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.
Reality is biting hard in North Stormont in Eastern Ontario as residents who didn’t get involved in the multi-year fight to halt the 100-megawatt Nation Rise wind power project are now getting to see what a wind “farm” really looks like.
It is plainly an industrial use of the land.
The North Stormont turbines—29 of them—are among the largest in North America.
Here’s what the developer told people the turbines would look like, based on a photo from its nearby South Branch project. You have to give them credit at least for not proffering photos of a single turbine with cows grazing around the base, as some other developers do.
The photo from the Crysler area depicts a partially constructed acoustic barrier around the transformer substation—it should not be possible to see the equipment, but you can.
The farmland in the Nation Rise project area is Class 2 with some areas of Class 1.
Construction activity continues this week as EDPR races toward its June Commercial Operation Date, as required in its contract with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). There are no details as to where construction activities will be taking place.
Anyone experiencing sound or noise that seems to be excessive and is causing adverse effect should contact the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) via the 24-7 Spills Action Centre line at 1-866-MOE-TIPS. Be sure to get an Incident Report number and describe any effects you are experiencing.
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.
Health Canada released an update today on progress toward “modernization” of the Radiation Emitting Devices Act or REDA.
A consultation process was held last year in which the public and stakeholders could submit opinions and recommendations. Wind Concerns Ontario submitted a document which gave an overview of wind turbine proliferation in Ontario, and resulting complaints about noise and vibration.
Health Canada received 20 submissions from a variety of participants including interest groups and professional associations.
“Although many of the special interest groups and individuals expressed general support for strengthening the provisions of REDA,” Health Canada said, “concerns were raised in relation to the application of REDA to address noise emissions from wind turbines. Respondents expressed a desire to ensure that the provisions of REDA, specifically the general prohibition and notification requirements, apply to wind turbines as well as other products that emit tonal infrasound.”
Wind Concerns Ontario referred to numerous federal documents including the Health Canada wind turbines and noise study published in 2014 and the 2015 Council of Canadian Academies report, which both acknowledged problems with wind turbine noise emissions. Current protocols for monitoring noise from the turbines do not capture the full range of emissions, the Council noted.
Wind Concerns Ontario said:
There are processes in place for the people of Canada to report adverse reactions or adverse effects from the use of medications and medical devices, and to report problems with machinery or other equipment that pose a risk to health. In the case of wind turbines in Ontario, there have been thousands of reports of problems with exposure to wind turbine noise emissions.
The REDA must be employed to halt the risk to human health.
This is particularly important now as well, as the federal government seeks to encourage an expansion in development of renewable energy, which may mean the planning and construction of more wind power facilities. …
It has been a heartbreaking and frustrating exercise reading reports on wind turbine noise emissions and attendant health impacts filed by the people of Ontario who thought their government would really protect them.
Health Canada says the comments are under review and may result in some revisions to the proposed legislation.
Wind Concerns Ontario received the news today that the Ministry of Environment, Parks and Conservation (MECP) contacted Suncor, the operator of the Adelaide Wind Farm regarding our concerns about an internal document.
The document, turned over to us in a batch of files requested under Freedom of Information legislation, appears to be an internal record for noise complaints received by Suncor about the wind power facility turbines. The section of the form asked the staff member receiving the complaint to identify whether the person complaining was a “member of a larger stakeholder group.”
WCO was concerned that this question is an invasion of privacy and could be used to intimidate people wanting to report adverse effects.
Suncor has been contacted by the MECP. Suncor also responded to an email sent directly by WCO and said they will review and revise the form.
The letter from the MECP:
I had forwarded you concerns on to the London Office of the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks. They in turn reached out to Suncor to follow up.
Based on your concerns I believe Suncor has made changes to the wording of their questionnaire and shared that with you.
Director, Divisional Compliance Branch (DCB)
Drinking Water, Environmental Compliance Division
Ontario Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks
It is the right of any Ontario citizen to report noise, vibration, sensation, disturbance to water wells or any other effect believed to be associated with the operation of wind turbines. Call the Spills Action Centre at 1-866-MOE-TIPS, and be sure to get an Incident Report number. Keep a record of your call.
The 2010 report by the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario is old, irrelevant, and just plain wrong—time to say goodbye
February 4, 2021
In 2010, after media reports of citizen complaints about excessive noise from Ontario’s fleet of wind turbines, and to support the government’s push for more wind power, the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) for the province issued a brief document, The Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines.
The conclusion of that report, and many other government communications, was that there is no relationship between wind turbine noise and direct health effects. The Ontario government, then under pro-wind Premier Dalton McGuinty, pledged it would protect Ontario citizens by keeping up with research on wind turbine noise and health around the world, provide new updates, and make changes to regulations as needed.
That never happened.
A new review was carried out and a new update prepared for publication in 2014, but it never saw the light of day.
Direct vs. indirect
Today we know that research shows that an indirect relationship exists between wind turbine noise and stress or distress that can result in serious health impacts such as cardiovascular problems. Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal noted in 2011 that it was concerned about the lack of consideration of indirect health effects. And other documents such as a 2015 review by the Council of Canadian Academies highlighted the inadequacy of current noise assessment protocols as are used in Ontario, and the lack of studies that uses actual measurement of wind turbine noise at people’s homes, instead of computer-generated models.
The Ontario government took no notice.
The truth is, the original 2010 CMOH report was limited as a research effort: it was based on a review of selected research papers, discussion covered just seven pages, and the report was never subjected to an independent peer review.
Nevertheless, in 2021, that 2010 Ontario document is still promoted to communities and public health officials as the definitive statement in answer to the question, Does wind turbine noise cause adverse health effects? It is even cited by international authorities as Ontario government policy.
Why we need to act now
The landscape has changed dramatically for wind power. There are far more wind turbines operating across Ontario than in 2010, and the size and power rating of turbines has increased. Despite the Ontario experience with higher electricity bills, environmental noise and community opposition, the current federal government is hinting that it wants more renewable energy across Canada.
With thousands of noise complaints from Ontario wind turbines on record, and with international research spurring other jurisdictions to revise regulation and setbacks, it is clearly past time for Ontario to “retire” the 2010 CMOH report and remove it from the public domain. Public health officials should be informed it cannot be relied upon, and a review of more recent literature should be conducted in order to revise regulations that will be protective of health.
Obviously, COVID-19 is what everyone is focusing on right now, but the health impact of the environmental noise pollution caused by grid-scale wind turbines is an important concern, too.
“It was basically like a death when we had to move from our home”
New research catalogues the reasons behind families in Ontario who decided to abandon their homes after wind turbines started up.
June 29, 2020
“I couldn’t sleep anymore”
“Nowhere to go, no hiding from it [the noise]”
“We had beautiful water–you couldn’t drink it afterwards [turbines began operation]”
“I asked my doctor [if my health problems could be” about [wind] turbines. She said, ‘Yes’.”
Those are just a few of the comments made by Ontario residents who participated in a special study done by a team of health care professionals, acoustics specialists and investigators. A new paper by Dr. Robert McMurtry, Carmen Krogh, acoustics specialists Robert Rand, Jerry Punch, Stephen Ambrose and others*, reviews the reasons behind the desperate choice made by dozens of Ontario families to leave their homes, to preserve their health–both mental and physical.
The new paper, published last week, is based on a study carried out over three years involving 67 Ontario residents and additional family members for a total of 165 people. They all lived within 10 km of industrial-scale wind turbines or wind power generators.
More than half reported adverse health effects after being exposed to noise emissions and vibration from operating wind turbines; stray voltage and disturbed water wells were also cited as key factors in decisions to leave the houses. The people participating in the study had lived in their houses for a mean period of 20 years, or a range of three to 66 years.
The aim of the paper is to present policy-makers with information on the “potential outcomes of placing wind turbines near family homes,” the authors state in their conclusion.
“The comments made by the people in this study are just heart-breaking,” said Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “We’ve seen them over and over in the Incident Reports we received from Freedom of Information requests, together with statements from people indicating they can’t put up with the turbines and the adverse effects anymore. It is well past time the government enforced the rules, changed the rules, and developed rules that truly protect the people of Ontario.
“Bravo to this study team, and all the work they’ve done to expose the terrible things that have happened to innocent citizens.”
Read the full paper here: https://m.scirp.org/papers/101098?fbclid=IwAR3XcUKEebiBR-sLAyIEbNpGHnP3-EQU3_hwtOx4_ovfW6f-cI6JQj7Igfc
*Other authors include community group leaders such as Anne Dumbrille (CCSAGE), Linda Rogers (Mothers Against Wind Turbines) and Debra Hughes.
Cruel joke: Ontario’s 550 metre setback and government/industry notion that it is impossible to hear turbines past 1500 metres
March 3, 2020
New research from Australia has been published in the Journal of Sound and Vibration which shows that wind turbine noise goes a lot farther than the wind power lobby and turbine manufacturers would have you believe.
A lot farther.
Ontario’s setback, supposed to protect people from sleep disturbance and other effects of environmental noise pollution, is just 550 metres. This was suggested to the McGuinty government by the wind power lobby, after the Ontario government proposed a setback of 1 km.
The Australian research demonstrates that indoor low-frequency tone was detected 20 percent of the time at distances up to 2.4 km; the noise dissipated somewhat but was still perceived 16% of the time at a distance of 3.5 km. The authors note that complaints made to the South Australian Environmental Protection Agency came from people living as far away as 8 km!
Here is an excerpt from “Prevalence of wind farm amplitude modulation at long-range residential locations”:
Overall, it is important to determine how often AM is present at residential locations near a wind farm. In this view, Australian researchers from the Flinders University: Dr. Kristy Hansen, Phuc Nguyen, Dr. Branko Zajamšek, Prof. Peter Catcheside, in collaboration with Prof. Colin Hansen at The University of Adelaide studied the prevalence and characteristics of wind farm AM of a certain windfarm in Australia. Their goal was to determine how often AM occurred at various distances from the wind farm and to assess the suitability of the IOA ‘reference method’ for detecting low-frequency AM of a tone that is generated by wind turbines. Their research work is currently published in Journal of Sound and Vibration.
Their approach involved outdoor measurements for a total of 64 days at 9 different residences located between 1 and 9 km from the nearest wind turbine of a South Australian wind farm, which at the time of measurements was made up of 37 operational turbines, each with a rated power of 3 MW. The motivation for their analysis was to investigate the prevalence of a low-frequency ‘thumping’ or ‘rumbling’ noise that had been mentioned in complaints from residents.
… In summary, the study investigated the prevalence and characteristics of wind farm AM at 9 different residences located near a South Australian wind farm. Their work showed that, despite the number of AM events being recorded to reduce with distance, audible indoor AM still occurred for 16% of the time at a distance of 3.5 km. At night-time, audible AM occurred indoors at residences located as far as 3.5 km from the wind farm for up to 22% of the time. In a statement to Advances in Engineering, Dr. Kristy Hansen pointed out that the adopted approach was successful, although more research was needed to quantify the annoyance and sleep disturbance potential of the recorded type of tonal AM.
In Ontario, wind turbines are approved using a noise assessment protocol (developed by acoustics consultants often contracted to do work for wind power developers), using a computer-generated predictive model of the noise. As well, Renewable Energy Approvals require post-operational audits, many of which are incomplete, or have not been submitted at all.
The environment ministry has held the belief that it is impossible to hear turbine noise at 1500 metres and callers to the ministry District Offices or Spills Line are told their complaint is not accepted, and their files are closed, Wind Concerns Ontario has discovered in reviews of Incident Reports provided under Freedom of Information requests. Wind Concerns ONtario has so far tracked 5,200 formal records of complaints held by the government. How many would there be if people had not been told their complaint was impossible?
Wind Concerns Ontario releases a report on Ontario government records of 2017 wind turbine noise complaints
A report released today by Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) shows that the government under Premier Kathleen Wynne did little to respond to citizen reports of environmental noise pollution by industrial-scale wind turbines. And, when government staff in the environment ministry offices did try to enforce Ontario noise regulations, they were rebuffed by corporate wind power operators.
The Wind Concerns Ontario report is a review of almost 700 noise complaints from people living inside 23 wind power facilities across Ontario. The total number of complaints records received by WCO now exceeds 5,200.
Response by the environment ministry was recorded in only 1.3 percent of the records in 2017; 54 percent of the files were marked “No” response by government staff.
Adverse health impacts were noted in staff notes and recorded comments by citizens calling in or emailing in 42 percent of the files, and 16 percent contained description of symptoms suggestive of exposure to low-frequency noise which is not audible but can cause harm.
The Wind Concerns Ontario report comes after a 17-month wait and several appeals to the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner following the initial request for the records under the Freedom of Information Act. The noise complaints were made to the MInistry of the Environment and Climate Change during the pro-wind power Wynne government’s last full year in office.
Excerpts from the citizen complaints are included and provide a “litany of suffering” according to the WCO report.
“We find no peace … the assault is the same and at times greater in low wind speeds. [We have had] a thumping noise through our heads, long and steady, all day,” was one comment from someone living near the single turbine in Port Elgin, owned by the union Unifor.
“The noise has been bad for 24 hours,” said another resident, living inside the 140-turbine K2 Wind power facility. “I am exhausted from not sleeping.”
Another K2 Wind neighbour reported that the noise “drives a person insane when it goes on for hours…We are being impacted health-wise and are extremely agitated with the noise.”
“Unbearable … torture,” said another person. No response from the environment ministry was recorded on the file.
The corporate power operators are required by the terms of their Renewable Energy Approvals or REAs to act on these complaints, and to investigate the cause of complaints, take action, and ensure the complaints are not repeated. The Environmental Protection Act gives specific power to the environment ministry to take action.
In practice, however, Wind Concerns Ontario found in its review, the power operators were delinquent in filing audits to confirm compliance, and refused to take action when called upon by ministry staff. When the Owen Sound District Office, for example, demanded the operator of K2 Wind respond to noise complaints and implement noise mitigation until their (overdue) audit was filed, the company wrote back from its Texas headquarters with a refusal, stating “It is the Company’s view that the current circumstances do not objectively establish reasonable and probable grounds to require interim mitigation measures.” The operator, Pattern Energy, referred to its computer-generated predictive modeling for noise and said the modeling “is accurate.” In other words, our models say this can’t happen, therefore it isn’t.
The situation is unacceptable, Wind Concerns Ontario says.
“We’re recommending that the current Ontario government take action to enforce the regulations immediately,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “It’s time to get rid of the outdated and non-protective protocol for measuring noise, stop letting the corporate power operators police their own operations, and re-invest and support our trained Environmental Officers—let them do the job they were supposed to do, and help the people of rural Ontario who have been forced to live next to these power generating machines.”
Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups, individuals and families concerned about the negative impacts of industrial-scale wind power development on the environment, the economy, and people’s health.
“Government and industry not trusted to resolve noise complaints effectively or fairly” researchers said in 2016
January 20, 2020
An interesting story popped up in the news feed this morning, out of Missouri.
A wind power project has been proposed for Buchanan County and a new protective zoning ordinance drafted. The ordinance specifies a two-mile setback between turbines and the city limits, but there is no restriction on the distance between the huge wind power generators and rural homes.
Once again, rural communities are pitted against city dwellers; the latter seems all too eager to have their wind power but not have to hear it, too.
Any minute now, the N-word will come up.
City dwellers will be encouraged by the wind power proponents to accuse their country cousins of being “NIMBY” (Not in My Back Yard) while at the same time, these large power generators will never be in their back yards. Or even close to them.
The use of the epithet NIMBY has been used effectively by the wind power lobby as a marketing strategy designed to put rural residents offside, and help depict them as uninformed people worried only about property values and views.
The Buchanan County ordinance is interesting because a) it acknowledges that there are problems with wind turbine noise, and b) significant setbacks are needed to try to counter that problem.
Let’s be clear: NIMBY is an insult. It’s also completely inappropriate say two authors and academics, in a paper published in the journal Renewable Energy Law and Policy, not long after the Green Energy Act was passed.*
When it comes to community concerns about wind power projects being forced on residents, there are very real problems, authors Stephen Hill and James Knott said. Noise issues were “conflated with other social issues such as property value,” there was “inadequate communication and public engagement” and a “loss of local government authority over planning matters,” all of which led to a “growing mistrust in government and industry’s ability to effectively and fairly manage the risks of wind turbine noise.”
The McGuinty and Wynne governments became regarded “not as a neutral arbiter of wind regulation but rather an active proponent,” the authors said. “A crucial error, in our view, was not to have created an independent expert panel to assess the central points of controversy,” i.e, the noise and health impacts.
Hill and Knott are not alone: several other academic authors said that use of the term NIMBY is “an oversimplification of opposition that more accurately is based on a complex mix of factors.”
“Many communities have genuine concerns about impacts on environmental integrity, viewscapes, food production, and social fabric” wrote a team of authors, also published in the Renewable Energy Law and Policy journal.**
Today, with thousands of reports of excessive wind turbine noise and complaints of associated health effects logged by the Ontario government (even with a deeply flawed and inadequate reporting system), we have more than enough evidence that something is terribly, terribly wrong.
Ontario’s current government has pledged to do something to help; insisting on complete compliance with current noise regulations (which do not meet World Health Organization standards) and enforcing Renewable Energy Approvals is a start.
In the meantime, in view of all the very serious problems with industrial-scale wind power, no one should be calling anyone a NIMBY.
*Stephen Hill and James Knott. 2010. Renewable Energy Law and Policy. Too Close for Comfort: Social Controversies Surrounding Wind Farm Noise Setback Policies in Ontario.
** D. McRobert, J. Tennent-Riddell and C. Walker. 2016. Renewable Energy Law and Policy. Ontario’s Green Economy and Green Energy Act: Why a Well-Intentioned Law is Mired in Controversy and Opposed by Rural Communities.
In a letter from Senior Environmental Officer Scott Gass in the Owen Sound District Office of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP), Ministry staff report that the operator of the massive K2 Wind power project claims the project is now in compliance with Ontario noise regulations for industrial-scale wind turbines.
K2 Wind was found out of compliance earlier this year and was the subject of a Director’s Order to implement a Noise Abatement Plan for 90 of the 140 turbines in the power project.
Now, says Mr. Gass in his letter to a resident with longstanding problems (who wishes to be anonymous), the noise issue appears to be resolved. Mr. Gass’ email, it should be noted, was to furnish the residents with official Incident Report numbers for ongoing reports of excessive noise and vibration.
His email stated:
“At this time, in response to the additional Part D noise analysis completed in the spring, K2 has taken steps to de-rate approximately 90 turbines to reduce noise emissions. The information supplied by the company indicates that the wind turbines, with the interim curtailment in place, meet the ministry’s sound level limits. This is an interim measure put in place while K2 develops a long-term noise abatement action plan for ministry review. Once a long-term plan has been implemented, additional monitoring will be required to assess the noise emissions.” [Scott Gass, email October 4, 2019]
The ministry continues to rely on outdated regulations in its Compliance Protocol, which assess audible noise emissions only. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Act clearly states that the operator of a wind power project must address all conditions causing “adverse effect” and take steps to address the complaints from nearby residents.
So, in short, the only sign of success in noise abatement would be a complete halt in complaints about noise and adverse effects — that’s not what is happening. Resident complaints do not appear to be a factor in assessment of compliance.
The family emailed by Mr. Gass lives on a farm surrounded by turbines in all directions, and has been reporting excessive noise from multiple K2 Wind turbines for four years — since the project began operation.
Problems with wind turbine noise are prevalent all over Ontario, with more than 4,500 formal reports filed up to 2016. (Wind Concerns Ontario has requested data for 2017 and 2018 but so far, has not received any information, and has in fact filed for a second appeal to obtain the 2017 records.)
Environment minister Jeff Yurek recently visited residents in Port Elgin who have filed hundreds of complaints about the Unifor wind turbine in that community.
While a pledge to enforce regulations is a step forward from the previous government, which had a very close relationship with the wind power industry, there can be no “success” on this front until all noise complaints and reports of adverse health effects have stopped.
That will require political courage and decisive action, including the shutdown of wind turbines.
Note: if you are experiencing noise/vibration/sensation of pressure from wind turbines, please report it to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks by calling the Spills Action Centre at 1-866-MOE-TIPS. Be sure to get an Incident Report number and keep a record of your call. You may wish to copy your MPP.