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.
A pro-wind lawyer, now Ontario’s Eco Commissioner, makes unsupported statements on the health impacts of wind power generation facilities
April 10, 2018
Ontario’s Eco Commissioner or ECO, environmental lawyer Dianne Saxe, long known for her support of wind power development, has issued a very unusual and interestingly timed report.
Making Connections: straight talk about electricity in Ontario is an unabashed defence of the Ontario government’s energy policy, even with its criticism that government has not done enough.
We will leave it to others to comment on the statements about electricity demand, the supply mix, and whether selling off surplus power actually costs Ontario taxpayers and electricity ratepayers, but when it comes to the issue of the health impacts of wind turbines, we have no choice but to call out the Commissioner’s (deliberate) exclusion of the facts.
While acknowledging that there are some negative impacts from wind turbine construction and operation, such as the building of access roads, and the effect of turbines on bird and bat populations, when it comes to effects on humans, the ECO relies on a lawyer’s view of the evidence, which to her, is strictly the results of appeals before the quasi-judicial Environmental Review Tribunal or ERT.
“After extensive expert evidence, and having considered numerous studies from around the globe, the ERT has consistently dismissed appeals based on alleged harm to human health,” says the ECO. “The noise impacts of wind on people are controlled through noise limits in the REAs, and through mandatory setbacks established by the Environmental Protection Act.” (page 153)
What ECO Saxe neglects to say is that the basis on which to win an appeal on health before the ERT is virtually impossible.
One of the prime effects of exposure to the range of wind turbine noise emissions is sleep disturbance or sleep deprivation, which is widely acknowledged as a source of health problems such as high blood pressure, altered blood sugar levels, and annoyance or distress, which is in itself an adverse health impact. The situation in Ontario is that the moneyed wind power interests could afford to hire expert witnesses to support their side, while the appellants in these cases could usually only manage to have beleaguered citizens with their anecdotal reports of health effects. Any health care professionals who did venture forth to support these claims were badgered and had their professional qualifications questioned, sometimes merely on the basis of where they lived.
ECO Saxe asserts that there is extensive evidence and that there are numerous studies from around the world supporting the claim that there is no link between wind turbine noise and health effects.
This is false.
One expert witness, Dr Alun Evans, a professor emeritus, testified before the Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines in Australia, and noted “A recent systematic review considered 154 published studies, eventually including 18 on the basis that they examined the association of wind turbines and human distress and were published in peer-review journals in English from 2003-2013. All found between wind turbines and human distress with levels of evidence of four and five (Bradford Hill Criteria). In addition, two of these studies showed a dose response relationship between distance from wind turbines and distress. Thus there is a consistent relationship between the proximity of turbines and human distress.”
In Ontario, Wind Concerns Ontario obtained thousands of reports from people living near wind turbines (in some cases, among them) via a request under the Freedom of Information Act process. WCO received over 4,500 records (though this number is almost certainly not complete) of complaints filed with the government since 2006.
The number of complaints is significant, but so too are staff notes in these documents. In total, explicit reference to the presence of health impacts from wind turbine noise emissions or environmental noise from the turbines was present in 35 percent of the reports we received.
We cannot help but question the political nature of this document. The ECO actually says, “the ECO strongly believes that fossil-fuelled generation, including the gas-fired generation that operates in Ontario, is more harmful to the environment than other electricity sources.” (page 150) In other words, there might be some problems but we have to accept them because the alternative is worse.
This is preposterous and flies in the face of the government’s mandate to protect both health and the environment.
Indeed, as a team of academics noted in their 2016 paper published in Nature Energy on how wind power problems were handled in Ontario, Ontario “public policy takes an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ view of [wind turbine noise and health] evidence rather than a more precautionary approach. … there is epidemiologic evidence t sustain various interpretations of wind turbine impacts on well-being.) Fast et al, Lessons learned from Ontario wind energy disputes, page 2).
One of the ECO’s goals is to ensure that the government of Ontario receives “fair, balanced and accurate information”.
The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has failed in that goal, and failed the people of rural Ontario who have been forced through political ideology to live in the midst of huge power plants that do produce environmental noise, and are linked to serious health impacts.
Why buy wind power projects when Ontario has a surplus of power and when wind power is a factor in higher electricity bills leading to energy poverty, Wind Concerns Ontario asked in a letter. And why is Canada’s public pension fund investing in projects that are producing environmental noise?
April 4, 2018
Wind Concerns Ontario, the coalition of more than 30 community groups and hundreds of families and individuals concerned about the impacts of industrial-scale wind power development, has written a letter to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, expressing concern about an announcement to buy four Ontario wind power projects from US-based NextEra Energy.
The CPPIB announced it was buying for wind power projects and two solar facilities in Ontario for $741M CAD, and further assuming NextEra’s debt of over $800M.
In a letter to President and CEO of the CPPIB Mark Machin, sent to the Board’s office in Toronto, Wind Concerns noted that Ontario is in a situation of surplus power, which is costing Ontario citizens millions.
“The surplus power is either sold at below-cost rates or given away to neighbouring jurisdictions,” WCO said, “a practice that has caused Ontario’s electricity costs to balloon and is contributing to the energy poverty situation now being faced by many of the pensioners that your plan supports.”
There is also the troubling fact that the four NextEra wind power projects (Summerhaven, Jericho, Bluewater and Conestogo) have been the source of more than 120 official reports of excessive noise and vibration, some including staff notes on health impacts, made to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. WCO obtained the Master Incident files under the Freedom of Information request process.
Citing one Master report from the Conestogo project in which MOECC staff noted that the mandated emissions and imissions audit were “incomplete at the time of submission” and also, that the Ministry had not provided resources for Provincial Officers to visit sites after hours and confirm or deny compliance, staff had no choice but to close the Incident Report file.
” Th[at] excerpt is typical of how noise reports are managed: there is no resolution, and the project is not compliant with key terms of its approval,” Wind Concerns Ontario told Mr. Machin.
WCO also referred to the Investment Board’s stated commitment to “Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors” in investment choices, and said, “We would think you would share local residents’ concerns about the operation of these projects. In short, there are other factors in this investment decision beyond the financial.”
“A critical factor will be resolution of these [noise] reports,” Wind Concerns’ president Jane Wilson concluded in the letter, “management and resolution of citizen health impacts, and liability for property value loss and other negative effects.”
U.S.-based NextEra reaps cash for valuable “guaranteed price” Ontario wind contracts as the CPP pays millions and even assumes almost $1B in debt
April 3, 2018
Florida-based NextEra Energy has sold off a significant portion of its Ontario renewable power portfolio to the Canada Pension Plan in a deal that nets the company over $700 million CAD in cash, and also sees the Canadian public pension plan assume debt of almost $900 million.
Here is a report from wind industry publication, Windpower Engineering and Development. The Canadian Pension Plan also released the information here.
NextEra Energy Partners, LP announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) for the sale of its portfolio of wind and solar generation assets in Ontario, Canada, for a total consideration of about $582.3 million. This includes the net present value of the O&M origination fee, subject to customary working capital and other adjustments, plus the assumption by the purchaser of approximately $689 million USD in existing debt.
The transaction includes the sale of six fully contracted wind and solar assets with an average contract life of about 16 years.
“We are pleased to reach this agreement with CPPIB for the sale of our Canadian portfolio, which we expect will be accretive to NextEra Energy Partners’ long-term growth,” said Jim Robo, chairman and chief executive officer. “The sale of these assets, at a very attractive 10-year average CAFD yield of 6.6%, including the present value of the O&M origination fee, highlights the underlying strength of the partnership’s renewable portfolio.”
An affiliate of NextEra Energy Resources will continue to operate all of the facilities included in the transaction under a 10-year services agreement with CPPIB.
“As discussed during our earnings call in January, we expect the sale of the Canadian portfolio to enable us to recycle capital back into U.S. assets, which benefit from a longer federal income tax shield and a lower effective corporate tax rate, allowing NextEra Energy Partners to retain more CAFD in the future for every $1 invested. We expect to accretively redeploy the proceeds from this transaction to acquire higher-yielding U.S. assets from either third parties or NextEra Energy Resources,” added Robo.
The transaction includes the sale of six fully contracted wind and solar assets, with an average contract life of approximately 16 years and 10-year average CAFD of $38.4 million. Located in Ontario, the portfolio has a combined total generating capacity of approximately 396 MW and consists of:
Bluewater, a 59.9-MW wind generating facility;
Conestogo, a 22.9-MW wind generating facility;
Jericho, a 149-MW wind generating facility;
Summerhaven, a 124.4-MW wind generating facility;
Moore, a 20-MW solar energy generating facility; and
Sombra, a 20-MW solar energy generating facility.
NextEra Energy Partners expects the sale to close during the second quarter of 2018. The transaction is subject to receipt of regulatory approvals and satisfaction of customary closing conditions.
Noise abatement plan accepted, but what does it really mean?
March 19, 2018
Port Elgin residents forced to live near the single wind turbine operated by the union Unifor, which has resulted in hundreds of noise complaints since the moment it began operating, were “vindicated” recently when the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) announced that noise testing revealed the turbine was not in compliance with regulations.
See a report from CTV London reporter Scott Miller, here.
The MOECC told Unifor that as the turbine operator, they would have to put a noise abatement plan in place by today.
Wind Concerns Ontario has learned that the plan was submitted and has been approved by the Ministry. Noise testing will now continue, said MOECC District Manager Rick Chappell, to confirm compliance with regulations. The Ministry expects the new Imissions Audit or I-audit by the end of June.
Port Elgin resident Greg Schmalz says the admission of non-compliance is vindication for residents who have been complaining for years, but the fight is not over. And many serious questions remain.
“If ongoing tests show non-compliance for a second time, does that result in the MOECC permanently revoking the operating certificate?” he asks. “Will resident complaints filed during the abatement period and ongoing testing be confirmed, or do they not count? And why did it take so long from report dates to release [of the information]?”
The engineering report was filed with the MOECC in January, and the MOECC did not announce the status of non-compliance until March … and then to the wrong municipality.
Documents received by Wind Concerns Ontario via Freedom of Information requests show that the MOECC received 236 reports of excessive noise up to the end of 2014, and more during the 2015-2016 time period. People complained of noise “like a helicopter” overhead, and of sleep disturbance at night, which in turn produced other health effects.
Read the report by engineering consultant firm HGC here.
Eder Dampf Radio in Germany is reporting a spectacular incident in which the rotor blades of an Enercon wind turbine shredded, and threw fiberglass particles over a half-kilometer.
The report follows (translated using Google Translate):
Borchen / Paderborn (Gudrun Ponta / nh).
Two rotors of a new ENERCON E-115 wind power plant in the district of Paderborn are torn to pieces and cause extensive contamination with innumerable sharp-edged glass fiber particles.
At 7pm on March 8th, two rotors of a brand-new ENERCON E-115 wind turbine were completely torn apart – the parts flew over 500m.
Neither builder ENERCON nor operator WestfalenWind have informed the public or the police after the incident, although there was danger to their lives due to flying debris. After an Ettelner citizen informed the police, the area around the damaged wind energy plant was cordoned off on a large scale.
The barriers of the accident site reached almost to Etteln. On March 6, the wings were mounted, the system was not connected to the mains. Obviously [it] overrun and the wings could not be stopped. It is said that the wings only turned at 19 km / h when they were torn to pieces.
ENERCON / WestfalenWind play down the incident – the rotors were merely “broken off” and dropped directly to the ground, it was said in first reports – how can it be that parts have flown over 500m? It is just a lucky coincidence that no one was injured in this spectacular accident of a brand new wind energy plant in Borchen-Etteln.
This latest incident again raises concerns about safety around wind turbines, particularly where turbines are located close to highways, as in Chatham-Kent-Essex.
UPDATE: Windpower Monthly has a newer version of the story, which may be found here. The wind industry publication notes that an anti-wind power citizens’ group has posted photos of the turbine failure, and claimed debris spread 800 metres—in fact, the group said 500 metres.
The Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (Wind Concerns Ontario community group member APPEC) and the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) submitted a Joint Part IV Application to the Environmental Commissioner’s Office (ECO), regarding the White Pines wind power project.
The power project has faced numerous appeals and legal actions over the years, and has been reduced from 29 turbines to 27, and is now at nine. The community had thought that the reduced capacity would result in cancellation of the contract with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) but the IESO simply cut a new contract for the power developer.
Concerns about environmental impact remain, however.
“Basically, we are asking the ECO to conduct a formal review based on the concerns and evidence we have provided relating to the Blanding’s turtle, the Little brown bat and migratory birds,” says APPEC Chair Gordon Gibbins.
“It was important for us to submit the Part IV Application before going forward with any appeal to the Divisional Court. Our Application sets this process in motion, and in fact includes almost all the same issues we had planned to raise at the ERT hearing before our appeal was dismissed,” Gibbins explains.
“The ECO has everything it needs to make a decision on whether or not to conduct a review. We’ve been told that the ECO will forward this evidence to the MOECC and to the MNRF (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) as well as make their own conclusions.”
The White Pines project has also been fraught with accusations of violations of its Renewable Energy Approval, as the power developer engaged in land clearing and road use outside of signed agreements.
A team has created a special chamber in which infrasound can be produced, in the hopes of aiding accredited health researchers.
March 12, 2018
Richard Mann, assistant professor on Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, has informed Wind Concerns Ontario of a new development:
“We have successfully produced infrasound, as a mirror of that produced by Industrial Wind Turbines, in a chamber capable of accommodating a human test subject. This will permit others, with appropriate medical training and ethical oversight, to research the effects of infrasound on humans.”
In a PDF document with details on the project, he provides the rationale.
A significant number of people, who live in proximity to Industrial Wind Turbines, complain about a variety of physical and emotional symptoms. They believe these symptoms are caused by Infrasound produced by these Turbines. Some of these symptoms include, but are not limited to, nausea, tinnitus, sleep deprivation,
vertigo, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and other ailments, which to them, have a profound impact on quality of life.
Sadly, both the wind industry, and governments, have not responded to these concerns in any meaningful way, and those affected are given little if any support.
Some have actually had to leave their homes and have endured financial distress as a result.
Countless others continue to suffer with little hope for relief. To profoundly add to their distress, many are met with the inference that these problems are “all
in their head (Crichton et al, 2014; Chapman 2015).
“There is a genuine need to study human thresholds and/or response to infrasound exposure systematically and reliably in a lab setting,” Mann says.
“Our motivation for this project was based on the need for tools, to allow others with appropriate medical training and ethics approval, to move forward with this research.”
Owen Sound District Manager for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Rick Chappell told West Grey Council and a packed room of citizens today that the controversial single wind turbine in Port Elgin owned and operated by Unifor, is not compliant with provincial noise regulations.
A noise abatement plan has been ordered by the Ministry and must be in place by March 18.
The Unifor turbine has resulted in hundreds of complaints of excessive noise over the years, several TV news stories, and statements from the local municipality to the effect that the MOECC is failing in its role as a regulator.
West Grey Council, which had asked Chappell to appear to answer questions about why wind turbine noise complaints were not being resolved, accepted the news, and one councilor demanded that the MOECC now personally call everyone who had filed a report, and give them the news.
Councillors remarked that the decision to test the Unifor wind turbine noise output was the result of citizen complaints; a councilor advised residents to “keep complaining.”
Wind Concerns Ontario has reports provided by the MOECC that show 236 reports were filed up to the end of 2014. In the years 2009-2014, over half of the noise reports received by the MOECC got no response.
Representatives of three community groups where wind turbine projects are currently under construction, addressed the Wind Concerns Ontario conference in Kingston this past weekend, and told hair-raising stories of violations of Renewable Energy Approvals, disobedience of municipal orders, ignoring conditions of road use agreements, and more.
The White Pines project was originally planned to produce electricity for Ontario’s surplus-laden power grid via 29 huge wind turbines. A successful appeal based on heritage aspects of The County reduced the turbine number to 27; another appeal (Hirsch v. MOECC) was partially successful and saw the project reduced from 27 to 9 turbines, based on harm to endangered species.
“We had been operating under the belief that having to meet the 75 percent of power requirement in the contract with the IESO [Independent Electricity System Operator] actually meant something,” said Walsh. “It turns out, it doesn’t. Contracts don’t mean anything — they can do whatever they want.”
Dumbrille echoed that with a litany of abuses. The White Pines project is way past its specified commercial operation date, she said, which should mean the IESO could terminate the contract, but it hasn’t. “The Long Stop Date has no meaning or relevance, despite being in the regulations,” she said. “The decision appears to be political.”
The public also expected that while the power project was being appealed, construction work would not be allowed, particularly in the areas presented as habitat for the endangered Blandings turtle, but in fact, both the MOECC and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry allowed it. Only when citizens took action in court was a stop work order achieved.
“Why must citizen groups rather than government protect habitat destruction?” Dumbrille asked.
The land clearing in turtle habitat continued after the appeal for the nine remaining turbines outside the limits imposed by the Environmental Review Tribunal. Again, citizens went to court, and again a stop order was issued, but not before habitat was destroyed. A transmission station is planned to be built in a stream bed which is against regulations and will require the taking of water. Again, the MOECC appears to side with the power developer on all issues.
“All the rules are made to be broken,” said Dumbrille, “to benefit the wind power developer. And the public has no right to information, apparently.”
Janet Grace, past chair of the Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI), described numerous violations of the Renewable Energy Approval, road use agreements, and provincial safety regulations by “Windlectric” a shell company developing a power project on the island for Algonquin Power. Construction staff and vehicles are supposed to be using a barge to get to the island, she said, but they’re not: instead, they use the passenger ferry which is resulting in delays for Island residents, many of whom work across the water in KIngston, and concerns about safety.
Roads are blocked without notice, and construction throughout the winter has virtually destroyed roads, so much so that the municipality Loyalist Township issued a stop work order. Resident photographs indicate however, that the order was ignored, with the power developer construction firm continuing work. In addition, Grace said, the company is supposed to stop work at 7 PM, but in reality is working until 11 PM.
“The sad thing is, Grace said, “we know this is just the beginning of what is being done to our Island. There are rules being broken, and violations … the MOECC gives them exemptions. They’re just getting away with it all.”
Being asked to do a presentation at Wind Concerns Ontario’s annual conference this past Saturday, to describe the costs associated with industrial wind turbines was something I relished!
The presentation I developed used IESO information for 2017.
Discovered in the preparation of my presentation was the fact that that nuclear and hydro power alone could have supplied over 100% of all grid-connected consumption for 2017, at a average cost of about 5.9 cents per kilowatt hour.
The cost for Class B ratepayers in 2017 however, was almost double, coming in at 11.55 cents per kwh.
So why the big jump? Have a look at the presentation to see why and look at Slide 6 in particular where you get an inkling of how IESO view the reliability of industrial wind generation in their forward planning process!