Wind power in Ontario’s North: environment and economy at risk

A common response to objections to industrial-scale wind power development in southern Ontario is, Why not put them up North then? Nobody lives there. The members of Save Ontario’s Algoma Region* know the reasons why wind power development is inappropriate for Ontario’s North, too.

“A national treasure” – Photos Gary and Joanie McGuffin

February 21, 2017

The municipalities of rural Southern Ontario have soundly opposed and stalled the attempt of the government to initiate a new round of Request for Proposals for Large Renewable Procurements. This opposition has been based primarily on the harm wind turbines create for human health.

The Northern Ontario objection to wind-generated electricity is quite different from that of the South. The health of the Northern economy is the primary opposition issue to wind turbine developments. The Northern economy, which once relied on its primary resource-based industries, is currently facing an economic decline in those industries. This is in part due to the high cost of energy which has forced the closure of many sawmills, pulp and paper mills and fibreboard mills. Northerners are currently examining the potential for developing an expanded eco-tourism based economy. The Northern view is that its future prosperity can be restored utilizing the inherent values offered through its last remaining asset, an uncompromised wild landscape and natural environment.

Despite regional differences, Southern Ontario and Northern Ontario are both strongly opposed to the generation of energy by industrial wind installations. However, unlike the South, Northern Ontario’s low population provides no voting power to impact government decisions. Much of rural Northern Ontario is unincorporated and has no official municipal voice to object. This requires support for the North from those in the Southern regions as opposition is only stronger with a unified approach.

Here’s why Requests For Proposals in the North should also be stalled.

  1. The Right to Self Determination
  • Because of the geographic differences between Northern and Southern Ontario, Northeastern and Northwestern Ontario have a right to determine their own economic destiny according to their regional values and available resources.
  • Although Northwestern Ontario is “A Place to Grow Electrically”, this vision does not include wind energy. The Big Thunder Wind Park proposed for Thunder Bay has already been scrapped in part because of First Nation objections to the impact on the natural environment.

 

  1. Ontario does not need to generate more power in Northern Ontario
  1.  Unfavourable Economic Outcomes for the Consumer
  • Generating electricity in remote northern locations requires long transmission to major consuming centers in Southern Ontario. This long transmission leads to energy loss.    The technical term for this is “line loss.” Line loss has the effect of making wind –powered electricity 30% percent more expensive than if it is generated near the ultimate users in densely populated urban centres.
  • Moving more electricity from the north to the south will require a huge investment in transmission infrastructure. This investment will be reflected in further increases in the line item called “delivery charges” on consumers’ monthly power bills.
  • The construction of more intermittent wind capacity will require the construction of more off-setting natural gas powered generation. That will have to be built where natural gas supply is already available, which won’t fit with remote northern locations.  If natural gas generation facilities are placed in the North, then more pipelines to move the natural gas to those facilities will be required, and of course, the electricity will still be subject to the 30%-line loss cost boost when it is sent south.
  • The terrain of Southern Ontario (vast areas of flat farm land) makes it easier and less costly to construct wind installations than on Northern Ontario’s rocky terrain. Algoma Power Inc. (API) has the highest electricity rates in Ontario. The vast rocky plateau of the Canadian Shield is really hard on API vehicles—a cost which is passed on to their customers.
  • Power generation from wind cost Ontario’s ratepayers over $1.7 billion (approximately 12% of total generation costs) in 2016 for just over 6% of demand. Further development of wind generation—especially from the remote North—will continue to increase ratepayers’ electricity bills.

 

  1. First Nations Treaty Rights
  • Northern Ontario wind power developments must be viewed in the context of the treaty rights of First Nations. Three of the most important treaties in Northern Ontario involve the Robinson-Huron Treaty, the Robinson-Superior Treaty and Treaty 3. These treaties cover an enormous geographic region of the province.
  • The treaties are viewed differently by the Crown and First Nations. The Crown (provincial or federal) believes that it has the ultimate authority over a treaty and that the First Nations are subordinate. Crown decisions over resource development therefore are paramount.
  • First Nations—especially the Anishinaabeg people who signed the Robinson Treaties—maintain that their traditional lands and waters and the resources therein were never surrendered, but exist today in a sharing agreement with the Crown. Hence all resource development on traditional lands must involve First Nations in agreement and management decisions.
  • Suggesting that the North is largely unoccupied and therefore an easy mark for future industrial wind development ignores the huge issues that will arise from a lack of understanding of First Nations’ claims over their territorial lands. First Nations are now exercising their right to demand their fair share of profits derived from wind generation on these traditional lands. These profits from their partnerships with wind industries are currently raising the cost per Kw Hour proportionally according to the percentage of their ownership.

 

  1. Eco-Tourism—A Natural Fit for a Sustainable Economy in the North
  • In a “green” world, eco-tourism must form an increasingly significant part of sustainable job creation in Northeastern Ontario. The imposition of wind turbine installations on coastlines (and perhaps in Lake Huron and Lake Superior) will seriously erode the value of eco-tourism as a sustainable economic base in regions which already rely heavily on year-round tourism.
  • Algoma and Thunder Bay Districts have a vision of a sustainable economy driven by eco-tourism—a vision which has been supported by a million-dollar Trans Canada Trail Grant in the creation of a Lake Superior Water Trail to be officially opened in June 2017 at Gros Cap in Prince Township north of Sault Ste. Marie. (For evidence of this see: http://ijc.org/greatlakesconnection/en/2017/02/building-water-trail-lake-superior-community/#.WKPJFRmbEIs.mailto)

 

As the photographs in this article reveal, the Lake Superior Basin is a national treasure which all Canadians and visitors to Canada have the right to enjoy in its natural state.

The people of Ontario have as a common goal the protection, conservation and restoration of the natural environment for the benefit of present and future generations (Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993).

The natural unspoiled state of the shores and coastal highlands of the Lake Superior Basin is the legacy we leave for the benefit of tomorrow.

 

The authors of this article are members of the Save Ontario’s Algoma Region (SOAR) Writing Team.

*SOAR is a member of Wind Concerns Ontario.

Wind power slipping in popularity poll finds

Pollster tells Ottawa radio 1310 host Mark Sutcliffe today, the farther you are away from a wind ‘farm’ the more likely you are to support it.

People are getting it, says Wind Concerns Ontario president, Jane Wilson: “wind power is high impact for very little benefit.”

Most of those supporting wind power don't live anywhere near a wind power project, says pollster Mainstreet/PostMedia
Most of those supporting wind power don’t live anywhere near a wind power project, says pollster Mainstreet/PostMedia

London Free Press, June 8, 2016

By John Miner

Seven years after Ontario’s multi-billion-dollar, headlong plunge into wind energy, residents of the province are deeply divided on the project, a new Mainstreet/Postmedia poll has found.

The survey of 2,537 Ontarians, released Wednesday, found an even split on wind power, with 43 per cent of respondents having a positive opinion about it and 43 per cent a negative view.

But there was a big difference in the two opinion camps.

“The people who don’t like wind power right now really, really don’t like wind power, and the people who do like wind power are only somewhat okay with it,” said David Valentin, executive vice president of Mainstreet Research.

Out of those with a negative view, 28 per cent had a “very negative” opinion and another 15 per cent had a “somewhat negative opinion.”

For those with a favourable opinion, 18 per cent were “very positive” and 25 per cent “somewhat positive.”

Valentin said rising electricity bills are part of the reason for the weak support, but mishandling of contracts and reports of disputes involving wind energy developers and the Liberal government are also having an impact.

More than 60 per cent of respondents believed wind power has contributed to higher power bills and 59 per cent expect the charges will keep increasing over the next 12 months.

Other findings of the poll, conducted May 18, included differences in opinions based on age, gender and geography.

Younger people tended to be more supportive of wind energy than older Ontarians, and women were more favourable to it than men.

“There is a generational gap. The older you are, the less likely you are to be responsive to wind power right now,” Valentin said.

That’s potentially bad news for the Liberals, because it’s older people who tend to vote, he said.

The good news for the government is that wind energy has its highest support in vote-rich Toronto, where there’s a single industrial wind turbine. Torontonians show their attitude with people putting signs on their lawns to boast their electricity is supplied by Bullfrog Power, a green energy provider, he said.

“For a lot of people in Toronto, wind power fits their values,” Valentin said.

But the poll also suggests political trouble ahead with the potential for wind energy to be a greater albatross for the Liberals, he said.

“It is bad news if it continues along this trend. Wind energy is supposed to be a net positive for the Liberals, it is supposed to be about the fact they created a whole new green energy sector, shut down the coal plants, but it hasn’t turned out that way.”

Instead, people are reminded of the higher costs every month when they get their power bill.

“There is the potential for this to really rear its head during a general election,” Valentin said. “It is good news for them in Toronto, but it is bad news for them everywhere else.”

Opposition to wind farms

In Southwestern Ontario, home to the largest wind farms and more of the highrise-sized turbines than anywhere else in the province, rural divisions over wind energy have run high, including some communities declaring themselves “unwilling hosts” for the mega-projects.

A particular irritation to many communities is that the Liberal government took away local planning control over where wind turbines can be built.

Reaction: Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of groups opposed to wind energy, said attitudes have shifted more against utility-scale wind power as people learn about the impact on home electricity bills, Ontario’s business competitiveness and wildlife.

“There is also a better understanding of the fact that, because wind power is intermittent and needs backup by natural gas, it isn’t really getting us off fossil-fuel power generation, and it certainly doesn’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What people are realizing is that wind power is high-impact for very little benefit.”

Read the full story here.

 

Ontario’s new wind power targets ‘insult’ to rural Ontario, Wind Concerns Ontario says

Ontario has a surplus of power, municipalities don’t want the power projects, but Ontario gives in to Big Wind

London Free Press, April 5, 2016

By John Miner

Just weeks after awarding controversial contracts for five wind farms, Ontario said Tuesday it’s opening bidding for double that amount of wind energy.

The government is also inviting bids from companies for solar, hydro and bio-energy projects.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said the move will save consumers money by putting more downward pressure on electricity prices.

In a statement, Chiarelli also said the province will put emphasis on community support for the projects.

Chiarelli and the government were criticized recently when contracts for wind farms were awarded for areas opposed to wind farm development, including Dutton-Dunwich in Southwestern Ontario where residents had voted 84 per cent against industrial wind farm development.

Several Ontario municipalities have recently passed resolutions demanding veto power over wind farm developments within their boundaries, but both Premier Kathleen Wynne and Deputy Premier Deb Mattews have said that won’t happen.

Ontario’s largest wind farms, and the largest number of the highrise-sized wind turbines, are located in Southwestern Ontario.

The last round of wind farm development was for 300 megawatts of wind power.

This time, Ontario has opened the bids for 600 megawatts of wind energy, along with 250 megawatts of solar, up to 50 megawatts of hydroelectricity and up to 30 megawatts of bioenergy.

The size of the procurement stunned wind farm opponents.

“This is just amazing,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of community groups fighting wind farm development.

“What can you say? They are selling off power at negative prices, we don’t need it. It is just throwing down the gauntlet to rural Ontario, it is so insulting.”

A report released last week by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator c(IESO) oncluded Ontario has enough electrical generation in place to cover the province’s needs for at least a decade.

“Clearly, they have bowed to pressure from the wind industry,” said Wilson.

The wind industry, for its part, celebrated Ontario’s announcement Tuesday.

“Ontario is Canada’s wind energy leader and understands the need to cost-effectively and reliably integrate more clean energy sources, like wind energy, into the electricity grid if it is going to meet its environmental and economic goals,” said CanWEA president Robert Hornung.

Mayor Randy Hope of Chatham-Kent, the one municipality that’sconsistently backed wind farm development and called for more, said the wind energy companies have been good corporate citizens.

The companies now contribute more than $2 million a year in taxes to the municipality, helping to pay for crucial infrastructure and services, Hope said in a statement.

The IESO is responsible for running the bidding process …

Read the full article here.

Achtung, Ontario! Renewables are a money pit

Not working out so well
Not working out so well

Germany’s experiment with wind farms and solar power a failure

Writing in the Financial Post today (not online yet), economist Brady Yauch says Ontario could have chosen a better model than Germany for a program to foster power generation from “renewable” sources. Germany, Yauch writes, “has a $412 billion lesson for Ontario.”

On the surface, there have been jobs created and renewables (including HYDRO and biomass) now produce 13% of Germany’s electricity, but “scratch a bit below the surface and an entirely different picture emerges—one with households being pushed into ‘energy poverty’ as renewable subsidies lead to soaring power bills, handouts to the country’s big businesses and exporters so they can avoid paying those subsidies and a systematic bankrupting of traditional utilities.”

“Germany’s decision to support renewable energy at all costs has, ultimately, cost the country’s ratepayers billions of dollars and led to a doubling of monthly electricity bills over the past decade,” Yauch reports.  “Households now pay the second highest rates for electricity in the EU–second only to Denmark, the world leader in wind turbines.”

The rise of renewable power has resulted in a comeback for coal in Germany, increasing to 45% of output in 2012.

Yauch concludes by saying, “The energy situation in Germany has become so disruptive and so politically untenable that the government has recently done everything it can to pull back on subsidies and other support for renewable energy, much to the dismay of renewable producers that still can’t survive on their own.

“Far from being a success, Germany’s rush into renewable energy has crushed households, taxpayers and utilities.

“Ontario needs a better model.”

Our question: Will Ontario listen? As Tom Adams said in the documentary Down Wind, “So much money has been spilled…” it will be almost impossible to go back.

In the meantime, Ontario ratepayers and rural-small-town communities pay the price for this wrong-headed and completely unfounded policy.

Letter to WCO from Premier Wynne

Received by email today, a response to our letter of June 19.:

Thank you for taking the time to share your kind words of congratulation. It is an honour and a privilege to continue serving this great province as Premier.

I have noted your comments on behalf of Wind Concerns Ontario and have shared a copy of your correspondence with my colleague the Honourable Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, for his information.

My colleagues and I are committed to building a brighter future for all the people of Ontario. We understand that being fiscally responsible is fundamental to our future, and that building a fair and inclusive society is at the heart of a more prosperous Ontario. These are the principles that will guide us as we work with you, and all our partners, to make Ontario a better place to live, work and raise a family.

When it comes to building opportunity for the people of Ontario and securing our province’s future and well-being, my colleagues and I want to hear everyone’s voice and listen to everyone’s input. That is why I am grateful for your ideas and suggestions.

Thank you again for your kind words. Please accept my best wishes.

 

Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario

Port Ryerse resident to Environment Minister Murray: please stop wind farms

Somehow this got missed in the report
Somehow this got missed in the report

Dear Mr. Murray, new Minister of the Environment,

I would like to congratulate you in your re-election and as the new Minister of the Environment. I was impressed to see your experience as Minister of Transportation and as a former mayor. At the same time I understand what challenges you will be facing in this new position dealing with the incompetence you are inheriting within that department, handed down through the entire inappropriate process created in the Green Energy Act.

This Act took away municipal powers and sidelined 21 other Acts of protection for the environment, human and wildlife habitat for the sake of wind energy development as first priority. This is also why the Liberals are facing a rebellion in rural Ontario by residents who have been ignored and bullied with no consideration as citizens in this province. I would like to suggest that you now have the opportunity to start the change of perception of your political party by doing the right thing.

First of all, you need to give back municipal powers.

Secondly, you need to cancel projects such as the Port Ryerse Windfarm that are suspect to violating any of the environmental or heritage protections within the Green Energy Act or perceived to have possible health problems for people in the area.

Thirdly, you need to change the setbacks to a minimal 2 km. from any residence.

This will be a start. I would also suggest that you back away from wind energy altogether because of the associated problems. I live in Port Ryerse, Norfolk County where we have had wind turbines since 2003 in the west part of the County. We saw the problems of IWT’s as the early experiments with wind energy were being made. We know firsthand about their inefficiency as an energy source, the way many people got sick and had to leave their homes or couldn’t sell them and sometimes sold at a huge loss as well as the inappropriate setbacks for these monstrosities. We now have another project on the eastern part of the County with 13 turbines right around a new development for retirement living, with a golf course to come and a beautiful spa and restaurant. Very sad for the people who bought there or those already living there when it comes time to sell their homes as they have already lost 25-40% of their value which is now common anywhere these things have been built. From the pier in Port Ryerse looking over the water landscape one can actually count 36 of these ugly blights on the landscape over Port Dover including the ones in Haldimand County.

Now we are in the process where you get to approve or cancel a project smack dab in the middle of the County’s lakefront to destroy entirely the landscape of Norfolk County right within the inner Bay of Long Point across from a World Heritage Biosphere Reserve and a cultural heritage landscape which was delineated in a report done for our County back in 2006 called the Untermann-McPhail report or now renamed the Lakeshore report.

Again this information has been sidelined because of the Green Energy Act and taking away municipal powers. In Norfolk County, as with many other areas of rural Ontario, we have many rivers and old dams in need of repair. We also have a local company called Green Bug out of Delhi, Norfolk County putting in hydroelectrical facilities with the Archimedes Screw around the world. They presently have a F.I.T. contract and are awaiting approval from the M.O.E. Our Council and our Heritage Committee I sit on have approved this project we deem to be safe, viable and not interfering in wildlife or human habitat. This is the kind of project we favour for our municipality and we have many other dams in need of repair this could be adapted to.

We do not want to be bullied into any more wind energy which will destroy our lakeshore landscapes and tourism as well as kill our eagles and songbirds and harm our residents and their property values. We also have 3 solar farms which already provide plenty of energy on the grid and have not posed the scale of problems like wind. The municipalities need their powers back to site appropriate electrical facilities according to their own resources and long-term plans.

Attached are some of the reports sent in to the environmental assessment group Stantec and to the M.O.E. to provide information that was not found in any reports of the wind company, UDI Renewables or Boralex. The application was flawed from the beginning when UDI made his application for the F.I.T. contract stating that this project was ”purely surrounded by agricultural land with no significant waterways, heritage or wildlife”. How can anyone miss Lake Erie? At the first public meeting with the company I asked, “What about that eroding cliff?” The answer I got from Uwe Sandner of UDI was, “What cliff?” Our cliff has been dangerously eroding over the last 100 years and especially in the 70’s and 80’s with the high waters of Lake Erie. It is a bluff of 50 feet deep which is seen from Port Dover’s pier by many tourists and locals as an iconic landscape which gave the town its name based on the “White cliffs of Dover”.

I would really like to see an end to the battle between the GTA Liberals and the rest of the province. It is time to end the war against rural Ontario. You have this opportunity. Will you side with the people or the bully money-hungry wind companies with more tribunals and lawsuits? It is time to give back municipal powers, respect those that have declared themselves “Not a Willing Host”, and save Historic Port Ryerse and rural Ontario from more devastation and energy poverty.

We will await the decision from the M.O.E. with the hope that finally there will be a change within the newly elected provincial government to start listening to and respecting its citizens and that this project and others will be CANCELLED utilizing your powers to do the right thing.

Sincerely, Shana Greatrix

Port Ryerse

WCO: MPAC study a “self-serving” exercise

WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO

STATEMENT ON MPAC 2012 ASSESSMENT BASE YEAR STUDY: “IMPACT OF INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINES ON RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY ASSESSMENT IN ONTARIO”

April 25, 2014

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation or MPAC, the independent property assessment body which reports to the Ontario Ministry of Finance, released its long awaited report on the effect of industrial wind turbines on property assessment in Ontario in mid-April.

Anyone waiting for this report, which was more than a year late in coming, was disappointed: despite studies done by real estate appraisers in Ontario showing significant loss in value for properties near wind turbines, MPAC said it “cannot conclude any loss in price” due to proximity to a wind turbine.

Wind Concerns Ontario consulted with several individuals including real estate appraisers and finance professionals about the MPAC report.

“It’s just a self-serving, bureaucratic  exercise in mathematics done by MPAC for their government masters,” said Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “The study was done by assessors, not appraisers—this was not a real-world study using on-the-ground valuation techniques such as direct comparison to property sales.”

In fact, Wilson said WCO’s advisors point out that the MPAC study actually does show a property value loss of 25%. “They claim there is no value loss, but then they present a chart that shows there is, and the effect extends out as far as five kilometers,” Wilson said.

What they left out

What MPAC left out of the study is more interesting than what’s in it, says Wind Concerns Ontario.

Here’s a summary:

-MPAC studied areas near turbines 1.5 megawatts or larger in capacity—this excludes areas with older, less powerful but still large-scale turbines; these are areas where studies by independent real estate professionals have indicated significant property value loss.

-MPAC used only sales after 2008, which means for areas like Kincardine and Ripley, the damage was already done, and is reflected in the data they are using for comparison

-MPAC chose not to include properties that are now vacant, such as those that have been purchased by wind power developers as they have become uninhabitable

-MPAC left out the sales that would have been most informative, i.e., those that sold for significantly less than their assessed values and surely demanded some further investigation before being dismissed.

-MPAC as assessors study sales data only—there is no data on houses listed for sale that do not sell, or which are on the market for extended periods of time

U.S.-based real estate appraiser Mike McCann examined the study and concluded that the assessors went against their own professional standards for assessment methodology: “the IAAO (International Association of Assessing Officers) standards discourage regression analysis and instead recommend the use of paired sales methodology, with direct, detailed comparisons of individual sales data, near and far from the environmental disamenity in question,” he said. MPAC’s regression studies actually show a loss of property value, he explains, when the raw data is sorted by distance, yet the authors somehow concluded there was no impact on value.

The real meaning of MPAC’s report

Prior to the Green Energy Act being passed in 2009, countless municipalities asked the Ontario government for economic analysis of the impact of wind power projects on their communities. “They never got that,” says Jane Wilson. “And the Auditor General in his 2011 annual report said Ontario never did a cost-benefit analysis for the impact of wind power generation projects on Ontario’s economy—we never got that either.

“This government doesn’t want the public to know the true impact of its decision to rush into large-scale industrial wind power on Ontario’s small towns and rural communities—property value loss would be one metric of just how badly this decision has harmed our economy.”

Instead, Wilson says, “ MPAC obliged its government masters by coming up with this flawed and self-serving study that was designed to produce a specific result, which will doubtless now be used by the government and its wind power industry partner to put a ‘chill’ on requests for re-assessment, and on legal actions based on lost property value.”

CONTACT

Jane Wilson WCO.president@gmail.com

MPAC study available here.

MPAC sales chart showing loss of value: http://www.mpac.ca/pdf/AppendixD2.pdf

 

 

 

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