Wind turbine failures “potentially serious,” need action for safety: municipal group

Skyway 8 turbine failed in July 2021. See debris to the left, including huge blade shard. Host municipalities are concerned about safety, and want regulations revised. [Photo: Louise Morfitt-Hall]

Wind farm approvals given by McGuinty and Wynne governments with no input from host communities: “mistakes were made”

January 19, 2022

The special interest task force created by a group on Ontario municipalities where wind power projects are operating has released a report to all Ontario municipalities. The report expresses concern about wind turbine failures and the apparent lack of government action. The Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group prepared the report and sent it to other municipalities a few weeks ago.

The document has information on  six “catastrophic failures” as engineers term them, that have occurred in Ontario, as well as the failure of a single turbine in New Brunswick. That event resulted in the wind “farm” operator undertaking a $100-million replacement of all turbine foundations.

The Working Group is concerned that there are no details available on the failures.

“There has been no public response from the provincial government that indicates these potentially serious incidents are being investigated, either in the context of public and/or workplace safety,” the report says.

Municipalities, even those where incidents have occurred, have received no information.

The Working Group consulted with several engineers and conducted its own review of the wind turbine failures. It appears there was a different cause for each event, i.e., no common factor in the equipment failures.

  • Bow River –Pictures suggest that tower collapse was linked to a bolt failure of tower sections.
  • Skyway 8 – Rotor failure occurred shortly after the installation of an experimental device.
  • Raleigh Wind – Published information from the project owner indicates that the tower collapse is related to a single blade failure. Marks on the tower suggest that the blade struck the tower.
  • Sumac Ridge – Blade fractures, no explanation available.
  • Kingsbridge 1 – Fire in the nacelle spread to the blades resulting in wide debris scatter.
  • Huron Wind – Blade failure with the location of the debris thrown by this failure highlighting the inadequacy of current setbacks from property lines.

Another recent incident in New Brunswick added to concerns, the group said:

  • Kent Hills, NB – Project operator linked the collapse of tower to a foundation failure.

The Working Group concluded: “the assessments of these situations increased our concern that action is required to formally investigate these incidents.  We believe they clearly demonstrate that the current setback distances are inadequate to protect the public and they will increase as tower heights and blade lengths increase.”

The Working Group recommended that the Ontario government:

  1. Establish a formal public process for investigations of wind turbine failures so that the cause can be firmly determined. These would involve third-party independent engineers starting with initial inspection procedures through to the public release of the final report;
  2. Complete comprehensive inspections of existing projects to identify any project that shows signs of similar weaknesses;
  3. Establish requirements for on-board predictive maintenance equipment for operating wind turbines to allow early identification of problems and establish protocols for information transfer to the MECP for review and sharing with the host municipality.
  4. Review the emergency response procedures submitted by the proponents of wind turbine projects as part of the approval process to ensure that the plans are current and responsive to the types of failures being experienced; and
  5. Increase the setbacks from property lines to a minimum of tower height plus blade length for new towers or repowering of existing sites to at least reflect the impact of a tower collapse while recognizing additional distances would be required to protect against ice throw and debris scatter like that seen in the Huron Wind failure where debris with the dimensions of a car were found 2.5 times the height of the tower plus blade length.

At the time the wind power projects were approved by the McGuinty and Wynne governments, municipalities had limited input to the process and to the details of the projects including setbacks from roadways and homes.

“Mistakes were made,” the Working Group says.

The Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group is asking all municipalities to write to David Piccini, minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks for Ontario to ask that action be taken for safety.

Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of community groups, families and individuals concerned about the negative impacts of grid-scale wind power projects, agrees with the recommendations.

“We have been urging the government to revise all the regulations pertaining to wind turbines,” says president Jane Wilson. “Ontario’s regulations were implemented in 2009 and have not been changed since then—we know a lot more about the noise emissions and the safety risk. We need change right now.”

Read the MMWTWG report here: MMWTWG Report on IWT failures

A story also appeared in the Dundalk Herald/Toronto Star on this issue.

contact@ windconcernsontario.ca

 

 

Eminent physician blasts Ontario’s chief medical officer of health over wind turbine remarks

Remarks not worthy of the position he holds, says former federal public health official

Thousands of reports of wind turbine noise in Ontario, many with adverse health impacts, but public health doc ignores them [Shutterstock image]
December 5, 2021

“Arrogant” and insulting: that’s how Dr. Robert McMurtry, former Dean of Medicine at Western University and a former Assistant Deputy Minister of Health with Health Canada, describes comments made by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, with regard to health concerns  about industrial-scale wind turbines and health impacts.

Dr. McMurtry wrote a letter to Premier Doug Ford, expressing concern and professional disappointment over remarks made by Dr. Moore during a news conference in September.

On September 29, Dr. Moore said, in response to questions about people spreading misinformation on COVID vaccines, that “there will always be a ‘vocal minority’ in opposition whether its WiFi, 5 G, or wind turbines or vaccines,” according to a Tweet made by CTV’s Colin D’Mello.

For Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health to equate vaccine misinformation with the reports of adverse health effects from wind turbine noise emissions is “inconsistent with the volumes of peer-reviewed research available that demonstrate serious harm to human health,” Dr. McMurtry wrote in his letter.

He also referred to the fact that Dr. Moore, while working in public health in Kingston, Ontario, testified against the citizen environmental group appealing the Ostrander Point wind power project, for the Ontario environment ministry.

“If Dr. Moore had taken the time to review the many studies and reports published on wind turbine effects it the past decade, it is highly unlikely he would have made the recent statement,” Dr. McMurtry said.

Instead, he demonstrated conduct unbecoming of a public health officer, McMurtry wrote. His remarks are a “gratuitous affront” and “not worthy of the position he holds”.

Dr. McMurtry has served as an advisor to many government commissions and was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2011.

Read Dr. McMurtry’s full letter here: RY McMurtry Letter to CMOH Dr Kieran Moore_November 22_2021

Wind Concerns Ontario also wrote a letter to Dr. Moore in October but has not received a response.

“High probability” of serious health effects from wind turbine noise emissions, say researchers

Government and public health authorities have failed to protect health, say researchers in a new paper published in Environmental Disease journal

 

Home in Huron County surrounded by turbines [Photo Gary Moon for WCO]
October 24, 2021

Wind power developers and their government supporters have long claimed that there is “no proof” of a link between wind turbine noise emissions and poor health. Yet concerns persist around the world, and there are many people who claim to have had their lives and health adversely affected by being forced to live near the wind power generators.

A new research paper published last week in the Environmental Disease journal concludes that “exposure to IWTs [industrial wind turbines] is associated with an increased risk of AHEs [Adverse Health Effects]. The analysis concludes that living or working near IWTs can result in AHEs in both people and animals.”

The paper addresses the fact that despite many thousands of complaints about noise and health effects around the world, research as yet to conclude a causal relationship between wind turbine noise and poor health. The authors employ a series of criteria developed by famed epidemiologist and statistician Sir Austin Bradford Hill in order to answer that question.

The result? The criteria for establishing a cause and effect relationship were met and the conclusion can be made that “exposure to IWTs is associated with an increased risk” of adverse health effects.

The authors cite studies from all around the world, including Shepherd in New Zealand, the Bridgewater study in Australian and numerous others, as well as papers produced by Wind Concerns Ontario on noise complaints filed with the Ontario government. One study was completed by two acoustics experts who became ill themselves while studying the noise emissions from a wind power project in the United States.

Most noise studies do not accurately measure wind turbine noise

“The vast majority of studies of sound from wind turbines do not accurately measure the presence of LFN [low frequency noise] or infrasound,” the authors said. “This failure of public health authorities and governments to monitor the impact of LFN and infrasound on exposed individuals impedes the proper interpretation of results and is not consistent with the WHO [World Health Organization] report “Guidelines for Community Noise’ that states: ‘When prominent low-frequency components are present, noise measures based on A-weighting are inappropriate’.”

A failure of government and public health authorities

The authors say with the “growing weight of evidence” and the “rapid proliferation of IWT installations globally” it is time for governments to act to protect public health.

“Preventive action should be taken and policies implemented that are more cautiously protective of public health, safety and welfare,” the authors conclude.

“More stringent regulation is needed to recognize, monitor, analyze, and document effects on the health of local residents and animals.”

More effective and precautionary setback distances should also be employed.

In Ontario, the regulations governing the approval and monitoring of industrial-scale wind turbines has not changed since 2009, and many aspects of the regulations still in force today were dictated to previous governments by the wind power lobby, including setback distances.

A statement by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health published in 2010 also has not been revised (though an update was developed in 2014 but never published). It continues to be used by Ontario medical officers of health as “proof” that there is no link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects, despite thousands of records of complaints held by the environment ministry.

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

 

Australian wind farm operator commits fraud, causes wilful harm to project neighbours

“Costing us a fortune to fight these multinational mobs” says local farmer

Two of the 52 wind turbines in the Bald Hills power project: the company collected millions then did nothing to fix problems [Photo: Bald Hills Wind Farm]
October 11, 2021

Recent testimony from the ongoing Bald Hills court case in Australia revealed the stunning news that while the wind power operator denied there were problems with its turbines, in fact it collected millions in compensation for the defective power generators…but then did nothing to fix them!

Read the news story here. An excerpt:

In the latest of a series of “David versus Goliath” wind farm cases in Victoria, local farmers John Zakula and Noel Uren are requesting damages for noise disturbance and could demand the wind farm be deactivated for at least some of the day. Infrastructure Capital Group disagrees with claims that its turbines have been causing significant disturbance.

Mr Arthur also conceded during cross-examination that his company had not told Mr Zakula and Mr Uren they were receiving compensation payments at the same time as operating the wind farm.

Speaking to The Sunday Age, Mr Zakula describes the sound of the turbines just over a kilometre from his home as “like a roaring train”.

The 64-year-old bought his property in Tarwin Lower in 2011, building his off-grid home from scratch with an organic farm and solar panels.

His bedroom had a window from floor to ceiling. Within a year of Bald Hills opening in 2015 – around the same time he lodged his first complaint to South Gippsland Shire Council – Mr Zakula pulled out the glass and replaced it with bluestone rocks to try and counter the noise.

For Mr Uren, who moved to a different property three years ago, it was the unpredictability of the turbine noise that most triggered him.

“It was worse in cold weather and when the wind came from a certain direction. Some days I’d look at the forecast, see cold days and dread the roaring I knew was on the way.”

The duo’s grievances have culminated in a challenge in the state’s highest court that will hear both sides’ final arguments on Tuesday.

The case typifies an increasingly common dispute in Victoria: residents protesting against the installation of noisy wind farms in what is a rapidly expanding sector.

“It’s costing us a fortune against these big multinational mobs. I’d like the entire compliance regime to be investigated and reconsidered after this,” he says.

A key word in this story is “tonality,” as it was apparently acknowledged the turbines were faulty, and produced harmful tonal emissions. In Ontario, the environment ministry Provincial Officers were directed not to treat the noise from wind turbines as “tonal or cyclic in nature.” (Page 14, WTG Complaint Response and Management, Ministry of the Environment Noise Measurement Training, West Central Region, June, 2010).

At the K2 Wind power facility, the ministry issued letters to citizens following measurement indicating that tonal emissions had been detected, but the turbines underwent an audit conducted by the operator, and are still operating today.

For the Bald Hills operator to knowingly inflict tonal emissions on nearby property owners—for YEARS—is the height of duplicity and callous disregard for the health of others.

The wind industry needs to address this problem immediately.

In Ontario, the government should conduct a complete revision of all wind power related processes from approval to measurement, compliance and enforcement. It needs to do that now.

Contact@windconcernsontario.ca

A living hell: one family’s wind turbine noise story

Brookfield Comber, seen October 2020 (supplied photo)

Just move—or maybe get tubes in your ears, family told by government officers

April 23, 2021

Among the desperate complaint documents provided to us following a request for Ontario wind turbine noise complaint records under Freedom of Information legislation is correspondence from one family that lives inside the Brookfield Comber project.

On the advice of their lawyer, they now file reports of excessive noise and adverse effects once a month, and they keep a daily log.

For the month of April 2018, this was their record:

  • 24 days the noise level was high pitched to unbearable high pitched
  • 4 days were medium pitched
  • 2 days were low and bearable

They concluded their report that month with “[redacted] noise inside your head 24/7 whenever the turbines are running … trying to live a normal life in your own home is not possible.” The described the noise on one complaint as being like “a dentist’s drill.”

TWO DAYS of the month were “bearable.” Just two.

May that year was a slightly better month for the family. Slightly.

The report:

  • 25 days the noise levels inside our home were high pitched to unbearable high pitched sound
  • 2 days were medium pitched
  • 4 were low bearable days.

Did they get any help from the power operator or the environment ministry? Here’s what the record says, in an email dated June, 2018:

“Following a letter we wrote to Mr Glenn Murray [then Minister of environment], we have been dealing with them [the then MOECC] concerning the Wind Turbine Infrasound we have been experiencing inside our home since 2012. …. After lengthy conversations, with two members of that office [Windsor] we were told our symptoms were that of infrasound but because the Ministry of Health does not consider that a health problems their hands were tied. Since then and after an Officer attended our home on January 19, 2018 and suggested perhaps we just just move, or get tubes in our ears to ease the pressure, they have now refused to acknowledge our monthly reports on the noise levels we are experiencing.”

FACT: the Renewable Energy Approvals granted to wind power projects in Ontario require that the project operators identify and resolve the cause for each complaint about emissions from their project.

FACT: It is beyond the scope of Ontario Environmental Officers to be telling people what surgical procedures to have.

FACT: It is the job of the Environmental Officers to receive and record complaints received from Ontario citizens about wind turbines.

Wind turbine noise reports missing

The family has since told Wind Concerns Ontario that in 2018, they filed a total of 26 reports of excessive noise/vibration/pressure; in answer to our Freedom of Information request, we received NINE.

This system is beyond broken, it was badly set up and a sham to begin with.

Ontario is dealing with the worst of the pandemic right now to be sure, but steps must be taken to fix this, and Ontario’s environment officers must do their jobs.

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Don’t stop calling: to report wind turbine noise, effects on water wells, harm to wildlife, adverse health effects, call

1-866-MOE-TIPS. And be sure to get an Incident Report number.

For more on the 2018 complaint record documents, read our report: Report on Noise Complaint Response 2018-FINAL

To email the environment ministry using their standard form, go to: Government of Ontario

Wind turbine noise complaints unheeded in Ontario

Complaint process for wind turbine noise inherited by the Ford government not effective

April 12, 2021

Wind Concerns Ontario has just released its latest report on how the Ontario government has responded to citizen complaints about excessive wind turbine noise from grid-scale wind power projects.

Warning: the contents of this report can make for difficult reading.

The excerpts of comments from people calling into the 24/7 Spills Action Centre telephone line, or sending emails to their local District Office of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks are an alarming demonstration of the desperation felt by families forced with the wind turbine noise—some of them, for many years.

“We ache all over and can hardly function we are so tired. Please tell us what to do. Please respond.”

“Noise described as a ‘whooing’ sound, both heard and felt.”

“This continues to be horrendous.”

“Caller reports a pulsing roar.”

“This is the 65th time they have called.”

“We can’t go on like this.”

Polluted acoustic environment

One complaint documented was from a technician hired to do monitoring of bat populations near Bow Lake, who questioned whether he/she could continue the work due to the “acoustic pollution” from the wind turbines. The wind turbines were “generating unacceptably intrusive and potentially dangerous noise emissions into the natural environment,” the person reported. This is a “polluted acoustic environment.”

This report is based on Incident Reports created in 2018, received as the result of a request under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act. The request was filed in January 2019; we received almost 4,000 pages of documents this past March. The report is fourth in a series, examining ministry response back to 2006.

It’s not working

The overarching conclusion from examining the complaint records as a whole is that Ontario’s complaint monitoring process, which the current government inherited from previous administrations, is not working. Key findings:

  • Complaints about wind power projects are part of the process government promised would ensure protection of health and safety. Robust enforcement of the regulations in response to these complaints will fulfill that responsibility.
  • In total, almost 6,000 files of complaints about wind turbine noise, vibration and sound pressure have been released to Wind Concerns by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
  • 39 percent of complaints in 2018 noted adverse health effects.
  • The records show that complaints do not result in real action by the project operators, despite requirements of approvals for the project.
  • The process to accept and record citizen complaints is inconsistent, and information gathered is incomplete.
  • There appears to be no ministry-wide evaluation and review process for citizen complaints about environmental noise produced by wind turbines.
  • The report concludes with recommendations on how the complaint handling process could be improved as an enforcement tool, and could provide opportunities to act on other issues such as electricity costs.

 

Read the report here: Report on Noise Complaint Response 2018-FINAL.

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Are wind power operators profiling people who complain?

March 15, 2021

Are wind power operators profiling people who call them to complain about noise or other effects from wind turbine operations?

In response to a request under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, Wind Concerns Ontario received what appears to be internal documents used by Suncor in 2016, related to the company’s Adelaide wind power project.

On the forms is the guide to staff to “indicate if the individual is a member of a larger stakeholder group”.

Wind Concerns Ontario is a community group coalition with dozens of community groups throughout the province, most of which actively criticized the imposition of grid-scale wind power facilities on their communities. Many also launched legal appeals before various tribunals and in court.

Was this question meant to intimidate people exercising their rights to complain under the government compliance process?

We sent an email to Suncor, in specific Jason Weir, the staff member who is named on the reports we received, but have had no response. Mr Weir has been listed as Site Supervisor and “Owners’ Representative” in the past, according to a search on his name.

Again these were internal forms for use by staff to guide information gathering. Other questions include asking about details of the complaint, wind direction, etc.

WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

NOISE: Research leads the way to change in regulation of wind turbine noise emissions

Wind turbine problems: The people were not wrong (Shutterstock image)

December 31, 2020

A number of papers were published in 2020 that help to move knowledge about the environmental impact of wind turbine noise emissions forward, and point to the need for regulatory review and change in Ontario, and enforcement of all regulations. While staff at the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks insist they keep up and move with current research, the conclusions reached in the new work show that clearly isn’t true.

As well, important work is being done by independent researchers—people who know there is a serious problem with wind turbine noise emissions, and who are doing what they can to learn why … and what should be done.

Resident complaints proven by data

Early in the year, independent researcher William Palmer P. Eng published “Confirming Tonality at Residences Influenced by Wind Turbines” in the Journal of Energy Conservation. The article is based on the author’s research into resident complaints about a tonal quality to the noise perceived from the turbines in a 140-turbine Ontario wind power facility. The research is based on more than 200 data samples from two families. Here’s the thing: Palmer’s data confirmed a correlation between tonality measurements of 5 dB to more than 20 dB in more than 84 percent of the time. In other words, the resident complaints about a tonal quality to the noise were borne out by actual measurement.

That correlation, Palmer wrote, “gives a high degree of confidence that when residents identified the existence of tonality (which they had done since the turbines came into operation in 2015) was indeed an accurate description.” Add to that, the residents were able to identify times when the wind turbine noise emissions were NOT tonal–that was borne out by the measurements, too.

Palmer discussed a number of problems with the current compliance protocol and noise measurement procedures prescribed by Ontario regulations, including the use of A-weighted noise levels, which has been criticized in other work including reports by the World Health Organization and the Council of Canadian Academies. In Ontario, Palmer says, “the principal criteria for acceptability of the sound received by residents from wind turbines has been based on A-weighted noise level, with tonal presence only requires a small adjustment.” However, Palmer adds, he can find no examples of it being applied.

Another specific flaw, he notes, is that the compliance protocol for wind turbine noise is to monitor conditions for winds within about 45 degrees of the turbine which has the greatest predicted noise impact. In the case of the homes used in his research, that meant that for one house there was presumed to be “little or noise noise impact” when the wind was westerly or no impact when the wind was from the east. In fact, occasions when winds were from those directions actually accounted for 74 of 111 records of irritating or disturbing noise—about 67 percent of the time.

The people were not wrong

Another article, also by independent researchers, elaborated on this theme of citizen concerns about problems with wind turbines. (See also a 2019 paper, Wind Turbine Incident/Complaint Reports in Ontario, Canada.) In this case, the authors of Deja Vu: a review of lived experiences after Appeals of Ontario Industrial-scale wind Power Facilities, looked at the appeal process for wind power facility approvals and what grounds had been used for citizens to file appeals of those approvals, despite what lawyers call an “uphill battle” to undertake that process. The authors found that the grounds for appeal were: environmental noise, adverse health effects, and other environmental effects such as disturbances to water wells and aquifers.

In the early days of these appeals, the appellants relied on the testimony of “post-turbine witnesses,” people who had experience living within wind power facilities, and who were experiencing health problems. One chair of the Environmental Review Tribunal decided that although the Tribunal “does not question the sincerity” of these witnesses, the quasi-judicial panel concluded that the health problems were self-diagnosed and the lack of evidence from medical professionals was a serious shortcoming.

Today, there are enough complaints throughout Ontario about wind turbine noise emissions that the reports should be seen as significant, the authors said. They cited other authors who called for “diligent enforcement” of regulations by government, and legal authors who observed that wind turbine concerns had been “trivialised” while the concerns for the environment and health were in fact “genuine.”

“The Government of Ontario holds thousands of records of citizen complaints in the form of Incident Reports, many of which are reports of excessive noise and vibration; a significant number includes accounts of the occurrence of adverse health effects,” the authors wrote. Complaints continue to be filed; “there is evidence to suggest that current regulations [in Ontario] are not adequate to protect health.”

“It appears that the people who were concerned about the risks to the environment and human health were not wrong. Those concerns—which led them to spend substantial amounts of money while participating in an unfamiliar, stressful quasi-judicial process—are now the reason for a significant number of complaints to government.”

In other words, what the people feared might happen with the advent of the wind turbines, has now actually come to pass.

Fight and flight

The last paper of interest is one that was based on research again carried out by a group of independent researchers over a period of years, on what people were going to do about being forced to live inside wind power projects. Exploring Why Some Families Living in Proximity to Wind Turbine Facilities Contemplate Vacating Their Homes is a report on a community-based study involving 67 participants, who together had filed more than 4,500 formal complaints related to wind turbine noise with government.

Excerpts from interviews with the participants told the story. People had learned that the only thing they could do to relieve the discomfort and problems of the wind turbine noise was to leave.

“When I left my home in the morning, or quite often in the middle of the night and then slept on my vehicle away from the turbines, I would recover from all these symptoms,” said one.

“We left home many times for the day just because of the noise here…we couldn’t stand it,” said another.

Of the 67 study participants, 28 had already abandoned their homes, another 31 were thinking about doing that, and four had decided to stay. The reasons were, the authors concluded, “to obtain temporary and/or partial relief from the occurrence of adverse health effects.”

The authors noted that in some cases, pre-existing health conditions were made worse by living near wind turbines; they called for more study to be done immediately.

 

At the end of the day…

The people of Ontario were promised a process that included regulation of noise, a protocol to assess compliance, and enforcement of the regulations.

Clearly, after more than 10 years, this promise, made under previous governments, has not been fulfilled. There are serious technical issues with the protocols in place and with the assumptions that underlie the regulatory process.

The Ontario government must:

  • establish an independent research panel to review current research on wind turbine noise emissions in six months, or less
  • remove the outdated and inadequate 2010 report of the Chief Medical Officer of Health from the public record
  • enforce existing regulations
  • resolve current complaints from citizens
  • revise and update the compliance protocol
  • develop new noise regulations, and
  • ENFORCE those regulations

 

We look forward to more research in 2021 to move us forward to change.

WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO