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.
The Ontario government is still processing five wind power contracts awarded under the 2016 Large Renewable Procurement I (LRP I), despite concerns about the environment and health and the fact that Ontario has a surplus of power. With thousands of noise complaints recorded with the government unresolved, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) refuses to acknowledge that it has a problem, and refuses to look for causes, relying instead on its clearly inadequate set of regulations.
One of our favourite quotes in 2017 came from a hydrogeologist who pointed out, referring to the problems with water wells in Chatham-Kent, if you have a model that says you’re not going to have problems, then you experience problems, then it’s the model that is wrong.
The fact that wind power development on the industrial or utility scale has many significant problems — energy poverty, environmental damage, adverse health effects, negative impact on rural communities — is now better understood by the people in Ontario, and the media. In 2017, two major networks, Global News and Radio-Canada, carried multi-part investigative reports this past year. The three-part Global News feature spurred questions in the Legislature and forced the then-minister to act on noise complaints for several Huron County families.
The Huron County public health follow-up of noise complaints was finally launched by the Health Unit there; other health units are watching attentively. We believe 2018 will be the year when the Government of Ontario is forced to live up to its mandate and take steps to protect the health of its residents.
And, the legal battles continue, with actions taking place both inside the legislated appeal process for wind power projects, and in the courts. There have been victories: there will be more.
In her Christmas Message this year, the Queen spoke of the importance of “home”: ” … the idea of home reaches beyond a physical building, to a home town or city,” she said.
We in Ontario think of our “home” as being our communities, the landscape, the natural environment — indeed, the entire province and all the people in it. We will continue to fight for justice for the environment and for families this year.
WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO
Please join us: click on the Join/Donate button above.
Wind power a bonanza for power corporations on Christmas, but meant a bad day for ordinary consumers
December 29, 2017
A quick review of IESO data for Christmas Day 2017 shows our Energy Ministry delivered lumps of coal to all Ontario’s electricity ratepayers, whether they were good or bad. Those lumps of coal can be seen as a gift from all past and present Energy ministers who signed contracts for the industrial wind turbines liberally sprinkled throughout the province.
This year, the IESO data shows about 54,327 MWh* was curtailed (paid for but not delivered to the grid) and paid $120/MWH. That means wind power corporations were paid over $6.5 million ($6,519,240 to be more precise) for NOT delivering that power.
The curtailed or wasted power was enough to supply almost 2.2 million average homes with power for the day, free.
Meanwhile, the IESO accepted about 25,680 MWh, so the curtailed/suspended generation was actually 2.1 times as much as grid-accepted wind power. Wind power corporations were paid $135 per MWh — that’s another $3,467,800 so the total bill for wind power for the day was $9,987,040.
What you paid them: 39 cents a kWh
Here’s what else it means: the 25,680 MWh of power actually accepted by IESO into the grid cost $388.77/MWh* or 39 cents a kWh! And, that 39 cents a kWh doesn’t include the costs of gas plant backup, spilled hydro or steamed-off nuclear, all of which applied on Christmas Day.
What you got paid: 1.9 cents
That’s not all: at the same time, the IESO was busy exporting surplus power to our neighbours in New York and Michigan at an average of 1,993MW (net-total exports less imports) per hour. We practically gave away 48,000MWh (rounded) at a cost to Ontario ratepayers of over $4 million. So, Christmas Day, the day of giving, ratepayers coughed up $14 million for unneeded power whether they could afford it or not! That $14 million raised the cost to electricity customers by about $40/MWh or 4 cents/kWh.
Christmas Day is supposed to be a day of joy and giving. In Ontario though, it was a day when the result of government energy policies and mismanagement furthered hardship for many.
Somebody at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change headquarters on St Clair Avenue in downtown Toronto must have thought this was funny … and a way to use Christmas (because Christmas is there to be used for political purposes, isn’t it?) in the government’s “use-tap-water-not-bottles” campaign.
Employing social media Facebook and Twitter, the MOECC came out with a retro graphic asking people to leave Santa a glass of good old Ontario tap water this Christmas… it’s so good, it’s better than milk!
The campaign betrays a complete lack of awareness and/or sympathy for the plight of people in Chatham-Kent, whose water wells have been damaged, possibly by nearby wind turbine construction. Their homes, and the wind power project, are located on Kettle Point Black Shale and now, particles of that bedrock, which contains arsenic and other elements that should not be ingested, are present in their water. So much so, the water in some areas resembles chocolate milk, and the sludge is so thick that filtration systems have failed.
In response, the MOECC relies on the power developer; the power developer says its consultant assures them whatever happened to the wells isn’t their fault. Meanwhile, experts differ. If you have a model that predicts you won’t have problems, but then you have problems, it is the model that is probably at fault, geologic scientist Keith Benn told a Wallaceburg audience at a public meeting recently.
So now, at Christmastime, at least 14 families cannot turn on THEIR taps for fresh, clean, Ontario water … but the government ministry in charge of protecting the environment and their health takes no action, and instead spends time thinking up Christmas jokes.
The government, and Minister Chris Ballard should be ashamed.
Municipal officials told wind turbine noise no worse than barking dogs, no action planned
December 16, 2017
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) position on wind turbine noise is that they don’t pose a health problem.
That’s the conclusion from remarks made by Owen Sound District Manager Rick Chappell and District Supervisor Andrew Barton, speaking to the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group in Chesley this past week.
The two MOECC managers said repeatedly indicated that they are just messengers: the MOECC’s Technical Assessment and Standards Branch is responsible for establishing the Ministry’s position on wind turbine noise and providing “advice” to local District staff when they respond to queries.
Bottom line: we don’t believe you
In their presentation and responding to questions from municipal officials in the Multi-Municipal working group, the MOECC officials outlined key elements of the MOECC position on wind turbine noise.
They agree that wind turbines can cause annoyance. Contrary to medical literature, however, they do not use “annoyance” as a medical term denoting stress or distress. They actually compared annoyance caused by barking dogs to residents’ reactions to wind turbine noise. *
The MOECC managers insisted the literature did not demonstrate any direct health effects from wind turbine noise, when asked about health studies and reviews on turbine noise. Despite evidence of indirect health effects raised, the staff comments repeatedly indicate the MOECC is narrowly focused on direct health effects.
The MOECC takes a one-sided view of the Health Canada study which according to these officials only found that there was no link between wind turbine noise and health impacts. This statement ignores the second half of the findings which confirmed a link between reported health effects experienced over 12 months and wind turbine noise. They also do not seem to be aware of the findings released to WCO which indicated that annoyance starts at 35 dBA, not the 40 dBA used in Ontario.
Their view of the Council of Canadian Academies report was similarly selective. They downplayed the key finding of this review which was that there is sufficient evidence to establish a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and annoyance in the medical sense. Also not mentioned were the issues highlighted about measurements of wind turbine noise using A-weighted tools which fail to capture low frequency components of wind turbine noise. The Council noted that averaging measurements over time does not convey changes in sound pressure levels occurring in short periods.
In terms of low frequency noise and infrasound, the MOECC representatives relied on a statement from Health Canada that levels of these emissions were found to be below levels that would expect to result in harm to human health. When questioned, however, they were not able to quantify what the MOECC considered “safe” levels of infrasound, or when the MOECC would be acquiring equipment that is capable of measuring emissions at frequencies below 20 Hz.
Members of the Working Group countered by referring to research that conflicted with the MOECC statements. The response from Chappell and Barton was that the Technical Assessment and Standards Development branch reviews emerging research, but limits its assessments to peer-reviewed articles in “respected” journals.
In the MOECC presentation, staff said the 2016 Glasgow International Wind Turbine Noise Conference supported their position on infrasound and health effects. This prompted the Technical Advisor to the group — who actually attended the conference — to inform them that he sent 14 papers presented at this conference to the Ministry, because the conclusions do not support the Ministry’s position.
Chappell and Barton did not seem to be aware of the work of Dr. Neil Kelly at NASA in the mid-1970s on low frequency noise and infrasound from wind turbines, even though it was published in respected peer-reviewed journals and presented at U.S. wind industry conferences.
Residents affected by wind turbine noise were present in the audience. One from Grey Highlands asked when the Ministry was going to respond to the noise assessments at his home that had been provided to the Ministry. No response timeline was provided. Another asked for the position of the MOECC on people who had to move from their homes because of the impact of the noise from nearby wind turbines. The response was that the MOECC has no position except to repeat that there is no direct link between wind turbine noise and health issues.
Members of the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group did not appear to be satisfied with the answers provided by the Ministry officials; several follow-up activities are planned.
MOECC failing as regulator: WCO
Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson says these remarks are either a sign of “stunning ignorance, or a calculated policy by the MOECC to ignore and even demean what is happening to people in Ontario.”
Wilson, a Registered Nurse, says there is a great deal of evidence in the health literature about the range of noise emissions produced by large-scale wind turbines, and growing international concern about adverse health effects.
“Of course there are health effects,” Wilson said. “That’s why we have setbacks between turbines and homes in the first place. This Ministry refuses to acknowledge it has a problem and take appropriate action — it is failing the people of Ontario as a regulator.”
*CanWEA in a 2011 news release acknowledged that a percentage of people can be annoyed by wind turbines, and the trade association said that when annoyance has a significant impact on quality of life, “it is important that they consult their doctor. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also describes noise-induced annoyance in legislation as a situation that “can have major consequences, primarily to one’s health.”
A Kincardine area couple has filed hundreds of formal reports of excessive noise and vibration from nearby wind turbines with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), but has never had any resolution of the problem.
CTV’s Scott Miller interviewed the Walpole family and learned of their plight. The vibrations in the home are so strong, they said, light bulbs come loose in their sockets.
The Walpoles have filed more than 200 reports with the government and are told testing is ongoing, but somehow, the tests are never completed, and the problem continues.
The Municipality of Kincardine is frustrated by the MOECC’s apparent inaction and failure to resolve residents’ problems, says the Mayor in the CTV interview.
Last week, a representative of the MOECC appeared before Kincardine Council to answer questions on the situation. Rick Chappell, manager in the Owen Sound District Office, claimed there was a backlog in the Ministry’s processing of reports.
The wind power project in Kincardine has been operating for more than eight years.
Earlier this year, Wind Concerns Ontario received documents from the MOECC with records and staff notes on wind turbine noise reports to the Ministry, which showed that there was no response to more than half the complaints made and in fat, only one percent received a “priority response.” The Ministry was aware of hundreds of complaints even before the Green Energy Act was passed in 2009, which facilitated the development of even more utility-scale or industrial-scale wind power projects in Ontario.
At present, with thousands of unresolved reports of noise and vibration, and questions of interference with water supply, the MOECC is in the process of considering Renewable Energy Approvals for five more projects.
The recording of Mr Chappell’s appearance before Kincardine Council is now available here, after minute 11.
… and produced when it’s not needed. Consumers pay big
December 11, 2017
The wind power industry continues its refrain that wind power is cheap and getting cheaper … meanwhile, real-world stats tell a different story.
Energy commentator Parker Gallant has done analysis on two December days in Ontario last week, and shown that because wind power is produced out of phase with demand (this is a fact), it contributes to power surplus and waste.
“IESO forecasts indicated that wind could have delivered 23.8% (177,100 MWh) of total Ontario demand (755,200 MWh) via the 4,200 MW of grid-connected wind capacity. But wind turbines have a bad habit of generating power when it’s not needed (middle of the night, spring and fall),” says Gallant. “So the intermittent power must often be curtailed (constrained/wasted but paid for). It was! The IESO curtailed 41.8% of their forecast generation meaning 74,000 MWh were not used! Via the contracts in place with wind power companies, IESO is obliged to pay for both delivered and curtailed power at prices for grid-accepted power at $135/MWh and $120/MWh for curtailed power.”
In fact, Gallant says,”The cost of the delivered wind power for those two days was almost three times the current levied* ‘average’ cost of 8.22 cents/kWh, and 3.7 times the off-peak cost of 5.9 cents/kWh.”
Meanwhile, the surplus of wind meant other sources of power — clean, emissions-free hydro and nuclear — were constrained, too.
At this moment, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is considering approvals for five more wind power projects in Ontario. Intermittent, undependable, expensive power that isn’t needed, and will certainly add to costs for Ontario’s electricity consumers.
The final part of the ICI Radio-Canada series on wind power in Ontario aired December 8.
This is a translation of the E-zine version of the story.
[Photo: Nic Pham, ICI Radio-Canada]
Unserviceable wells, contaminated water, noise, citizens concerned about their health, wind farm issues are increasingly being blamed in southwestern Ontario, and many communities are mobilizing to oppose the development of their homes. New projects. Yet, for two decades, the number of wind farms has been increasing. So why do we need so many wind turbines?
Reportage and photos: Nicolas Pham Text: Marine Lefevre Edim and infographics: Vincent Wallon
Experts say that wind energy is not absolutely necessary in Ontario. The province has been experiencing energy surpluses for several years and the intermittent electricity produced by wind turbines is, at the present time, mainly an extra energy source.
A SATURATED MARKET
“We do not need these turbines for the moment,” says Jean-Thomas Bernard, visiting professor at the Department of Economics at the University of Ottawa. A message relayed by Pierre-Olivier Pineau, holder of the HEC Montréal Energy Sector Management Chair.
According to both researchers, demand in Ontario has declined significantly in recent years. The economic crisis of 2008-2009 brought down demand in the industrial sector, and rising prices at the residential level encouraged the public to save energy.
On the supply side, the province relies primarily on nuclear energy and hydroelectricity. The combination of these factors results in the production of wind farms being added to other energy production.
“With a low demand, we have surpluses. ” – Pierre-Olivier Pineau, who holds the Chair sector management Energy HEC Montreal
In addition to this, wind generation does not adequately meet the energy needs of consumers. In any case, this is indicated in a study published in June 2017 by the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy, which deals, among other things, with the effect of installing wind turbines on the province’s electricity grid.
“The analysis shows that the intermittency of the wind makes it an unproductive and expensive choice that does not meet the needs of customers and also compromises the price of electricity exports”, reads the introduction to the report by Marc Brouillette , Senior Consultant at Strategic Policy Economics (Strapolec)
Based on data from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the author indicates that in 2015 Ontario’s wind farms operated at less than one third of their capacity, approximately 60% of the time.
In addition, the report states that wind turbines are usually in operation when the province’s grid is least in need of electricity.
“Ontarians’ energy consumption is highest in winter and summer, and lowest in spring and late fall, which is almost a mirror image of wind generation models because the wind is the highest in spring and autumn, “says the author.
In conclusion, wind energy does not meet the needs and forces the use of other forms of energy to fill the gaps, but in addition this irregular production contributes to the average surplus of the energy production, which also has a cost.
In 2015, wind energy accounted for one-third of excess core production outside of peak periods in Ontario. That year, the only wind surplus cost consumers $ 370 million on a total bill of about $ 550 million.
In addition, these surpluses have an effect on the price of this energy, especially for exports, where this energy is sold at a loss because it is difficult to store. According to the author, this report puts into question the entire past, present and future deployment of wind resources in the province.
WHY INVEST IN WIND?
One of the reasons for this is the intention of Dalton McGuinty’s government (2003-2013) to make an industrial transformation in Ontario.
In a context where the province’s traditional industries such as pulp and paper, metal refining and even the automobile sector were losing their wings, the Liberal government of the day wanted to convert the province to renewable energy. solar and wind, to create a new industrial sector in Ontario.
At the same time, as the fight against climate change intensified, investments in this green energy sector became natural.
“It was done to encourage renewable energies when we were aiming for the closure of coal plants. ” – Jean-Thomas Bernard, a visiting professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Ottawa
For the government, massive investment in the sector also reflects a desire to diversify energy sources and protect Ontarians from unforeseen events, especially over the long term.
A reasonable approach even if it means having surpluses for several years, says Pierre-Olivier Pineau, particularly in a context where the objective is to have an electricity sector that no longer emits greenhouse gases.
“It may seem like a long time, but in electricity you invest for periods of 20 to 30 years. It is difficult to predict economic conditions and we always keep an extra capacity to be able to meet the demand, “he says.
According to him, the government announcements [were] a bit premature in the wind industry in Ontario, and elsewhere in Canada, a response to the positive perception of the electorate towards this [form of] energy.
“For politicians, we still have image gains to make by announcing green policies, focused on sustainable development. And pictures of wind turbines, and green energy contracts, these are beautiful images,” says the researcher.
THE FAILURE OF A POLICY
The wind shift did not happen as planned, however, explains Jean-Thomas Bernard. Ontario has been unable to create a new industrial sector.
“It did not work because Ontario produces little wind equipment. Major turbine manufacturers are Denmark, Germany, the United States and China. The Ontario market is not big enough to provide a foundation for development, “he says.
“We have invested in wind power, but the bill comes later, so it creates a political problem to announce an increase in the price of electricity. » – Pierre-Olivier Pineau
Wind power not justified by the market
The Ontario government put a halt to new project grants in 2016,* but it remains contractually bound to buy electricity from existing wind farms at fixed prices.
“There is no jurisdiction where the market price justifies wind energy investment. Once the government decides to have wind generation capacity, it is obliged to guarantee prices. » – Pierre-Olivier Pineau
This guarantee forces Ontario to purchase electricity at a fixed price, regardless of the demand and lower production costs associated with the technological evolution of the sector.
A difficult situation for the province, which has invested millions of dollars in a sector that looked promising as it faces an economic situation where electricity demand is lower.
“Electricity rates are increasing by 5% per year as a result of this firm price policy for renewable energy. If we had not developed them, today there would be a drop of 5% per year. “Adds Jean-Thomas Bernard.
Ontario is not unique, Quebec and Alberta have also had to guarantee prices to energy companies.
On the other hand, the manner of proceeding, by call for tenders in particular, made it possible to establish lower fixed prices. In addition, the importance of hydroelectricity in Quebec and oil in Alberta makes the wind industry very secondary in these provinces.
A COMPLEX SITUATION
For these experts, the energy sector in Ontario is generally in an unenviable position. Prices are high and the energy policies put in place for several years have not yielded the expected results.
“The current government has chosen to have both nuclear and wind power with the problems we know in terms of price. And these problems will not disappear in the future because the rehabilitation of nuclear power and wind will be very expensive in the years to come, “says Pierre-Olivier Pineau.
And even though over the last year the government has lowered rates twice, including reducing the sales tax, the real question remains: are we able to produce electricity at a lower cost? “Not today,” concludes Jean-Thomas Bernard.
WCO note: it is not correct to state the the Ontario government has halted its wind power procurement program. The Large Renewable Procurement program has been put on hold due to a surplus of power, but it is not gone. Meanwhile the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is currently processing five more applications for large-scale projects, for 300 megawatts of intermittent, unnecessary power.
In response to an invitation from Council for the Municipality of Kincardine, a senior manager with Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change confirmed to Council that nothing is being done about the hundreds of recent noise complaints about a local wind power project.
Rick Chappell, manager of the Owen Sound District Office, told Council that there is no completed audit of compliance with noise regulations for the Enbridge Underwood project. This is despite the fact the facility has been operating since 2007, and the audit was requested by the Ministry in response to early complaints about excess noise emissions.
His presentation also acknowledged adverse health effects from the noise and vibration produced by wind turbines, including low frequency noise and infrasound. When questioned, he stated that there is no peer-reviewed evidence that infrasound causes direct health effects. He was unable to provide an answer when the Councillor followed up with a question asking if there were indirect health effects.
Chappell provided details of the long history of incomplete audit submissions for the Enbridge project. The earlier submissions were deemed to still be incomplete under the new protocol and the company has submitted additional data to meet the requirements with the last submission taking place on November 15. He indicated that Enbridge has been given a commitment of expedited processing and they expect a decision on whether their submissions are complete by mid-December. Analysis of their data would follow that decision.
The post-construction audit for the nearby Armow project was submitted three months ago and is under review in Toronto. At present, he said, that he could not provide an update on the assessment of this audit except to indicate that there has been no decision and he was not aware of the timeline for a decision.
The fact is, Chappell admitted, the Ministry group reviewing the audit reports has large backlog of reports submitted by the project operators from across Ontario based on the new noise testing protocol.
Chappell advised Council that the new protocol recommends that noise audit submissions are only made public once they are accepted by the MOECC. This is statement does not align with the protocol which actually requires posting of submissions to the Ministry be posted on the project website within 10 business days of the submission to the District Manager. Neither Enbridge nor the Armow submissions have been posted.
Once a compliance audit is underway, the MOECC stops responding to complaints from residents living in the project until the results of the audit are known. In his view, the potential for non-compliance has already been identified and until this situation is resolved, there is no point in additional testing. This approach applies to the Enbridge project even though the audit process started in December 2011 and is still not complete.
Once Councillor questioned the whole compliance audit process, indicating she believed that the process is designed to generate results that showed compliance. Her concern was the more than 500 complaints from residents of the Enbridge project that are now essentially being ignored by the MOECC. Even if the project was found to be in compliance, she was looking for action on these complaints based on the approval held by Enbridge. Chappell’s answer did not satisfy the residents in the audience.
Chappell indicated that compliance audit process was posted for public comment prior to the release of the April 2017. This statement overlooks many citizen submissions regarding flaws in the old process, including a lengthy brief from WCO, which were ignored by the MOECC meaning that the flaws in the original process were not connected and the audit process excludes situations that generate any resident complaints about noise emissions from wind turbines.
Another Councillor questioned what steps that the MOECC would take if, hypothetically the audit process found the project to be out of compliance. Chappell indicated that the MOECC would ask the company to submit a mitigation plan to address the issues. Changes could be reduced operating speeds, shut-downs of problem turbines in specific wind conditions or times of the day. When pressed about the time required for this type of plan to be developed, implemented and approved by the Ministry, Chappell suggested that it would be weeks rather than months.
The situation is similar to many other wind power projects in Ontario where complaints have been filed by residents for years, with no resolution and in some cases, no action by the Ministry. Documents released under Freedom of Information to Wind Concerns Ontario show that there are now at least 500 formal reports of excessive noise and vibration from the Armow wind turbines.
The wind turbine in Port Elgin, operated by union Unifor, is also the subject of hundreds of complaints with no resolution — and no valid noise audit. “You are the regulator,” Deputy Mayor Luc Charbonneau has told the MOECC. “You are failing to regulate.”
Since 1995, more than 2,500 wind turbines have appeared in the Ontario landscape, but the green label attached to them is strongly criticized in some communities that are mobilizing to oppose the development of new projects. The problem is that these citizens do not always feel listened to by the public authorities.
Reportage and photos: Nicolas Pham
Text: Marine Lefevre
Infographics: Vincent Wallon
In 2014, the small community of Dutton-Dunwich, near London, rejected 84% of the proposed installation of 20 wind turbines on the territory of the municipality by a US multinational.
A plebiscite that does not prevent the provincial government from giving initial approval to Invenergy’s plan in 2017.
In Dutton-Dunwich, it’s incomprehension and anger.
“Everyone is furious. All my neighbors are really worried. I do not think we can compromise. I do not want these structures 200 m high next to me, “says Kristen Scheele, a resident who feels betrayed by the fact that the voice of the population is not respected.
“When, in the democratic process, the rights of a minority outweigh the rights of the majority? ” – Kirsten Scheele
A feeling shared by the mayor of the city, who has been fighting the idea since the beginning.
“We do not want it. My fellow citizens are frustrated that they are not being listened to and are concerned that their concerns are not being addressed, “said Cameron McWilliam.
At a public information meeting organized by Invenergy in October 2017, members of the Dutton / Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines Group (DDOTW) say that wind turbines are bad for the environment, for the economy and for themselves.
What they absolutely want to avoid is that their fate is identical to that of the neighboring municipality of Lakeshore, where a park of 100 wind turbines was built in 2016 against the advice of the population and the municipal council.
“Council passed a motion saying we had our share of wind turbines and we did not want more,” said Mayor Tom Baine. The government’s response has been: they are coming! ” – Tom Baine, Lakeshore Mayor
Why ignore the opinion of citizens and elected officials?
According to provincial legislation, the support of a community where wind turbines are built is desirable, but it is not essential.
“While community support can increase the chances of a project receiving a contract, there are many factors that affect its bid … Even though municipal and community support is an important factor in the evaluation. project proposals, it is not mandatory, “says the ministry by email.
A situation that many elected officials deplore, including Jeff Yurek, Conservative MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London.
“With the Green Energy Act, the government has removed the autonomy of the municipalities, so that it can decide where it [puts] these renewable energy projects. It does not matter if a city or village is a voluntary host or not. ” – Jeff Yurek, Conservative MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London
While more than 2,500 wind turbines have been built in Ontario since 1995, the number of housing starts has accelerated since 2009, when the Green Energy Act came into force.
But why do whole communities refuse ecological and sustainable energy?
In spite of the positive label attached to this so-called green energy, it is criticized for several inconveniences.
“People who live near these huge machines have problems. They are noisy, blink and vibrate with a vibration you can feel from your home, “says Jane Wilson of Wind Concerns Ontario, a citizen organization that provides information on the potential impact of wind power generation on the environment, economy, human health and the natural environment.
“A majority of our residents are against, they do not see their interest. They make noise and pose health risks, “said Lakeshore Mayor Tom Baine.
The situation of contaminated artesian wells in the Chatham-Kent area is also bothering citizens.
“When that happens, you can not go back, you can not fix it,” says Wilson.
For Kristen Scheele of Dutton, well water in Chatham and thousands of noise complaints are all sources of concern and questioning.
It worries me a lot about whether they really protect the public interest – Kristen Scheele, a resident of Dutton-Dunwich.
According to reports obtained under the Access to Information Act, thousands of complaints about wind turbines have been filed with the Ministry of the Environment, which, for the time being, has made no followed.
“The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has clearly not fulfilled its mandate in dealing with complaints in this area,” said Dutton-Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam.
PROBLEMS TAKEN SERIOUSLY?
In the wind sector, it is said that the concerns of residents are taken into consideration while complying with the requirements of the legislation, which was developed from scientific studies. A regulatory distance of 550 m is required for the installation of wind turbines near homes. Wind turbines must also comply with stringent sound standards.
“If, at a point in time, wind turbines exceed the noise threshold, the department has put in place a compliance mechanism to ensure that the impacts are mitigated,” says Brandy Giannetta, Regional Director of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
For its part, the Ministry of the Environment claims to take all complaints seriously. “Our priority is to protect public health and the environment by promoting and ensuring compliance with departmental rules and requirements,” reads an email.
The ministry ensures that systematic monitoring is done to ensure that wind farms comply with all provincial requirements.
“When a complaint is registered, the ministry responds by following up with the facility to make sure it complies with all provincial requirements,” says the email.
The ministry indicates that since 2006, 25 citizens are responsible for 60% of the complaints filed in this area with the Ministry. In this context, the department says it has conducted nearly 300 follow-up activities and continues to conduct proactive inspections of wind farm operations.
On the ground, energy companies do everything to reassure residents at public meetings such as those organized by Invenergy in Dutton-Dunwich.
“We understand that citizens have concerns or objections. But in the end, wind turbines are allowed in Ontario, period, “says James Murphy, vice president of business development of the company.
ARE THE STUDIES CONVINCING?
The energy companies are more confident in their efforts that several studies indicate that the noise and vibration of the turbines do not affect the health of residents and that their construction has no impact on the nearby artesian wells.
In 2014, a Health Canada study concludes that there is no evidence to establish a link between the noise exposure of wind turbines and the health problems reported by certain people living near these facilities.
“No statistically significant relationship was found between measured blood pressure, or resting heart rate, and noise exposure of wind turbines. ” – Health Canada study with 4000 hours of measurement of wind turbine noise data.
But the agency also has several reservations. According to her, scientific data on the subject are limited. It also states that the findings of this study do not in themselves provide definitive answers and that they “should be considered in the context of a larger evidence base”.
The public also does not trust the mandatory environmental studies submitted by the energy companies for any new project.
“People who have money can buy the reports they need. ” – Jane Wilson, Wind Concerns Ontario
Cameron McWilliam also questions the independence of this research.
“When you have the fox guarding the hen house, you expect that the studies will not be done by the opponent. It should be totally independent of the company and it did not happen. Because of wind farm liabilities, residents and our board are not ready to believe studies that say everything is fine, “he says.
But beyond research, living on a daily basis alongside wind turbines is difficult, say the inhabitants. Whether the vibrations felt by some or the discomfort caused by flashing air signal lights experienced by others, the effects of the presence of wind turbines are very real in the lives of these people.
It is in this context that the opposition is organized among citizens who see especially in this renewable energy the symbol of questioning their way of life in the countryside.
They are not ready to be imposed these huge machines. They do not want to be hijacked and most of all want to hear from a government that invests in green energy and from companies that claim to comply with government requirements.
Marc St-Pierre has not been drinking water from his well for four years since the water came out black.He is not alone: More than twenty families in his region have the same problem. The color is from black shale sediments suspended in the water. The residents of the Chatham-Kent say they are living in a nightmare.
Reportage and photos: Nicolas Pham
Text: Marine Lefevre
Ezine: Vincent Wallon
December 4, 2017
Report from Radio Canada Windsor by Nicolas Pham, Translated from original French
” We cannot do anything. We used water for everything. I cannot even take a bath. My world is completely upset because of that, “said Marilyn St-Pierre, a resident of Dover Centre. “Our water is finished and our life with it. I cannot even put on a sliding game for my kids and grandchildren, “says Christine Burke, who lives nearby.
Blame the wind turbines
In search of answers, residents’ eyes are quickly turning to wind farm projects being built near their homes. The problems, they say, began at the same time as the work in late 2012 and shortly after construction began on the East St. Clair wind farm at Dover Center.
“At the time, we did not realize what was happening. I did not want to believe that turbines could be involved. ” – Marc St-Pierre
It is only when other neighbors come forward that he realizes the extent of the disaster. All live within 7.5 km, near the wind farm.
Twelve wind turbines stand around the property of Marc St-Pierre, the nearest is located 550 m from his house.
The problem resurfaced in May 2017, just weeks after work began on another wind farm project, North Kent One.
“They do not want to confess. But it’s odd: my well is lost, the neighboring well is lost, the well on the other concession is lost. All is lost since they started with North Wind, “says Lucy Defraeye, another affected resident.
An assumption that Keith Benn, a professional geologist who has worked for many years in the mining industry in Ontario, is happy to believe. According to him, the relationship between the installation of wind turbines and the contamination of wells is obvious.
“It’s circumstantial evidence, okay. But when you have a [pure] water source for years and [transforms] a few days after the construction of an industrial facility. You do not have to be a genius to see that there is a link of cause and effect, “he notes.
“A belief shared by Bill Clarke, a geoscientist licensed in Ontario for 43 years. “We’re making the connection between the construction and the wind farm because that’s the only thing that has changed around Chatham-Kent,” he says.
“There are residents here for generations. This is the first time anyone has noticed problems with water quality. ” – Bill Clarke, Geoscience
An unaccountable company
Marc St-Pierre and seven of his neighbors look to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment in 2013 for answers. Water is declared fit for consumption by government inspectors.
“They did tests to check for bacteria, but they never did any sediment sampling. ” – Marc St-Pierre
Disillusioned and always struggling with black water, they simply decide to install filters, without ever receiving compensation.
The story is different for affected citizens around North Kent One Park. There, the presence of sediment is such that the wells are completely clogged.
Residents turn to Pattern Energy, the project’s owner, who claims it has nothing to do with the problem. According to the company’s engineers, it is impossible for turbine construction to cause such problems.
Gagan Chambal is Director of Works at Pattern Energy. He says that research done prior to the start of the project demonstrates that it is impossible for black shale particles, or anything else, to be transported from construction sites of turbines to wells hundreds of meters away. distance.
The study by the environmental consulting firm Golder Associates does not convince Keith Benn, mainly because it is based on models and not empirical field analyzes.
“A model proves nothing, it only predicts something. If he predicts something wrong, then this model is wrong. And it seems that’s the case here. ” – Keith Benn, geologist
While experts do not fully understand the causes of this situation, many point to the piling technique of wind turbine foundations that would damage the aquifer.
The company is clearing customs, but a few weeks ago, it had delivered to several residents huge water tanks to replace the wells. According to Mr. Chambal, it is a simple step of good neighborliness.
“Under our license, we were only supposed to supply tanks only if it was determined that our construction had an impact on the quality of the water. But being good neighbors, we took proactive steps to help the community. Residents who complain about water quality have access to clean water even during the survey, “he says.
A temporary solution that is far from satisfying residents who are also worried about the safety of this water.
“As for me, it’s a cistern to give water to animals or to work in the fields. [It] is dirty inside. We cannot drink that water, wash our vegetables or cook, “says Lucy Defraeye.
And the arrival of winter does not announce anything to reassure them.
“My tank is outside. Winter is coming, I’m going to get cold water, “adds Calvin Simmons, frustrated.
But beyond the disadvantages, these residents feel abandoned, especially by the government.
A little government listening
Kevin Jakubek is a spokesperson for Water Wells First, a drinking water protection association that has brought together affected residents since 2013. He says the government is not doing its job and should investigate all those wells that have become unusable.
“We have been asking the Ministry of the Environment to investigate for more than a year and a half and they are not investigating. They come, they do some tests, but they refuse to take samples of the pollutant, “he says.
An impression that Marc St-Pierre himself had.
“A ministry inspector came to the house and I showed him the water that came from the well it was coming out black, I asked him to take this to examine it. He did not want to touch. He did not take it. They do not want to know what’s in the water, “he says.
For Mr. Jakubec, it’s just the story that repeats itself.
“People started to notice that their water was black. The government knew about it and they did absolutely nothing.They allowed the construction of another park in another county. And again, there are contaminated wells. ” – Kevin Jakubek, spokeswoman for First Water Wells
Waiting for answers
Citizens are frustrated by their situation.
Even though the government claims that water is completely safe to drink once it has been filtered, experts say it contains heavy metals that are dangerous to health.
“I’ve already been through cancer and my biggest fear is to have another one. ” – Marilyn St-Pierre
What Water Wells First is asking for is that the work be suspended for a long time to identify the source of the problem. Residents have filed complaints with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change that are currently under review.
For Bill Clarke, these steps will take time, a time during which residents will not be able to enjoy the source of drinking water that [they] enjoyed so far.