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.
“We’re big, you’re small”: community leader on fight for the environment vs huge developer
September 27, 2019
Residents of North Stormont, between Ottawa and Cornwall, are now seeing the reality of having lost their fight against a giant power developer. Citizens spent over $100,000 to bring forward their concerns about damage to the environment and human health over having huge wind turbines erected in their communities, only to have the Environmental Review Tribunal (operating under an almost no-win set of rules) turn against them.
The Nation Rise wind power project is going up.
Access roads have been built, foundations are being poured, and the massive turbine parts have arrived by ship at the nearby Port of Johnstown.
Many people in the community don’t want the project, Ontario doesn’t need the electrical power, and wind power is now widely seen as an expensive, unreliable source of intermittent power, produced out of phase with real demand.
The project is being developed by EDP Renewables, which had revenues of 1.8B Euro in 2018; it was purchased by Axium Infrastructure, a large portfolio management company with 100 projects in North America, including K2 Wind in Ontario.*
And it’s tough to watch this happen when several other wind power projects were cancelled early on in the new Ford government.
Veteran Ottawa Citizen columnist Kelly Egan visited North Stormont this week, and his story is here.
Concerned Citizens chair Margaret Benke, 63, a retired [school] principal and lifelong resident of the area, was asked if opponents felt like they were viewed as a bunch of “kooks” who just don’t get it.
“Of course,” she said Thursday. The attitude, she elaborated, is: “We know, you don’t, we’re smart, you’re dumb, we’re big, you’re small.”
What Benke and others know, however, especially, from experiences in other parts of Ontario, is that the noise from big wind turbines is often an annoyance, that there is suspicion that vibrations are affecting the soil and possibly livestock and that wells could be affected both by digging the infrastructure and a constantly humming terrain.
(It is, indeed, a deep rabbit hole: what about so-called infrasound, stuff we can’t hear?; or shadow flickers, ice tossing from the blades; the effect on birds, bats, cows; the leaking of voltage into the ground.) On top of which, opponents say, Ontario doesn’t even need more power production.
In an oft-cited study that is being read different ways, Health Canada reported in 2014 that 16.5 per cent of respondents were “highly annoyed” when the turbine noise was at its highest level, but the investigation found no links to major health impacts.
And there is another important consideration. The project has created divisions in the community. “It has created an incredible rift,” said Benke, “and it is only just beginning.”
Wind Concerns Ontario is in the process of acquiring the noise reports filed with the Ontario environment ministry for 2017 and 2018. The 2018 data is due to arrive shortly but the 2017 request has already been the subject of one appeal based on a refusal to comply, and WCO has just filed another appeal.
*K2 Wind was recently found non-compliant with Ontario noise regulations for wind turbines and is under a Director’s Order for noise abatement related to the operation of more than 80 of its 140 turbines.
Citizens are still fighting a huge, risky wind power development, but their MPP has given up
McDonell: it’s Premier Wynne’s fault
September 17, 2019
MPP Jim McDonell published a letter in today’s Nation Valley News, claiming the 100-megawatt Nation Rise wind power project is too far gone to stop now. In fact, he says, it was too far in development last year to stop.
This will disappoint many people of North Stormont, who pursued every avenue to halt the project including a formal appeal. Legal costs are in the area of $100,000, money which has been raised by volunteers through bake sales, silent auctions and breakfast events throughout the project area.
In fact, while MPP McDonell was throwing in the towel ringside, the concerned citizens have a last-ditch appeal on the desk of the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
During the formal appeal held last year before the Environmental Review Tribunal, concerns were raised about the fact that many of the turbines will be built on a provincially designated “highly vulnerable aquifer” and that there are thousands of complaints about excessive wind turbine noise produced by wind turbines throughout Ontario.
‘Forced upon the people of North Stormont by the previous Wynne gov’t’
Our government was elected on a promise to reduce the costs of electricity for the people of Ontario. One of our first actions as government was to wind down over 750 surplus renewable contracts to avoid long-term costs and save $790 million.
Last fall, we repealed the Green Energy Act to ensure that expensive renewable energy projects would never be forced on to unwilling communities again, and returned local decision-making powers to municipalities.
The Nation Rise Project, like many industrial wind farms across rural Ontario, was a project forced upon the people of North Stormont by the previous Wynne government. The Liberal Government made it their mission to expand renewable energy at an unsustainable rate, resulting in unaffordable contracts for surplus power.
Moving forward, we have taken a responsible approach by winding down renewable energy contracts that have not achieved key Development Milestones (KDM). The Nation Rise Wind Farm project obtained a Large Renewable Procurement contract in 2016. This project was at an advanced state of development, and had already achieved confirmation of its KDMs so it was not one of the contracts eligible for wind down. Unlike the previous Liberal government, our government is committed to respecting our taxpayer’s dollars and we cannot in good conscience, add additional costs to an already unaffordable electricity bill.
The province is ending the contracts where the costs outweigh the benefits. These actions will ensure that ratepayers are not paying for electricity that we don’t need, at a cost that we cannot afford.
Jim McDonell Member of Provincial Parliament Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry
New from the Fraser Institute is a report on renewable energy and the consequences of political encouragement of variable power sources.
The abstract is below but be sure to read the full report. A paragraph of page 6 is particularly damning of Ontario’s energy policy:
” … proponents of wind and solar power intentionally misrepresent the advantages of these technologies by focussing attention solely on the costs and benefits obtained whenever electricity is being generated. The costs of wind and solar power are considerably higher and the environmental benefits much lower when account is taken of the impact these technologies have on an entire electricity system. Ultimately, consumers do not pay for electricity generated using wind and sunlight but for electricity that is delivered to them continuously by the electricity system as a whole. Therefore, when VRE is introduced into an electricity system, ratepayers are interested in its system-wide impact, not just the cost of the wind and solar power entering the grid. The additional conventional generating capacity required to provide back-up electricity supply when VRE capacity is not generating electricity because of a lack of wind or sunshine is a significant incremental cost to the system.”
Generating Electricity in Canada from Wind and Sunlight: Is Getting Less for More Better than Getting More for Less?
Using wind and sunlight to generate electricity is controversial. Advocates urge increased reliance on these variable renewable energy (VRE) sources because they are seen as a low-cost way of mitigating a looming climate-change crisis. Critics take the opposite stance, claiming wind and solar power are costly, and the environmental benefits negligible at best. Some Canadian provinces have gone to considerable lengths to encourage adoption of these technologies, but the results have been mixed.
This study shows that both positions contain elements of truth. Electricity generated using wind and sunshine is relatively inexpensive. However, once the capacity is in place, it is only available at certain times of the day and/or when the weather cooperates. But consumers require a reliable electricity supply and integrating VRE into existing electricity systems while maintaining a continuous and reliable supply is complicated and costly, both financially and environmentally. Electricity consumers and taxpayers are interested primarily in the financial burden that results from efforts to increase electricity generating capacity using VRE sources. This includes the costs wind and solar power impose on the electricity system as a whole, not just the cost of the VRE-generated electricity supplied to the grid.
The incremental financial costs to the system fall into three basic categories: first, augmenting existing conventional generating capacity so that it is able to compensate for the unreliable supply of wind and solar power. Second, ensuring that the necessary investment in conventional generating capacity is forthcoming although the VRE in the system makes it impossible to use this capacity efficiently. This requirement is usually satisfied either with a capacity market or contracts with suppliers of conventional generating capacity. Third, adding transmission grid capacity and the configuration of grid services required to integrate VRE into the electricity system. Each category has repercussions for the environment. Cheap electricity from wind turbines and solar panels paradoxically results in larger bills for electricity users and taxpayers. Higher utility rates for businesses and households and higher taxes and cutbacks to public services dampen economic activity and reduce living standards.
Compared to conventional power sources, small and variable amounts of electricity are generated when wind and solar energy are captured and transformed by a dispersed array of VRE installations. Large areas of land, often in remote locations, are required. This inevitably results in significant additional costs in terms of delivery infrastructure (for example, high-voltage power lines) and back-up power generation (for example, natural-gas-powered turbines) that would not otherwise be incurred. The first part of this study examines how electricity systems work in order to evaluate the contradictory claims made about VRE. Whether or not wind and solar power are clean and cheap depends on how the evaluation is framed. Critics point out that the economic and environmental costs of the electricity generated using wind and solar technologies can be quite different from the impact of this source of electricity on a system-wide basis.
The second part of the study shows how the system-wide costs and benefits of adding wind and solar power to an existing electricity system are affected by the policies of provincial governments, the cost of electricity, the conventional generating assets already in place, and the structure of the electricity system. Comparing experiences with VRE in different provinces illustrates the importance of these factors.
Cross-Canada comparisons show that electricity utilities themselves are usually best placed to determine whether or not the system-wide cost of these technologies is justified. Prior to 2015, Alberta demonstrated how a competitive wholesale market for electricity determined the extent to which wind and solar energy is economically feasible. Neither is the involvement of provincial governments necessarily a bad thing. Prince Edward Island has successfully integrated a substantial amount of wind power into its electricity system under unique circumstances: a provincial Crown corporation operates several wind farms but the rest of the electricity system is privately or municipally owned. Problems arise when dramatic increases in wind and solar power receive political sanction and the economic consequences are underestimated or ignored. A bold initiative to increase wind and solar generating capacity in the Ontario electricity system backfired badly, leading to soaring electricity rates for both consumers and manufacturers. Between 2015 and 2019, the Alberta government worked towards installing even more wind and solar capacity than had proved politically and economically unsustainable in Ontario, but the electorate allowed that government only a single term in office.
A policy should be judged by whether or not the chosen means have delivered the promised ends. Our review of Canadian wind and solar energy policy shows that they led to consequences consistent with those in other jurisdictions: ramping up electricity production using these power sources results in increased costs for taxpayers and consumers when account is taken of the impact these technologies have on the electricity system as a whole and, when done on any significant scale, generally negative and unnecessary environmental consequences.
“We get it” ministers tell community leaders from Ontario rural communities
June 2, 2019
Ontario’s Minister of Energy and Northern Development Greg Rickford attended an event at Queen’s Park sponsored by MPP Daryl Kramp (Hastings-Lennox and Addington) and hosted by Wind Concerns Ontario this week with his colleague Rod Phillips, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
Minister Rickford said the two are working together on responding to citizen concerns and reports of noise and other adverse effects from the thousands of industrial-scale wind turbines that were forced on Ontario communities by the McGuinty-Wynne governments.
“It won’t happen overnight,” Minister Rickford said, but we are dedicated to helping communities with concerns and problems with wind turbines.
In recent days, the environment ministry has determined that two large wind power projects are not in compliance with provincial noise regulations. K2 Wind is out of compliance and now the subject of a Director’s Order to implement a noise abatement plan within the next two weeks, and further, to establish firm dates for new audits to demonstrate compliance to the revised noise protocol by mid-July.
The Director has also stipulated that K2 Wind, which is owned now by Axium Infrastructure, must review resident complaints as part of its response.
The Order, the requirements for immediate noise abatement, and the acknowledgement of resident concerns mark a significant departure from how complaints were managed by the previous government, which treated the wind power operators as their “Client” and failed to respond to the majority of complaints. Response to complaints about noise and other effects is a requirement of Renewable Energy Approvals.
The “Windlectric” project on Amherst Island was also determined to be out of compliance; Wind Concerns Ontario is unaware of a Director’s Order for that project.
The Energy Minister said that cancelling the contracts with wind power operators was difficult and likely not possible, but the government was taking other action to deal with problems. Minister Phillips said they are very aware of the problems being experienced.
“We need more material from you,” he said, speaking to community leaders from across Ontario.
Many of the MPPs who have wind turbines in their ridings attended the event including Lisa Thompson (MInister of Education), Rick Nicholls (Deputy Speaker), Laurie Scott (Minister of Labour), Sam Oosterhoff, Jeff Yurek (Minister of Transportation) and of course, Daryl Kramp, who sponsored the information event. Other MPPs attending were Daisy Wai, Belinda Kalaharios, Michael Parsa, Robin Martin and Effie Triantafilopolous (both Parliamentary Assistants to the Minister of Health), Dave Smith, Doug Downey, Goldie Ghamari, Logan Kanapathi, Vijay Thanigasala, Will Bouma, Jim McDonell, and Jane McKenna.
Senior staff members for MPPs also attended the event.
“When the Green Energy Act was passed in 2009, Premier Dalton McGuinty promised action to address any concerns about health and safety associated with wind turbines,” said WCO president Jane Wilson. “That’s not what happened — today, we have thousands upon thousands of complaints filed with government about noise and other effects, and the former government did almost nothing.”
Minister Lisa Thompson, who was environment critic while the PC party was in Opposition, told WCO president Jane Wilson, “I think about this every single day–I have been with you from the beginning.”
MPP Rick Nicholls, who has many turbines in his Chatham-Kent riding, said the reality of wind turbines has resonated with the public which no longer believes the mythology about impact-free, “green” wind power generators. He referred to the defeat of the pro-wind Chatham-Kent mayor as a sign of the public’s changed attitude.
“I think they get it that there are concerns,” said Stewart Halliday of Grey Highlands, who is vice-chair of the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group, and who came to represent municipal concerns about noise and safety issues. “They reassured us and now they are starting to take action with K2 and Amherst Island.”
Posters were presented around the room, outlining major concerns and suggestions for government action. A slide show featured pictures from wind turbine projects all over Ontario including Amherst Island, Bow Lake, K2 Wind, Bluewater, Belle River, and Chatham-Kent.
A WCO member and resident of West Lincoln wrote to WCO after the event to say “spirits were uplifted” for area residents after the ministers’ statements and recent actions by the MECP.
The win by Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) on Tuesday may mean changes ahead for the corporate wind power industry’s aggressive plans for the province.
According to industry publication Windpower, Premier-designate Jason Kenney has said he will not hold a new auction for renewable energy sources in Alberta.
Mr. Kenney has said he does not support the subsidies for renewable power and prefers a “market-driven” approach, instead.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) stated it “looks forward to working with the new government to ensure market-driven approaches are in place” to aid wind power development.
CanWEA also says that wind power in Alberta is a very competitive 3.7 cents per kWH but Ontario energy commentator Parker Gallant says that ignores a variety of subsidies. In Ontario, the cost of wind power must factor in the cost of wasting other forms of emissions-free power because the wind power companies negotiated “first to the grid” rights.
In a recent meeting with senior officials in the Ontario Ministry of Health, members of Wind Concerns Ontario executive were told that “not that many people” are affected by wind turbines in Ontario.
We launched a research project to estimate the numbers of people now forced to live with wind turbines and discovered:
THOUSANDS Ontario citizens are living near turbines, and inside turbine arrays in wind power generation projects.
Going back over project documents and wind power developer noise impact estimates, we learned that in fact, there are over 30,000 homes located within 1,500 metres of a wind turbine in Ontario. Applying a conservative figure of 2.5 people per residence, that means that 91,300 people are exposed to the highest levels of noise, vibration and other wind turbine noise emissions.
In other words, the number of people being exposed to wind turbine noise is equivalent to the population of the City of Pickering.
“This puts an end to the notion that there are only a few people in Ontario living next to these industrial power generators,” says Jane Wilson, RN, president of the Wind Concerns Ontario community group coalition. “We know from the calls and emails we get that there are many people in Ontario suffering from exposure to the noise. At a minimum, they have sleepless nights from the noise they can hear. At worst, they have other problems including severe headaches, vertigo and cardiovascular symptoms.
“This is a major public health problem that is being ignored.”
Wind turbine noise regulations* only apply to homes within 1,500 metres; the government has assumed that beyond this distance, people will not experience any effects of wind turbine noise emissions.
Records of noise complaints dispute this, however, and even the poorly designed Health Canada report on wind turbine noise indicates that problems persist beyond the 1,500-metre distance.
So, what does that mean in terms of the likelihood of adverse health impacts from the noise produced by the huge power generators?
Strong health impacts
According to a paper published in 2012 by the Acoustic Ecology Institute, “up to 20 percent of nearby neighbours [of turbines] are strongly impacted with sleep disruption, stress issues, and their sense of home and place is forever changed.” The paper notes that some impacts may be “extreme” and result in noticeable changes to health status.
The Ontario government was aware of this very early on in its wind power program, when a report by consultants under contract to the McGuinty government contained this statement:
“The audible sound from wind turbines is nonetheless expected to result in a non-trivial percentage of persons being highly annoyed.** As with sounds from many sources, research has shown that annoyance associated with sound for wind turbines can be expected to contribute to stress-related health impacts in some persons …”
Today, the Ontario government has records of thousands of reports of excessive wind turbine noise and vibration, which are largely unresolved. In a review of Master Incident Reports prepared by Provincial Environmental Officers, Wind Concerns Ontario discovered that 35 percent of the files contained notations from the officers about adverse health effects from the noise emissions reported.
Burden on healthcare system
Many people seek medical attention for the symptoms being experienced due to the exposure to wind turbine noise, and often have many interactions with our healthcare system. For example, one member of one family reported multiple visits to the family physician who arranged both MRI and CT scans and consultations with audiology, ear, nose and throat, as well as neurology specialists. The cost to the healthcare system to investigate the physical effects of exposure to wind turbine noise in just one person is considerable.
The Nation Rise power project in North Stormont will add hundreds more people exposed to wind turbine noise, with virtually every resident in a nearby hamlet living within 1,500 metres of a turbine. The project is being appealed currently to Environment Minister Rod Phillips.
Sample of Ontario wind power projects and the number of receptors within 1,500 metres
# of turbines
# of “receptors”/houses
# of People
Melancthon 1 and 2
Niagara Region Wind
Note: Receptor numbers based on Noise Reports prepared by the proponent as part of the REA approval process. Population estimates were reached by applying a factor of 2.5 per residence. Vacant receptors were not included in this survey. Source: Wind Concerns Ontario
Copyright: Wind Concerns Ontario
*Section 6.2.4 of Ontario’s Noise Guidelines for wind power facilities
**”Annoyance” in this context is used as a medical term denoting stress or distress.
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Wind power lobby cajoles Ontario to ignore all the problems and take another chance on invasive, problem-ridden wind turbines.
April 2, 2019
Canada’s lobbyist and trade association for the wind power development industry, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), has just launched its campaign to make the Ontario government reconsider its position on wind power.
On Sunday, March 31st, CanWEA published a blog post entitled “Why wind energy is Ontario’s best option for new electricity supply.”
Ontario director Brandy Gianetta then lists five points.
Not a single one of them is true.
But here’s what is true:
Wind doesn’t work.
Everyone wants the best for the environment, and we all want “clean” electricity, but here’s what we know about the giant wind experiment in Ontario over its 13-year history:
Industrial-scale wind turbines have a high impact on the environment for no benefit
Wind power never replaced any form of power generation: coal was replaced by nuclear and natural gas
Wind power is intermittent, and produced out-of-phase with demand in Ontario; the Coalition for Clean & Reliable Energy notes that almost 70% of wind power is wasted in Ontario … but we have to pay for it anyway.
Wind is not “low-cost”; claims of 3.7 cents per kWh prices from Alberta ignore government subsidies. Wind power contracts are a significant factor in Ontario’s high electricity bills, and the trend to “energy poverty.”
Wind power has had multiple negative impacts in Ontario, including thousands of complaints of excessive noise reported to government. These have not been resolved, and many power projects may be out of compliance with their approvals; enforcement of the regulations is needed.
The promised jobs bonanza never happened.
In fact, a cost-benefit/impact analysis was never done for Ontario’s wind power program, according to two Auditors General.
Ontario doesn’t need more power now says the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), but if we did, why choose an intermittent, unreliable source of power that has so many negative side effects?
Independent MPP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell Amanda Simard rose in the Legislature at Queen’s Park yesterday to ask the Ontario energy minister whether he could confirm that the “Eastern Fields” wind power project in The Nation was actually cancelled.
The project was on a list of “cancelled” projects announced last July by the Minister, Simard said, but residents were shocked to learn the project has now been granted a 20-year licence to generate electricity by the Ontario Energy Board.
Is this project cancelled, “yes or no,” the MPP pressed the Minister, in two questions.
“This has been a difficult file,” Rickford answered, and then followed up with boilerplate comments on the Ford government being “committed” to reducing electricity rates for Ontario businesses and consumers.
So, in other words, no: he cannot confirm the project is cancelled.
Because it isn’t.
In an email received by Wind Concerns Ontario and community group Save The Nation, program evaluator Sarah Raetsen, with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, said:
The government has not cancelled these renewable energy projects or any renewable energy approvals (REAs) that they have obtained (with the exception of the White Pines Wind Project). Winding down of the IESO contracts does not mean automatic cancellation of REA applications currently with the ministry – these are two separate matters.
At this time, the MECP is still undertaking the technical review of the REA application for Eastern Fields Wind Project.
See MPP Simard’s question here, at minute 27 onward.
The fact the people of The Nation believed the project was cancelled means they have lost seven months of valuable time in which they could have been gathering data on the environmental impact of the power project, and contacting subject matter experts to prepare for any legal action they might take.
The project has been proposed to provide a potential of 32 megawatts of intermittent power, at a cost of more than $130 million to the people of Ontario over 20 years.
In an article in local paper The Review, an RES Canada spokesperson said the Eastern Fields project was “on hold” and could not offer details as to the company’s plans, but suggested that RES had spent “millions” developing the project. That number is very high, considering the project is in development, and only at the application stage: no actual physical work toward construction has been done.
For more information on the community group Save The Nation/Sauvons La Nation, please go here.