually awful, agreed that they might have “potential health impacts” and said the deal on the renewable energy target was designed to reduce their numbers as much as the current Senate would allow.

“What we did recently in the Senate was to reduce, Alan, capital R-E-D-U-C-E, the number of these things that we are going to get in the future … I frankly would have liked to have reduced the number a lot more but we got the best deal we could out of the Senate and if we hadn’t had a deal, Alan, we would have been stuck with even more of these things …

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said it was “sad to see the federal government continuing to contribute uncertainty to Australia’s burgeoning clean energy industry.

“There have been no less than eight studies conducted at the federal level in the last five years into wind energy and every single one has found no evidence of wind farms making people sick.”


In other news, the government also appointed the first independent science committee:

The government has also appointed an independent scientific committee to conduct research into potential medical impacts of turbines which will be headed by acoustician and RMIT Adjunct Professor Jon Davy. The other members are:

Associate Professor Simon Carlile, Head of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, School of Medical Science, University of Sydney and Senior Director of Research at the Starkey Hearing Research Centre, University of California Berkeley, USA.

Clinical Professor David Hillman, Department of Pulmonary Physiology and Sleep Medicine at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Perth, WA.

Dr Kym Burgemeister, Acoustics Associate Principal, Arup.

Halt wind farm approvals and improve regulation says Vermont former Lieutenant-Governor

It's this much noise, kind of like a refrigerator. In a jet plane.
It’s this much noise, kind of like a refrigerator. In a jet plane.

Growing body of evidence shows harm to human health

Vermont Biz, September 25, 2015

Wind turbine noise, what you can’t hear can harm you

by Brian Dubie What do you think of when you think of an industrial wind project? Wind developers want you to think of free, green electricity. People who live near industrial wind turbines think of noise. Let’s see why. An Industrial Wind project in Swanton proposes to install seven 499-foot tall wind turbines along 6,000 feet of Rocky Ridge (elevation 323 feet). We don’t know what turbine model the developer is considering, so let’s look at the GE 2.75-120 Wind Turbine. At 475 feet, it is slightly smaller than the developer’s Swanton turbines.  GE says a single one of their 475-foot monsters can produce 106 dBA of noise.  Scaling up to seven turbines would increase that noise to 109 dBA. (Noise is measured as pressure on a scale that is logarithmic, so sometimes the numbers are difficult to understand, but 109 dBA is loud. For comparison, my chain saw is rated at 109 dBA. I wear ear protection when I use it.)

So, when you think of industrial wind turbines on a ridge line, envision an airport with a line of airplanes that are holding for take-off. The airplanes are powered by chainsaw engines that have run up their engines to full power. But, unlike planes at an airport, the turbines never take off. Now, imagine this at 2am in the morning.

Some people will say wind turbines are not that noisy. Well that depends on how far from the turbines (chainsaws) and how many turbines (chainsaws) there are. Sound attenuates over distance. The further you are from the turbines (chainsaws) the more the noise attenuates and thus the quieter the sound is. Noise attenuation is also dependent on many topographical and meteorological factors. For example if you are downwind from the turbines (chainsaws) the noise is greater. If the turbines (chainsaws) are located on high ground, the noise carries farther.

The World Health Organization says that noise levels greater than 30 dBA can interfere with sleep. The WHO also explains that low-frequency noise has a greater potential to disrupt sleep and that levels of low frequency noise should be kept lower than 30 dBA. Turbines produce lots of low frequency noise—the kind of noise most likely to interfere with neighbors’ sleep.

Vermont’s Department of Health says that turbine noise outside your open bedroom window should not exceed 40 dBA. The Department assumes that you have different windows than I have and that your open bedroom window will reduce a 40 dBA noise to 30 dBA. Not only that, the Department’s 40dBA limit applies to noise averaged over a year. That means that somebody could start up a vacuum cleaner (70 dBA) outside your open bedroom window every 19 minutes and still operate within the Department’s guideline.

Vermont’s Public Service Board has a different standard. The PSB says that the turbine noise outside your open bedroom window, averaged over an hour, should not exceed 45 dBA. The PSB would allow the vacuum cleaner to start up every five minutes.

Of course a standard is no good if you don’t monitor for compliance. Vermont has developed an ingenious system where the monitoring is done by turbine neighbors. When noise levels exceed the PSB’s limits, the neighbors can call a special telephone number provided by the turbine operator. Turbine neighbors say that this telephone is not answered at night. To compensate for this, some wind operators hire experienced professionals to come in for a week or two every year to monitor their noise and to assure the neighbors that they are imagining things.

The noise you can hear is not the only sound that an industrial wind turbine produces. Industrial wind turbines also produce low frequency sound that you cannot hear but you can feel. When a turbine blade passes the wind tower on a large turbine it generates a low frequency pulse. These pulses are typically below 20 Hz and are called infrasound.

Turbine infrasound can be detected inside homes as far away as six miles. We know also that very low levels of infrasound and LFN are registered by the nervous system and affect the body even though they cannot be heard. Researchers have implicated these infrasonic pulsations as the cause of some of the most commonly reported “sensations” experienced by many people living close to wind turbines. These sensations include chronic sleep disturbance, dizziness, tinnitus, heart palpitations, vibrations and pressure sensations in the head and chest etc. There is medical research which demonstrates that pulsating infrasound can be a direct cause of sleep disturbance. In clinical medicine, chronic sleep interruption and deprivation is acknowledged as a trigger of serious health problems.

Denmark, which may have the most successful renewable energy program in the world, recognizes the potential health effects of audible and sub-audible turbine noise. Vermont does not. The Vermont Department of Health acknowledges that turbine noise can disturb sleep and that disturbed sleep can impair health. It is curious that the Department is unable to connect the dots and to conclude that turbines can impair health.

There is a growing body of research that shows that industrial wind turbines can have negative effects on the health of their neighbors. Because so many indicators point to infrasound as a potential agent of adverse health effects, I respectfully ask the members of Pubic Service Board, the Pubic Service Department, the Governor, the members of the Legislature, all Elected Officials, the Media, the Industrial Wind industry and all Vermonters who care about the future of our State to please read this report that describes infrasound in detail HERE(link is external).

If not sited properly industrial wind turbines can harm public health. I therefore call for a moratorium on industrial wind turbine projects until the Legislature, Pubic Service Board, Public Service Department and the Governor develop operating standards that protect the health of turbine neighbors, reform turbine siting standards, and regulate the operation of existing industrial turbines.

Brian Dubie of Fairfield served as Vermont’s Lieutenant Governor 2003-2011


Ontario needs stronger regulations for wind farm noise: WCO


Blackburn News, September 24, 2015

by Janice MacKay

Wind Concerns Ontario says it’s clear Ontario’s current turbine setbacks are affecting the health of nearby residents.

A submission to the province says it is unacceptable that the Ministry of the Environment’s proposed new regulations for large industrial scale wind turbines ignore sound emissions altogether.

The group was hoping for stronger regulations in regards to low frequency noise or infra sound.

Wind Concerns President Jane Wilson says she has been told by the ministry over the telephone that complaints about noise emissions, sensations or vibrations produced by the turbines, number in the thousands.

The group requested further details on the complaints last april, but has not received the information before the deadline to comment on the new regulations.

Wind concerns says the Health Canada study showed 25 per cent of residents are extremely annoyed by the noise levels from turbines set back 550 metres, which is the legal distance in Ontario

The group points out that a report from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health concluded five years ago there were key data gaps in relation to turbine noise levels–gaps that have not been addressed five years later.


To see Wind Concerns Ontario’s submission to the EBR, read WCOcomments-FINAL-2015

Kincardine funds noise study for Armow wind farm

Bayshore Broadcasting, September 19, 2015

Kincardine Turbine Sound Study

by John Divinski
Kincardine to get a “before and after” report on infrasound created by wind turbines.
There is audio for this story. 

MP3 - click to open

 click to open MP3 version
or click the play button to listen now.

(Kincardine)– Kincardine council has approved spending over $60,000 to get a “before and after” report when it comes to noise and infrasound issues created by wind turbines.

CAO Murray Clarke tells Bayshore Broadcasting News Swallow Acoustics Consultants of Mississauga will undertake a study of infrasound levels while also studying current wind turbine installations in Kincardine.

Clarke says the consultants will determine benchmark background levels of audible sound and then set benchmarks for the upcoming Armow project, being developed by Samsung and Pattern Energy.

He says once the Armow project is up and running in 2016, and if council approves, they’ll revisit the area to see what difference, if any, is detected in audible and infrasound levels.

Clarke says the consultants will get to work on the study almost immediately with a final report in councillors’ hands expected by the end of October.

Pattern and Samsung Energy plan to have 90-plus turbines in the Armow area with most in operation by 2016.

Clarke says if benchmark sound levels can be established then they could be compared to the acoustic profile when the Armow turbines are operating.

Texas wind farm noise emissions and health problems

Wind farm and health issues

New Falcon Herald, Lindsey Harrison, September 2015

According to an Aug. 26 El Paso County press release, construction at the NextEra Energy Resources wind farm project in Calhan is nearing completion. “All 145 concrete foundations to support the wind turbine towers have now been completed … and 120 of the authorized 145 turbines are now fully erected, with only electrical work remaining to be completed.”

Although the press release states that the turbines will not be functional until the electrical work has been finished, it also states that the turbines could move in the wind, which is already causing health concerns for residents living within the wind farm’s footprint.      One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said she knew right away that the turbines were moving because she began to feel nauseous, along with a headache.

“I have 100 turbines to the north of me, 25 to the west and 20 to the southwest,” she said. “When the wind was coming out of the north, I woke up feeling dizzy and nauseous.”

She also said her animals were acting strangely. “My donkeys and horses keep wanting to go back into their stalls,” she said. “They have not wanted to leave the barn all day.”

Robert Rand, a Boulder, Colorado, resident and an acoustic investigator and member of the Acoustical Society of America, said the reason for the headaches and nausea is directly related to the wind turbines. It has to do with infrasound and low frequency noise, he said.      According to an article written by acoustic engineer Richard James, published at Feb. 20, “Infrasound is acoustic energy, sound pressure, just like the low to high frequency sounds that we are accustomed to hearing. What makes infrasound different is that it is at the lowest end of the acoustical frequency spectrum even below the deep bass rumble of distant thunder or all but the largest pipe organ tones.      “As the frequency of an infrasonic tone moves to lower frequencies: 5Hz, 2Hz, 1Hz and lower, the sounds are more likely to be perceived as separate pressure pulsations … . Unlike mid and high frequency sound, infrasound is not blocked by common construction materials. As such, it is often more of a problem inside homes, which are otherwise quiet, than it is outside the home.”

Rand said the separate pressure pulsations are like the “whump, whump, whump,” people sometimes experience when they are riding in a car with the windows down. “I have been attempting to acoustically measure phenomena that could present a conflict to human physiology that could then provide a basis to do more research,” Rand said. “My work in acoustics has really been designing and planning. I don’t need more medical research because I know what they (wind turbines) do to people because it happened to me.”

According to an article accepted into The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America Feb. 4, when the body experiences an external force on the inner ear, such as acoustic pressure pulses — but there is no visual input to associate with that pressure — a sensory conflict occurs. That conflict is felt as motion sickness, and it is felt to the same degree as seasickness.

The wind energy industry* has claimed for decades that this phenomenon does not exist, in part, because about one-third of the human population is essentially immune to the effects of motion sickness, which is what these pressure pulsations induce, Rand said. Similarly, about one-third of the population appears to be readily prone to motion sickness, he said. “The third that is not affected by this will never understand it and will not know what you are talking about,” Rand said.

Read more here

*EDITOR’s NOTE: Which is why, somehow, the Ontario government, instead of producing the noise regulations on infrasound/low frequency noise/vibration that they have promised since 2011, they have deleted all mention of this is the proposed amendments to the noise guidelines for wind turbines. Comments on these proposed amendments are due tomorrow. The new standard for turbines in Ontario is the 3-MW machine, which produces more infrasound.

The law and wind farms in Ontario: mix them and “you get litigation”


Canadian Lawyer, September 8, 2015

A few kilometres west of the eastern Ontario village of Consecon in Prince Edward County, on a narrow but busy stretch of road known as the Loyalist Parkway, there is a yellow road sign. It warns of turtles crossing the main automobile route to the popular Sandbanks Provincial Park — the Blanding’s turtle, to be precise.
The medium-sized turtle, with bright yellow throat and chin and domed shell, is classified as a threatened species in Ontario. It also has another distinction. So far, it is the only species, including humans, to derail at least temporarily a proposed wind energy project in the province.
There have been nearly 30 hearings before the Environmental Review Tribunal, seeking to stop so-called wind farms, since the enactment of the Green Energy Act in Ontario in 2009. Each time, local residents, usually in rural areas, have been unsuccessful in meeting the legal test to revoke or change the terms of a permit issued by the province for a wind energy project.
The one exception is the Ostrander Point plan to construct nine wind turbines in an area on the south shore of the county. The Ontario Court of Appeal earlier this year overturned a Divisional Court decision that would have approved the project. The appeal court sent the matter back to the tribunal for a second hearing because of concerns about threats to the safety of the Blanding’s turtle.
The case has also highlighted a statutory framework in Ontario that makes it difficult to stop a wind-energy project because of health and other concerns by local residents yet is arguably easier to block if certain species of wildlife are threatened.
Eric Gillespie, a Toronto lawyer who is representing the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists in the Ostrander hearing and has acted for many residents’ groups in other wind cases, says the circumstances are somewhat unique in Ontario.
Wind developments in other provinces have generally been constructed in areas without any nearby communities. In Ontario, most of the projects so far have been along the “highway 401 corridor,” says Gillespie, near a number of small municipalities. “When you mix wind projects with people, you get litigation,” he explains.
Many of the court cases have involved residents’ groups in rural communities. They have argued about the potential health hazards as a result of the sounds from wind turbines and other issues, including decreased property values. As well, there are concerns about what will happen to the large structures when they must be decommissioned in the next 20 or 25 years.
The provincial Environment Protection Act states that once a renewable energy approval has been granted by the government, the ERT’s jurisdiction is limited to deciding if the project will cause “serious harm to human health” or “serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.” The onus is also on the party challenging the project to present the evidence that shows the harm will occur.
Gillespie says that, in terms of the requirements to gather the evidence, the renewable energy provisions are similar to other environment-related statutes. “What is different is that the Ontario government has created legal tests that are almost impossible to meet. The test requires you to show that there will be harm, unlike almost any other area of environmental harm,” he says.
For opponents of wind projects, the legal test is more difficult than that of pipelines, says Stephen Hazell, general counsel for Nature Canada, which was an intervener in the Ostrander case at the Court of Appeal.
Section 52 of the National Energy Board Act requires consideration of whether a pipeline project is desirable in the public interest. “It is a totally different standard,” says Hazell of the Ontario renewable energy test. “It is the toughest standard I have ever seen.”
It is not that Nature Canada is opposed to wind developments, says Hazell. It is the process in place if there are objections that is the problem. “We need more wind projects. But it depends on where they are located,” he says.
The opposition to the Ostrander Point project is because “it is right on an important wetland” and could impact wildlife beyond that of the Blanding’s turtle, says Hazell.
Albert Engel, a partner at Fogler Rubinoff LLP in Toronto, who has represented a number of developers in the renewable-energy sector, agrees it is a “high test” for opponents of the projects. “It is a test that the legislature has decided is appropriate,” says Engel. At the same time, he explains there is a rigorous process to receive approval from the province and there are other provisions, such as setbacks of 550 metres from any dwelling that is not part of a wind project.
There is also an automatic right of appeal to the ERT, which a resident can file once a wind project permit has been granted, Engel explains. As well, “costs have never been awarded” against an unsuccessful party before the tribunal, he adds. For opponents, the process is relatively inexpensive to take a case to the tribunal, suggests Engel.
Opposition to wind projects has been loudest in rural communities in Ontario and is potentially a political issue for the provincial Liberal government. It is also facing an ongoing $500-million legal action related to a moratorium it put in place in 2011 on offshore wind developments.
In terms of the framework in place for challenges to approval of onshore projects,  though, that is unlikely to be changed. “There are no plans to amend the EPA to expand the scope of issues that can be raised,” says Lindsay Davidson, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
Last fall, a study released by Health Canada concluded the noise from wind turbines could be an “annoyance”* to nearby residents but stated there was not sufficient evidence to link it to other conditions such as stress, nausea, or fatigue. The health implications “are a matter of great debate,” says Gillespie, although he agrees these arguments have not been successful in tribunal cases. Still, he questions whether wind projects are a good economic choice. “There are transmission and storage issues. Green energy is probably the most heavily subsidized in the world,” says Gillespie.
The industry organization for the wind sector in Canada agrees that it probably could have done a better job in responding to the criticisms in recent years. “That has been a lesson learned for the industry,” says Brandy Giannetta, Ontario director of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
A new procurement process put in place by the province that requires community consultations when applying for an energy contract will help address concerns about public involvement, says Giannetta. The process should lead to contracts awarded later this year at prices about half of the ones already in place. The new process requires at least one community meeting when applying for an energy contract. It also includes the “Aboriginal Price Adder,” which can permit a developer to increase prices by about 10 per cent if there is a First Nations stake in the project.
The changes may potentially reduce the amount of litigation over wind projects, initiated by residents’ groups, says Engel. “The hope is that the process will result in the awarding of contracts in locations where the developments are welcomed,” he says.
However, these changes are unlikely to impact disputes over potential threats to wildlife, even when the developers have taken steps to try to mitigate the impact of a wind project.
In the Ostrander case, the company obtained an Endangered Species Act permit from the Ministry of Natural Resources. It permitted some harm to the turtles subject to certain conditions, which included setting aside a large area of land outside the project for a natural habitat. The permit also requires an “overall benefit” to the species so it is better off in the province than before the project started.
In the first tribunal hearing, the panel focused only on the impact to the turtle on the project site and the surrounding landscape in deciding there was serious and irreversible harm.
The legislative framework involving wind energy projects “does not sit well with the Endangered Species Act,” says Douglas Hamilton, who is representing Ostrander Point GP Inc. Obtaining a permit under the ESA “may potentially hurt you in front of the tribunal,” says Hamilton, a partner at McCarthy Tetrault LLP in Toronto.

Doug Hamilton, counsel for Ostrander Point developer: the legislative framework doesn't sit well with the Endangered Species Act
Doug Hamilton, counsel for Ostrander Point developer: the legislative framework doesn’t sit well with the Endangered Species Act

In its ruling that sent the matter back to the tribunal, the Court of Appeal upheld the original decision that the project will cause serious and irreversible harm to the turtles. But it also permitted Ostrander to present fresh evidence at the new hearing and for the panel to address the issue of remedy. Hamilton says Ostrander is asking for the project to be approved, with conditions.
The tribunal’s ultimate decision could result in protections to the Blanding turtle far beyond that of a road sign on a heavily travelled route in one of Ontario’s popular vacation destinations.

*Editor’s Note: “annoyance” is a medical term denoting distress, and is itself an adverse health effect.