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.
Letters to Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Minister and wind power developer about disturbing strobe effect go unheeded
July 31, 2017
Wherever Environment Minister Glen Murray is this morning, we’re sure this isn’t what he’s seeing in his home.
The video is of shadow flicker experienced in a home in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, Ontario, produced by a wind turbine in the K2 wind power project.
The family is just one of several complaining of shadow flicker or strobe effect produced by nearby wind turbines. It is disturbing and annoying, and can be a safety factor for anyone operating heavy machinery while it’s going on.
Fixing it is a simple matter: but the company won’t and despite their mandate of protecting the public, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change won’t insist that they do.
The family has sent letters to Minister Glen Murray*, the Spills Action Line, the K2 power developer, and Owen Sound District Office director Rick Chappell — no action.
It may be a good morning in downtown Toronto, but in rural Ontario, another day or torment is just beginning…
*Minister Murray resigned yesterday evening, July 30.
Government promises help on water issues, no action on noise pollution
July 30, 2017
Last week, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne visited Chatham-Kent and was met by protesters with a variety of complaints about her government, including high electricity bills, and the problems with water quality possibly due to vibrations produced by wind turbines in the area.
Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault also met with citizens in Chatham-Kent, and promised that complaints would be dealt with by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).
This is the same government, indeed the same ministry, that promised to deal with reports of noise and other effects from industrial-scale wind turbines.
In 2009, then Premier Dalton McGuinty said that if there were “real concerns” about environmental issues, then they must be brought to the government and “we must find a way to address those.” (Toronto Star, February 11, 2009)
The fact is, according to the MOECC’s own records, obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario under Freedom of Information and Privacy legislation, the government knew in 2006 there were problems being experienced by people living near wind turbines. During the years 2006-2014, more than 3,100 formal reports were recorded, many of which entailed so many complaints that large “Master” files were created.
The result? NO action in 54% of the files, “planned” action in 31%, and deferred action in 14%. Only one percent of the files got “priority” response.
To this day, compliance audits are not filed, resident reports of noise pollution and health impacts (noted by MOECC staff in 59/100 master files) are not acted on, and instead of listening to and acting on citizen concerns as promised by Premier McGuinty, the MOECC’s “client” is the wind power industry …. not the people of Ontario.
Despite claims by Minister Glen Murray that there few actual reports, and a promise of action on the ones he does have, little substantive action has occurred since the release of our report May 31, and the airing of a Global News investigative report in June.
Moreover, in a clear demonstration of willful blindness, the government persists in granting more contracts and approvals to new wind power projects.
Glasses of black water in Chatham-Kent make it easy to see that there is a problem, but we still see no accountability in this government, or the MOECC.
Read the WCO report on wind turbine noise complaints and how the government manages the issues while not responding, here: NoiseResponseReport-FINAL-May9
Ontario’s plan to double its wind energy capacity will make a bad situation worse, according to a report published by the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy.
There is already so much intermittent wind [power] generation in the Great Lakes Region that demand is over-supplied, prices are collapsing and generation must be curtailed, said the report released in June by the council, a non-profit organization formed by volunteers from universities, public sector business leaders, and labour.
The report’s author Marc Brouillette, a principal consultant at Strategic Policy Economics, calls on the province to reconsider its commitment to ongoing deployment of wind resources.
“Analysis shows that wind intermittency makes it an unproductive and expensive choice that doesn’t meet customers’ needs and also undermines the price of electricity exports,” says the report titled Ontario’s High-Cost Millstone.
The opportunity to pull back from the plan to expend wind energy comes this summer when Ontario updates its long-term energy plan.
A key part of the problem with wind energy, according to the report, is that it is misaligned with demand because of its intermittent nature.
Ontario’s energy use is highest in the winter and summer and lowest in spring and late fall.
“This is almost a mirror image of wind production patterns: wind is highest in the spring and fall, when electricity needs are lowest, and lowest in summer when electricity demand peaks,” the report notes.
The result is that two-thirds of wind [power] generation is surplus to demand and must be wasted or dissipated either through forced curtailment of hydro and nuclear generation, or by increased exports to Quebec and the United States, generally at low prices.
… Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of citizens’ groups critical of Ontario’s wind energy program, said the report underscores what two Auditors General told the McGuinty and Wynne governments — they should not have launched the program without any cost-benefit analysis.
“Now, Ontarians are paying four times as much for wind power which is very invasive and has had a huge impact on rural communities for very little benefit. The need for more fossil fuel natural gas to back it up means it is not even achieving the simple environmental goals.
“For people living with the noise and vibration of the huge turbines interfering with their lives, this is outrageous,” Wilson said.
No new wind power approvals should be granted, and development of projects not yet in operation should be halted, she said.
Brandy Gianetta, Ontario regional director for the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said the report fails to fully recognize that wind energy is making a significant contribution to Ontario’s electricity supply needs today and this contribution will only grow in future years.
CanWEA contends that Ontario should be securing the lowest [cost] non-greenhouse gas emitting electricity to fill the gap and ensure it can meet its climate goals.
“Wind energy, which is now the least-cost option for new electricity generation available in Ontario, is the best available resource to meet both of those needs, Gianetta said in an email.
FACT CHECK: wind power contributes about 6% of Ontario’s electricity supply, at four times the cost of other power sources; wind power is not the “lowest-cost” option—the turbines are cheap to build but there are many other costs associated with wind power and its intermittency; wind power cannot replace hydro and nuclear—the fact is, coal was replaced by nuclear and natural gas, a fossil-fuel-based power source. Ms Gianetta did not trot out the usual wind industry myth of massive job creation in Ontario because that has proven not to be true, here as in other jurisdictions. Jobs are short-term and related to construction activity, in the main. Other costs associated with wind power such as property value loss, effects on tourism, and human costs in terms of effects on health, have never been calculated.
An independent wildlife researcher with a degree in wildlife biology and 50 years experience tracking raptors, has written a critique of the wildlife assessment done by consulting firm Stantec, for a New York wind power project in St. Lawrence County.
Stantec has also been the consultant of record for environmental assessments done by many wind power developers hoping for approval of projects in Ontario.
While it is unfortunate that the researcher felt he/she had to choose not to attach his/her name to the document, the comments in it are interesting, and may point to an approval process that is geared toward success for the power developers.
Speaking generally on the surveys of raptors (hawks, eagles) to be used by Stantec for the wind power project, the author of the paper said, “they [defy] logic and are not based upon sound scientific research. These Stantec surveys are supposed to identify bird, bat and raptor usage in and around the North Ridge Wind Energy project, yet these surveys are designed to miss much of this species usage by breeding and migratory species. Stantec gives no reasoning for choosing the flawed and inadequate methodology planned for these studies.”
The author accuses Stantec of choosing to do a survey only of spring migration for the birds while birds are actually at greater risk in the fall because they are moving more slowly (there is not the push to build a nest and raise this year’s offspring), and because there are young birds making the trip for the first time. “It defies all logic,” the writer says.
As to surveys of breeding birds, Stantec’s timing is several months too late, and is very limited — a “keyhole” approach, the writer says. “This keyhole approach will miss most of the opportunities to observe nesting activities because nesting activities for some species start in January. For adult geese, this activity begins in late winter as soon as waters open up. This keyhole approach will also miss or eliminate all the vital migratory bird species data and site usage in the fall.”
Bats and the mounting kills seen at turbine sites are a concern but Stantec again designed its work for this power project to find no risk, the author says. “After all this lengthy Stantec discussion and distorted reasoning, this planned bat survey was designed to miss what is probably the most utilized and most important bat habitat located in the project site. Bats are attracted to wetlands and bodies of water because of the abundance of insects. Look at the image below and note the two reds circles. ”
The author provides a map that shows where the bat habitat is, and the study area done by Stantec.
The company’s post-operational survey work is deeply flawed too, the author says, and refers to work done at Wolfe Island, which is now known as a wind power project with one of the highest kill rates for birds in North America. But could the numbers be higher still?
The author of this paper says Stantec’s insistence on checking for carcasses very near to the turbines is giving false numbers: “The Wolfe Island studies conducted by Stantec reported hundreds of carcasses with just several reported beyond 50 meters. I believe the furthest carcasses distance reported was 59 meters. For 400 ft tall turbines this is not reality and it is simply not possible. What is possible is that 50-80% of the carcasses were not reported and this was never disclosed. The wind industry’s own data proves that any carcass hit by a turbine blade has a much better than 50/50 odds or 1 of 2 chance of this carcass landing at a distance beyond a turbines blade length.
Community groups who know their environment well have insisted that the wildlife studies being done are not realistic. On Amherst Island, for example, where more than 30 endangered or at-risk species shelter and where many thousands of migratory birds stop, the risk was determined to be negligible. In the Niagara area, the presence of a known Blandings Turtle habitat was dismissed, and the power project approved.
Once again, it appears that Ontario and the wind power industry — both well funded — are counting on citizens not to have the expertise or the resources to present the truth about wind power projects, and danger to the natural environment.
Thousands of noise complaints remain unresolved in Ontario.
In the current edition of Ontario Farmer is this story by writer John Miner.
Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change received thousands of formal complaints from people living near industrial wind turbines, but did little about it, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to wind farm development is charging.
“People really trusted the government and they were let down,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario.
Two years after filing a Freedom of Information request for summaries of noise complaints received by the ministry, Wind Concerns Ontario was provided 450 pages* covering the period 2006 to 2014.
In that period, the Ministry logged 3,180 complaints with people reporting they were suffering from sleep disturbance, headaches, dizziness and other illnesses.
Some people said they had been unable to sleep for days, sometimes weeks.
In some cases, the Ministry arbitrarily dismissed complaints. In others, they closed the file without investigating if the complainant quit calling, Wilson said.
No action to revise regulations
In a 27-page report based on the documents released, Wind Concerns Ontario said there is absolutely no indication that the Ministry took the complaints seriously, and took any steps to review and revise existing regulations and processes. based on real-life experiences of the people of Ontario.
Responding to the report, a Ministry spokesperson said in an emailed statement that they take all complaints seriously and follow up to ensure that the facility is in compliance with all provincial requirements.
“Our priority is to protect public health and the environment by promoting and ensuring compliance with ministry rules and requirements,” the Ministry Statement said.
Wilson said Ministry staff in the early days attempted to investigate noise complaints and sometimes recommended action be taken against the wind farm, but that was overruled by more senior staff.
Computer modeling, not real-life measurement
As the complaints piled up, the Ministry started to rely ion computer modeling provided by wind farm companies to determine if there might be a basis for a complaint, the report found.
“They kept saying, we went too the power developer and according to the predictive noise modeling this can’t be happening and therefore it isn’t, and took no action,” Wilson said.
A standard adopted by the Ministry based on information from wind farm developers was that no one could hear a wind turbine beyond 1,500 metres. Therefore, there was no need to respond to a complaint if more distance was involved.
Ministry staff were not allowed to investigate complaints at night and when there was high humidity. The equipment they had for measuring noise could not be used when temperatures were below zero degrees Celsius.
“We don’t blame the staff in any way. Some of the officers really seemed to want to help,” Wilson said.
Wind Concerns Ontario is calling on the Ontario government to halt wind farm approvals and adopt tougher noise standards.
Wind Concerns Ontario also hopes to be able to meet with Ontario Minister of the Environment Glen Murray to discuss the report.
EDITOR’S NOTE: the 450 pages were Master Incident files, comprised of files with multiple Incident Reports, some as many as 90 reports of excessive noise, vibration, and health effects
Environment Minister says health concerns “bogus” — staff acknowledge health problems in official records
Last week, following a report by Global News based on information obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario, there was a barrage of questions in Question Period at Queen’s Park on wind power projects and related issues, including reports of adverse health effects from exposure to the noise emissions from the power generators.
In response to a question from MPP Laurie Scott of Haliburton-Kawartha-Brock, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray tossed back:
This government spent a considerable amount of money hiring the leading experts and doing medical research, as did the federal government, and found out the totality of the opposition party’s claims were completely bogus and like so much, not science-based.
In fact, the “science” the Minister Murray refers to, including the Health Canada study, supports concerns about adverse health effects from wind turbine noise, and the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario produced a brief review in 2010 that concluded that there were significant gaps in the information available at that time (seven years ago) and that actual noise measurement was needed.
But what the Minister seems not to know, says Wind Concerns Ontario, is that his own staff are aware of people experiencing health effects from wind turbine noise, according to official staff notes included in the information received n the Freedom of Information request. That information consisted of 3,180 Incident Reports and 100 Master Incident reports; several of the Master files contain dozens of reports to the government about the turbine noise and vibration, and include staff observations.
“It is very disturbing that a Minister of the Crown could be so dismissive of the health concerns of Ontario citizens,” Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson wrote in a letter to Minister Murray, sent yesterday. “While the view that there is no link between wind turbine noise emissions and any health effects may be that of the wind power development industry and its trade association, it is not supported by the Master Incident complaint records that your Ministry released to Wind Concerns Ontario via a request under Freedom of Information legislation.”
Of the 100 Master files, 59 contain specific reference to health complaints, Wilson said, chiefly loss of sleep, headache, and feelings of “pressure.” Some people reported not having slept for weeks, due to the noise.
“It is therefore completely inaccurate to say that there are no health effects from wind turbine noise in Ontario,” Wind Concerns advised the Minister.
In several records, staff noted that wind turbine noise exceeded regulations: ““Staff have attended at the complainants homes on multiple occasions … noise measurements were obtained…subjective observations were made by Provincial Officers…the conclusion of the POs were that the noise emissions from the wind turbines were causing an adverse effect contrary to S. 14 (1) of the EPA at the complainants locations…”
““…the conclusions of the Provincial Officers who conducted the inspections that the sound discharged into the natural environment by the wind turbines would cause an adverse effect…” was the staff note in another official record.
Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of 30 community groups and individuals and families, is asking that no new Renewable Energy Approvals be granted to wind power projects — five projects received contracts in 2016 but which do not have approval yet from the Environment Ministry.
“You have to ask why the government is treating the wind power industry and these huge corporations differently from other businesses,” Wilson says. “If this were any other product or service, with thousands of complaints, there would be a halt to exposure… instead, the Ontario government refers to the wind corporations as its ‘client’. We think the government should answer to the people of Ontario.”
“What happens in Ontario when you report wind turbine noise?” asks Global National News reporter Shirlee Engel in a two-part special report? “Not much…”
Global News’ investigative team aired the two-part story last week, based on information obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change under access through Freedom of Information legislation.
The report was repeated this past weekend on Global’s news feature, Focus Ontario.
A story by Associate Producer Brian Hill is available online here.
Carla Stachura and her husband Mike thought they’d found the perfect spot to retire.
A house in rural Ontario where they run a wildlife sanctuary with lamas and a variety of birds, and planned to spend their retirement years enjoying the peace and quiet of country life.
But that dream was shattered when wind turbines began popping up near their Goderich, Ont. home. Since then, their dream has become a nightmare. The couple says they’ve been unable to sleep and exposed to prolonged periods of annoying noise. Adding to their frustration, they say the provincial government won’t lift a finger to help them, other than order more tests.
The couple purchased the property in 2003. They say it was paradise until the K2 Wind Farm, operated by Pattern Energy, started operations in the spring of 2015.
The Stachura’s complaints of government inaction are not unique. In fact, Global News has learned that Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change does not respond to the majority of complaints made by residents concerned about wind turbines.
Documents released through Ontario’s Freedom of Information Act and obtained by Global News reveal officials from the Ministry of Environment chose not to investigate or deferred responding to – meaning they did not make immediate plans to investigate – roughly 68 per cent of all noise and health complaints lodged against wind turbine operators in the province between 2006 and 2014. This represents nearly 2,200 individual complaints.
The documents also show limited resources sometimes prevented the ministry from responding to complaints.
Originally obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario, the documents include a list of 3,180 complaints. They also include a 458-page collection of “master incident reports,” which the ministry has verified as authentic, detailing the ministry’s response – or lack thereof – in cases where residents complained multiple times.
The documents show that in 54 per cent of all cases – more than 1,700 individual complaints – the ministry did not investigate residents’ concerns. In another 450 cases, roughly 14 per cent of total incidents, the ministry deferred responding to complaints.
In most cases, the documents do not reveal why the ministry chose not to respond. Instead, they tend to focus on whether the wind farm was compliant with ministry standards or past efforts to resolve residents’ concerns.
“The lack of response from the ministry shows just how unprepared they were for the potential effects of putting these giant machines so close to people and their communities,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario. …
Read the full article here, and see video interview with Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray.
Incident reports released under Freedom of Information show government unable or unwilling to act on noise complaints from residents living near wind power projects
OTTAWA, May 31, 2017—
Documents recently released by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) under Freedom of Information show a deeply flawed process for responding to complaints of excessive noise levels from industrial-scale wind turbines, Wind Concerns Ontario says.
Documents released to Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of community groups and citizens, show that almost 3,200 reports of noise complaints were made in 2006-2014. In more than half, the government took no action.
“When Premier Dalton McGuinty brought in the Green Energy Act in 2009, he promised the people of rural Ontario to address concerns about health and safety from the turbines,” Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson said. “But they already had multiple complaints about wind turbine noise from 2006 onward, and they were unable and even unwilling to deal with them. This is failure of a government to protect people.
“Their goal appears to be protecting the interests of power development corporations instead.”
Ontario families called the MOECC hotline to report sleep disturbance, headaches, and dizziness from the wind turbine noise emissions. Some were desperate and reported not having slept for days, even weeks at a time.
The reports show, however, that ministry staff had no protocols or guidelines to deal with noise complaints and that high-level directives blocked staff from responding. Staff were told to rely on computer noise models provided by power developers instead of actual noise measurement.
“The noise models said that the turbine noise levels were safe, and within regulations,” Wilson explains, “but complaints continued — the Ministry did nothing. The MOECC chose power developers, their ‘clients,’ over Ontario families.”
Many reports referred to vibration or “pulsing” sensations from the huge turbines, but the MOECC restricted responses to audible noise alone.
“People just gave up and stopped calling,” Wilson, a Registered Nurse, says. “Then, in many cases, the Ministry simply closed their files. There was no help for these people from their government.”
A revised Compliance Protocol was released by the government on April 21, but contains no substantive change to the complaint process.
Wind Concerns Ontario recommends that no more approvals or Notices To Proceed be granted for wind power projects, and that the government develop and enforce new, tougher noise standards.
Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups, families and individuals concerned about the effects of industrial-scale wind turbines on the environment, the economy, and human health.
Victoria Day weekend in Canada is a time for picnics and fun with family and friends, for many people.
One set of grandparents living on a farm in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Township in Huron County thought that would be fun too, and were looking forward to having their two young granddaughters come and stay for a lovely weekend in the country.
But it was not to be.
Early on the morning of the holiday Sunday, the grandmother said, “there was a horrible tonal* noise — whine and whooing that made staying on the second level of our home intolerable.”
Later on that same morning, she said, she had “severe pressure and pain” in her ear.
Then, “Our eight year old granddaughter complained of a ‘sore forehead’.” The child has complained of sore ears at times in the past while visiting her grandparents’ home, but never at any other time.
Outside that morning the family discovered, the whining and whooing noise was everywhere.
“We had to leave here [our home] with those little girls,” the grandmother said.
“We have no freedom to do as we want in our private surroundings. It makes me weep.”
The family, who wishes to remain anonymous, like so many other families forced to endure the noise and vibration from wind turbines, have reported the turbine noise and vibration to authorities on numerous occasions. They live with 11 wind turbines within two kilometres of their home, the closest of which is just over 700 metres from the house.
On the Victoria Day weekend, they filed a complaint with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change District Office, and added this statement:
“You are harming us.”
Ontario Minister for the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray recently promised in the Legislature that his staff were responding to such complaints and that they would ensure the rules on noise emissions would be enforced.
Ontario families who did not ask to be exposed to these noise emissions deserve to have the Ministry fulfill its mandate, and protect all citizens from harm.
The Spills Action Line for the MOECC can be reached at 1-800-268-6060 to report excessive wind turbine noise, vibration and shadow flicker. If you call during business hours, you will be referred to the local Business Office. From the website:
You must report a spill if it:
harms or causes material discomfort to any person
injures or damages property or animal life
impairs the quality of the natural environment air, water or land
causes adverse health effects
presents a safety risk
renders property, plant or animal life unfit for use
leads to the loss of enjoyment of the normal use of property
interferes with the normal conduct of business
Pure tones are wave forms that occur at a single frequency. Tonal noise is generated by rotating equipment at a predictable frequency relating to the rotational speed of the shaft and the number of compressor vanes, fan blades, engine pistons, gear teeth, etc.