Port Elgin residents demand answers on Unifor wind turbine

Complaints continue even after noise abatement plan in effect

Unifor turbine: how does it keep getting approved? [Photo: Greg Schmalz]
April 24, 2019
The single wind turbine located in Port Elgin at an education and conference centre owned and operated by union Unifor continues to rack up complaints from nearby residents, despite being found “in compliance” by the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).
In an email to the spokesperson for community group STOP/ Saugeen Turbine Operation Policy, the MECP noted that the turbine, which has a history of hundreds of noise complaints filed with the government, was found to be out of compliance with provincial regulations, and a noise abatement plan was put in place last year.
“Unifor was required to prepare and implement a Noise Abatement Action Plan due to non-compliance identified with ministry noise guidelines.  From May 8, 2018 to present, Unifor has been operating the turbine with the following parameters: de-rating the turbine to 300 kW during all time periods; and curtailment (zero revolutions per minute) when the yaw angle of the turbine (wind direction) is between 100 and 220 degrees during all hours,” Environmental Officer Sierra Gillies wrote in an email dated April 23.
The ministry has since determined that the Unifor turbine is in compliance with the ministry noise guidelines when operating under the Noise Abatement Action Plan, according to more recent noise testing, Gillies said.
She acknowledged that since May 8, 2018, the ministry has received notification of 99 complaints regarding the Unifor turbine, but says not all the reports were about noise.
Problems not resolved
The problems of the single turbine are not resolved, says STOP spokesperson Greg Schmalz. In the five years of operation, the turbine has been de-rated from its original approved 800 kW to 500 and now to 300, a demonstration that problems persist with this power generator, he says, and that there are larger, serious problems with Ontario’s wind turbine noise regulations and noise measurement protocol.
He has asked the MECP to explain how the Unifor turbine could have been originally approved at modelling noise levels of 45 dB or less at the nearest homes at the 800 kW power output and approved at 45 dB again at 500 kW and yet again at 45 dB at 300 kW after noise non-compliance was found at the 500 kW level.
“As evidenced by our residents’ continued filing of both noise and negative health effects complaints, it appears this single turbine sited in a cottage resort neighbourhood with an ambient nighttime noise level of 27 dB, was most likely improperly classified by the ministry as an urban environment, with a noise level the same as downtown Toronto at 45 dB.
Given the large number of complaints — Wind Concerns Ontario data for noise complaints up to 2016 show the Unifor turbine ranks sixth in the entire province for the number of complaints — Schmalz has demanded the MECP explain why the neighbourhood near the turbine has an urban classification at 45 dB versus rural classification at 40 dB.
“The  ambient night noise levels of 27 dB are common to both rural and urban areas and by definition the nighttime noise characteristics of both classifications are the same after 7 p.m.,” Schmalz explains.
No health protection
“We believe this is the critical sleep protecting criterion MECP weight for correct classification. So, outside our bedroom windows here, the quiet night soundscape of 27 dB is pierced by the unnatural continuous swish-thump of a machine emitting noise at up to 45 dB.  And, with sound levels doubling every 3 dB, that extra 5 dB in the urban classification vs rural means our residents are subjected to noise over twice as loud as the noise that our nearby rural residents are exposed to. The complaint evidence clearly shows it is a noise nuisance disrupting sleep, preventing enjoyment of property, and the continued stress of interrupted sleep is recognized to have negative health effects which residents here are documenting in their complaints,” says Schmalz.
Schmalz also points out that the Unifor turbine is as close as 215 metres to a house, whereas the setbacks for the rest of the province are now 550 metres. In other words, the turbine would not have been allowed under more recent rules.
“This unequal treatment really is a form of discrimination against people here in Port Elgin,” he concludes.
Contact STOP here.
Government records of complaints about the Unifor wind turbine, as obtained under Freedom of Information legislation by Wind Concerns Ontario.
May 22, 2016: “…the Unifor Industrial Wind Turbine is again noisy producing a thumping pulse … we have been subjected to headache from the constant pulse of the wind machine. This situation continues to be unacceptable …” Ministry response: May 22, 2016: “The wind turbine was not experiencing any operational difficulties at the time of the incident. No sound monitoring was being conducted at the time of the incident. Deferred sound monitoring; audit to occur with acoustic report expected fall of 2016.”  Environmental Officer Kimberly Pietz. [Note the provincial Officer is aware of adverse health effects, and takes no action.]
February 18,2016: Provincial/Environmental Officer notes “… the complainant heard a constant thumping noise throughout his home. This noise caused headaches. No exact time frame, stated 16th and 17th.” Staff response: site visit February 16: “… turbine barely audible at time of site visit did not monitor.” Site visit began 20:11, concluded 20:33. Provincial Officer signature: Kimberly Pietz [Note mention of adverse health effect, also focus on audible noise despite complaint mention of pressure sensation and adverse effect]

What's your reaction?


  • Maks Zupan
    Posted April 24, 2019 9:33 pm 0Likes

    As a former Port Elgin resident I can not understand how the UAW (united auto workers) could install a noisy and useless machine in the middle of their quiet, back to nature facility on the beautiful Port Elgin beach. Not responding to the complaints of many nearby cottagers is simply inexcusable. Where are the limits of politically correct stupidities?

    • Sommer
      Posted April 26, 2019 1:18 pm 0Likes

      Residents forced to live near wind turbines in rural Ontario are now experiencing and reporting cumulative and irreversible harm from low frequency noise and infrasound radiation.
      Listen to this presentation given by Dr. Mariana Alves-Pereira to professionals in Slovenia in 2018.

      • Barbara
        Posted May 5, 2019 8:31 pm 0Likes

        Brought up the issue of IWT “noise” with an urban, non-Ontario MD, who had never heard about this and hadn’t seen this issue in medical journals either.

        • Wind Concerns Ontario
          Posted May 6, 2019 5:06 pm 0Likes

          Not Ontario but Canadian? It has been in the Canadian Medical Association Journal several times. He/she has not been noticing it.

          • Barbara
            Posted May 6, 2019 10:16 pm 0Likes

            U.S. and Internal Medicine specialist. And this is a North American issue as well.

  • Stan Thayer
    Posted April 25, 2019 6:23 am 0Likes

    Some time ago, on this website, I replied to a querry about windmill vibrations causing sound at some distance. I mentioned about watching the ripples on a pan of water near a windmill during the summer of 2016. The famous Port Elgin bird swatter was that windmill. As the blades passed the upright tower a ripple would follow on my pan of water sitting on the ground about 500 meters from the turbine base.
    I think the unit was originally installed as an example of great things to come and union workers would be trained to repair and maintain industrial wind turbines. At that time people still believed that one turbine could supply enough power for thousands of homes and businesses. Some nut jobs still argue that propaganda!
    The administrators that injected the workers pension funds saw it as a wonderful opportunity. It would be interesting to know the actual return on investment, (ROI), of that decision.
    So, as a bird swatter it works fine, as a trouble maker it works fine, as a source of long distance vibration it works fine but as an electrical power source it has never worked fine.
    Myself and many other electrical technicians have spent countless years in an attempt to control the surges caused by IWT’S onto the grid and into the ground as stray voltage. Damage to lives and once reliable infrastructure continues. If we consider the amount of fossil fuel energy used to construct and install any IWT, it is easy to understand that IWT’S are a losing situation from any point of view.
    A simple solution is to stop the taxpayer subsidies and somehow force the wind lobbyists to tell the truth!
    Governments need union votes, windmills need money, lots of it.
    What a mess!
    Stan the power man

  • Barbara
    Posted April 25, 2019 12:06 pm 0Likes

    If one tries hard enough, means/ways can be found to get around some issues?

  • Stan Thayer
    Posted April 25, 2019 9:16 pm 0Likes

    P.S.– Just as a note to my earlier posting! I checked my journal and the Date that I sat and watched the Port Elgin bird swatter was May 18th 2016 at about 730 pm. I also watched a shore bird caught in the vortex at the tip of one of the blades and it went round and round with the blade. I had been told of that phenomenon and finally witnessed it for myself! I took pictures to show the OSPCA but they were not interested! “None of my concern”, I was told!
    Obviously killing wild birds with a windmill in Otario is not cruelty to animals.
    All depends on who you are!
    Stan Thayer

  • Stan Thayer
    Posted May 1, 2019 5:02 pm 0Likes

    Quick reality check!
    Again yesterday, April 30th 2019, for more than 5 hours the 7 small industrial solar farms in Ontario added more power to the Ontario electrical grid then all of the approximately 3000 industrial windmills installed in Ontario.
    And all together they added less than 10% of the Ontario grid demand.
    Remember the proven, 70/30—30/70, windmill rule!
    70 percent of the time any windmill will produce 30 percent of its rated output!
    30 percent of the time any windmill will produce 70 percent of its rated output!
    Using windmill logic, the only options needed on an electric car is a bicycle rack and a tow hook.
    Stan the power man

  • Sommer
    Posted May 3, 2019 9:38 am 0Likes

    According to Gideon Forman, climate change will be the key issue in the Federal election.

  • Richard Mann
    Posted May 5, 2019 6:38 pm 0Likes

    Can anyone comment on the following document: This document was filed on 15 Feb 2019. I have not heard anything, was there a response? https://ccsage.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/notice-of-application.pdf

    • Wind Concerns Ontario
      Posted May 6, 2019 5:07 pm 0Likes

      As you can see on the application, it was filed by CCSAGE-Naturally Green. Why don’t you ask them?

      • Richard Mann
        Posted May 7, 2019 12:01 am 0Likes

        I thought you, Wind Concerns Ontario, advocating for the people, would have some information on various initiatives in progress. I also think readers here would be interested to know.
        If anyone finds anything, please follow up here.
        In the meantime I have written to Alan Whiteley and will follow up here if I hear anything.

  • Richard Mann
    Posted May 7, 2019 12:03 am 0Likes

    By the way, I just noticed that the following link CMAJ Blogs, has went dead. Any information would be appreciated.

    • Richard Mann
      Posted May 7, 2019 7:35 pm 0Likes

      Just checked, link is back.

    • Barbara
      Posted May 8, 2019 4:21 pm 0Likes

      United Nations Environment Assembly
      UNEP/EA.2/13, 14 March 2016, 14 pages.
      No.40: Noise pollution -serious health impacts.
      No.41: Wind turbine placement/location and other information.
      Also on the Internet if this link doesn’t work.

    • Barbara
      Posted May 8, 2019 9:36 pm 0Likes

      United Nations, Last update: 7-02-2003
      System Wide Earthwatch
      UNEP/DEWA/Earthwatch 1996-2003
      Noise pollution
      Information and references.

    • Barbara
      Posted May 25, 2019 11:41 pm 0Likes

      United Nations Digital Library
      United Nations
      Economic and Social Council
      Distr: General
      5 February 1998
      “Renewable sources of energy, with special emphasis on wind energy”, 13 pages
      “Report of the Secretary-General”
      Pages 9-10:
      A. Environmental impacts.
      B. Social considerations
      Includes: Health impact and other impacts and considerations.

  • Stan Thayer
    Posted May 11, 2019 10:20 pm 0Likes

    Beeeeeeutiful calm sunny and warm late spring day in eastern Ontario.
    This morning, May 11th 2019 at the 11th hour total output of the new Amherst Island Wind Farm was zero.
    Total output of Wolfe Island Wind Farm was a laughable 6MW.
    Total output of the Napanee natural gas generating station was 165 MW.
    Just about enough to supply the lights and brakes and safety control motors of those two wind farms.
    So now what will they do with them if this nice weather keeps up?
    We can’t ask anyone at the Environmental Commission because the Ford government just shut it down for not doing something over the last three and a half years.
    Someone call CANWEA and tell them to send some wind over here because the price of gas has gone way up to pay for the climate change that is causing the calm warm weather.
    Hey, I’m not joking, this is serious!

    • Wind Concerns Ontario
      Posted May 13, 2019 1:11 pm 0Likes

      We should be happy there is no output at Amherst Island and Wolfe Island, maybe.
      See our post today, from Parker Gallant.

  • Stan Thayer
    Posted May 27, 2019 9:21 am 0Likes

    Just for posterity.
    Unions deduct dues from members for benefits. In the Port Elgin IWT matter it might or might not go to a company lettered M/S. Various arrangements are made during negociations. These various negotiations vary after inception.
    Some parties take part in the party.
    Some parties become costly and require additional funding. Sometimes unions can be helpful.
    As a union member I often need to CMA!
    It gets cold and windy in Port Elgin.
    No bird swatting intended!

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