Wind power project with 100s of complaints deemed ‘compliant’ says Environment ministry
Ontario environment ministry has more than 500 reports of excessive noise — but nothing is being done. Why? Computers say everything is OK.
August 13, 2018
Residents forced to live inside the 110-turbine Underwood wind power project operated by Enbridge have been waiting patiently to find out what the results were of a long-awaited post-operational acoustics audit.
Their wait is now over, but they’re not happy.
Residents received telephone calls recently from the Owen Sound Office of the (now) Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to the effect that the Underwood project audit report concludes it complies with Ontario wind turbine noise regulations.
In a letter dated July 27th, Owen Sound District Manager Rick Chappell wrote:
“The report states that based on the results of the assessment, the Underwood Wind Project is in compliance with applicable sound level limits at your location.”
Chappell then apologizes for the “stress” caused by the assessment process, but makes no mention of the many reports filed with the ministry by the family, or of the adverse health effects possibly experienced.
The acoustics audit was prepared by Aercoustics Engineering, a firm that does acoustics assessments for many wind power developers, and also helps them prepare noise assessments for their applications for approval.
The assessment was first done in 2015, under the government’s previous noise protocol, but was not accepted. Aercoustics explains how the data was prepared (recycled) for the new report.
As an alternative, Aercoustics proposed that the turbine electrical power threshold be
replaced by a threshold based on rotational speed. These findings and recommendations
were presented to the MOECC in a memo dated November 15, 2017. This memo, along
with the correspondence with the MOECC, is attached to this report in Appendix F.
With the alternative assessment methodology, based on turbine rotational speed rather
than power output, a full dataset was possible using Aercoustics’ measurement data at
R144 from July 8 to September 7, 2015. Valcoustics’ measurement data was used for
receptor R145 spanning May 1 to September 30, 2015; the added data was required due
to the wind direction during the summer months invalidating most of the measurement
data at R145. (Source: Aercoustics Assessment Report Project 15143.01, January 30, 2018, page 5)
The audit was done on two of the project’s 110 wind turbines, in response to noise complaints from the residents. The revised report was produced three years after the original.
The audit also assumed that a single turbine was worthy of assessment and shut the other turbines down, in the fallacious/convenient belief that multiple turbines do not have an accumulated effect.
Complaints lodged, no action taken
Wind Concerns Ontario has copies of Incident Reports and Master Incident files provided under a Freedom of Information request from the then Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. The collection of documents from 2006 to 2016 show that there are 515 reports of excessive noise related to the Underwood wind project.
In one report dated April 2011, ministry staff notes say that the caller was told there would be an audit by Valcoustics and a report provided, equipment was installed from November 2009 to April 2010 , but no results were ever provided to the caller. Staff note a report (number 66) was made to a Bob Simpson of Enbridge; the closing note says “noise modeling indicates no exceedances.”
In another report, also dated 2011, the caller to the ministry Spills Action Line reports “loss of sleep due to wind turbine noise” –this adverse effect is recorded again through several more calls. The ministry staff person notes “advised the caller that he should contact the Grey Bruce Health Unit… regarding health concerns.”
Aercoustics actually states in the 2018 report that because the monitoring towers were placed closer to the turbines than the residents’ homes, there was “a measure of conservatism … actual turbine-only sound at the receptors is expected to be lower than those measured at monitoring locations.”
In the case of one turbine assessed, that distance was only 38 metres.
Table 2: Receptor Measurement Locations
|Receptor||Location||UTM Coordinates||Distance to
|Predicted Sound Level*|
† Predicted level taken from Table 4 of the Revised Environmental Noise Assessment , sound
level at 6 m/s. ‡ Predicted level taken from Table 3 of the Revised Environmental Noise Assessment , sound
level after “wind direction adjustment”. * UTM coordinates for R145 monitor taken from Aercoustics’ monitoring equipment, which was
erected less than 10 meters from Valcoustics monitoring equipment
“This determination of compliance in the face of hundreds of complaints about this project, which has been operating since 2008, is nothing short of outrageous,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson.
“It is a violation of the government’s own Environmental Protection Act to have allowed this many noise complaints to go on for so long, especially with the staff notations of adverse health effects. All the ministry does is talk about testing and compliance—they are not responding to the real problems that people are reporting to them. Acceptance of this whitewash report is a complete failure of their mandate to protect.”
To read the Aercoustics report, click here: http://www.enbridge.com/~/media/EF4720063692403B82FD1AA859689E0F.ashx
If the link does not work for you, follow these directions from Enbridge: www.enbridge.com, and then go to ‘An interactive experience: Our North American assets map’ on the home page. Click on see the map, and zoom in to find the Underwood Wind Farm (aka Ontario Wind Power Project). Click on the wind symbol and you will see a link that says ‘Click here to read Aercoustics Engineering’s acoustic immission audit on the Underwood wind farm’.