Protect prime farmland, no contracts for non-compliant wind farm operators WCO tells IESO

January 18, 2024

Protect agricultural land, don’t reward non-compliant operators with new contracts, and insist on enforcement of noise regulations Wind Concerns Ontario tells IESO

Protection of prime farmland for food is as important to rural communities as Greenbelt land is to urban residents, Wind Concerns Ontario says [Shutterstock image]

In advance of its next Request for Proposals, the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO accepted comments from Ontario citizens, municipalities, community groups and other stakeholders.

The next round of proposals will begin in 2024, and is aimed at attracting 2,000 megawatts of new power generation. Projects may be for generation from wind, solar, hydro or biomass.

Wind Concerns Ontario participated in the engagement process, filing two comment documents: one was for general comments on the procurement process and the wind power situation in Ontario, while a second comprised a detailed analysis and critique of the revenue plan proposed.

“We remain concerned about the Request For Proposals process as was carried out last year, and as proposed to be launched in a few weeks. On the advice of several advisors, many of whom are professionals in energy, economics and engineering, our position is that there should be no new contracts for wind power projects until the very serious problems with the existing projects are corrected. That includes setbacks from residences, noise limits, and more,” Wind Concerns Ontario wrote, introducing its general comment document.

Support for protection of prime agricultural land does not seem assured by the IESO, yet it is an important issue to Ontario’s rural communities, just as greenbelt lands are important to urban citizens.

Enforcement process “in tatters”: WCO

“While the IESO grants the contracts for wind power projects, the Ontario environment ministry gives approvals based on environmental assessments and then regulates the projects’ operations. There is clear evidence that this situation is, frankly, in tatters.

There are literally thousands of files of complaints from the public about noise, adverse health effects, and contaminated well water. One situation is before the health ministry and residents are awaiting action; a complaint is also before the Ombudsman.

The complaints confirm that the existing setbacks included in Regulation 359/09 are not sufficient to protect residents living among the turbines.  Setbacks must be increased before any new wind turbines are approved. 

In addition, a significant number are in breach of requirements in their Renewable Energy Approvals (REAs) with regard to noise limits. According to our recent review of project websites, 46 percent have not completed the acoustic audits required to verify compliance with regulations.

These situations are not minor: if this was any other industry, the companies involved would be investigated with fines imposed, and not rewarded with any further contracts.

No new contracts for non-compliant operators

If contract extension and repowering is seriously being considered, we expect that any operators that are not compliant currently with their Renewable Energy Approval should not be rewarded with new contracts.

Another issue is the fact that projects began operation before the Green Energy Act and  may not comply with the (inadequate) requirements of the regulations in that act. For example, 18.5% of the homes in the Enbridge Tiverton project are located closer than 550 meters of the turbines in the project.  Fifteen residents are exposed to noise levels greater than the 40 dBA limit set out in Regulation 359/05. They also should not receive new contracts, or they should be forced to comply with current regulations.”

Other concerns listed by WCO:

Municipal support resolutions—the IESO process allows for requests for municipal support to be made with few details as to the actual project being proposed. The IESO also needs to clarify whether municipal support is needed for “repowering” or contract extension.

Public engagement—the current process is “shallow” says WCO, with errors in execution, and few details offered to communities.

It was “just for show,” says WCO.

The response to the dozens of proposals for battery storage systems last year, which saw communities expressing concern about the information provided in a rushed process, demonstrates a completely unsatisfactory public engagement process, WCO said.

“There was more than one municipality where people demanded to see cost-benefit analysis or a business case for the proposals. They want to see a demonstrated need, and local benefits. It is not enough to simply say ‘Ontario needs the power’.”

Put the power generation where it’s needed: WCO

WCO suggested that as the major users of power are in the province’s urban areas, perhaps priority should be placed on proposals in or adjacent to Ontario’s cities.

“Rural Ontario is not a power resource plantation for cities,” WCO stated.

Proposals under the new RFP will be seen later this year.

Wind Concerns Ontario has been encouraging municipalities to prepare by reviewing their Official Plans and zoning bylaws, and developing protective bylaws as needed.

Wind Concerns Ontario is a collation of community groups, families and individuals concerned about the negative impact of grid-scale or industrial wind turbines on the environment, the economy, and human health.

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