The Fact Bank
- Despite government and industry claims that there are no “direct” health effects from the environmental noise and vibration (low frequency noise or infrasound) produced by industrial wind turbines, the evidence is mounting that health effects do occur. “Indirect” pathways can cause harm to health.
- The Environmental Review Tribunal (2011, Case No’s 10-121,10-122, Erickson v. Director, Ministry of the Environment, p. 207) found that “The case has successfully shown that the debate should not be simplified to one about whether wind turbines can cause harm to humans. The evidence presented to the Tribunal demonstrates that they can, if facilities are placed too close to residents. The debate has now evolved to one of degree.”
- Industry continues to deny health effects, even blaming the victims. “There has been no policy analysis that justifies imposing these effects on local residents. The attempts to deny the evidence cannot be seen as honest scientific disagreement, and represent either gross incompetence or intentional bias.” (Carl V. Phillips, Properly Interpreting the Epidemiological Evidence About the Health Effects of Industrial Wind Turbines on Nearby Residents, July 2011, Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society.)
- The report by the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario was a review of selected literature and not a clinical study of the health effects from industrial wind turbines. Nevertheless, the report concluded that “sound measurements at residential areas around wind turbines and comparisons with sound levels around other rural and urban areas, to assess actual ambient noise levels present in Ontario, is a key data gap that could be addressed.” (Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, The Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines, May 2010.)
- The Ontario Government insists its setbacks between industrial wind turbines and “noise receptors” (i.e., homes and people) are among the most stringent in North America. This is not the case. Several dozen jurisdictions in North America have much farther setbacks (Nova Scotia at 1,000 meters) and other countries around the world have recognized the need for greater setbacks, such as two states in Australia which are now moving to 2-km setbacks.
- In a legal opinion provided to Wind Concerns Ontario, environmental lawyer Eric Gillespie concluded that the Ministry of the Environment “has a responsibility to fully and accurately describe health issues related to renewable energy projects in Ontario.” (Letter to Ministry of the Environment Jim Bradley, January 3, 2012
- Wind turbine noise is not being properly measured or monitored by Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment. The Ministry does not even have the protocols or the capacity to measure infrasound, and will not have this capacity until 2015.
- The Association of Major Power Consumers in Ontario (AMPCO) had previously posted that Ontario had one of the highest wholesale electricity prices in North America and the head of AMPCO, Adam White, said that the Liberal government clearly wants to replace its coal-fired generators with green energy, but he fears that “irrational exuberance” will push politicians to develop more than is warranted. “What’s the business case of more and more investment in more distant, more expensive renewables?” he asks. “What are we building it for? To serve growing demand? Because the price point is going to push down demand.” AMPCO sought and received concessions from the Ministry of Energy which shifted some of their costs to residential ratepayers.
- The report of the Auditor General for Ontario released December 5, 2011 stated “By 2014, the Global Adjustment (GA) is expected to be 6¢ per kilowatt hour (kWh)—almost two-thirds of the electricity charge—and will be almost two times more than that year’s projected Hourly Ontario Energy Price (HOEP).” This means the GA alone will be 17% higher than the “off-peak” time-of-use rates currently charged.
- The Auditor General’s report also stated “the total Global Adjustment is expected to increase tenfold province-wide, from about $700 million in 2006 to $8.1 billion in 2014, when the last coal-fired plants are phased out. Almost one-third of this $8.1 billion is attributable to renewable energy contracts.” This means that the contracted amounts that will be the responsibility of ratepayers will be $2.64 billion per annum or almost $54 billion dollars for the life of the 20-year contracts.
- The Auditor-General’s report also stated that the 50,000-job projection for the Green Energy Program did not include those lost due to promoting the program. The report points to a 2009 study in Spain which found that for each job created through renewable energy programs, about two jobs were lost in other sectors of the economy.
- By 2018 contracted renewables will be twice what is anticipated by 2014 meaning ratepayers will be on the hook to pay the developers over $100 billion over the 20 year life of the contracts.
- The Ontario Forest Industries Association in its “Pre-Budget Submission 2011” to the Province in this submission said: “Ontario’s electricity costs are higher than many other competitor jurisdictions that use power as an economic development tool.” and sought an expansion of the Northern Industrial Electricity Rate (NIER) program which rebates major users 2 cents a kWh. The expansion would increase both the number of qualifying companies (reducing usage from 50,000 MWh per annum to 10,000 MWh) and further extend the rebates to all manufacturers in Ontario. Result? Residential ratepayers would be saddled with this cost.
- The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (42,000 members) on July 13, 2009 made a presentation to George Smitherman, then Minister of Energy; 63 per cent of their membership cited “fuel, energy costs” as a major concern. They also claimed that their members were subsidizing residential ratepayers by paying 15% more for their electricity consumption. The CFIB made three recommendations. The first:”The Global Adjustment Mechanism must not be allowed to grow out of control.” The last recommendation warned that “implementing Time of Use (TOU) without understanding impacts may endanger businesses and jobs.”
- Industrial wind turbines (IWT) due to their intermittent supply of electricity require back-up, usually by single and combined cycle gas plants and Ontario recently cancelled two previously cancelled gas plants (Oakville and Mississauga) which will cost the ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Other locations for these two plants and additional gas generation will be required if the government follow through on their plans to add another 5,000 to 6,000 IWTs.
- According to a report by the Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress Ontario lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs between 2002 and 2009 and many of those job losses were caused by high electricity prices. The result? Companies like Xstrada and others closed their Ontario operations.
- The government’s mantra in pushing forward an agenda of renewable energy—mostly industrial-scale wind power generation—has been that this step is necessary for the environment, specifically to rid Ontario of air pollution caused by “dirty coal.” Here are the facts:
- The Auditor-General’s December 2011 report indicated that the power-generating capacity of current wind and solar technology is much lower than other energy sources. Wind generators operate at 28% capacity factor but have only 11% availability at peak demand due to lower wind output in the summer.
- The Auditor-General also reported that Ontario’s coal-fired planted are on track to be phased out by 2014 before wind power is in a position to be a substantial contributor and any increase in intermittent renewable energy requires back up by either coal- or gas-fired plants as wind and solar power have relatively low reliability and capacity.
- Power generation from coal is now at less than 3 percent (October 2012, IESO)
- In a 2001 report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Health Canada, Statistics Canada, and the Canadian Lung Association titled Respiratory Disease in Canada, is the conclusion: “Tobacco is the most important preventable risk factor for chronic respiratory diseases. … smoking cessation among adults will have the greatest impact on reducing respiratory diseases…” (page vii)
- In the same report is an explanation for the rise in diagnosis of asthma among children: “There is a strong association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) among pre-school aged children. … exposure to ETS, cat and dog allergens, cockroaches, dust mites, NO2 or NOx, fungi and rhinoviruses have been shown to be related to the exacerbation of asthma.” (page 27)
- Ontario’s air quality has been improving steadily according to the province’s own Air Quality Index (airqualityontario.com). From the AQI report in 2007, the sources of existing air pollution are listed as: the U.S. Midwest and Ohio Valley region of the U.S. continue to be significant contributors to elevated O3 and PM2.5 concentrations in southern Ontario…”
- The impact of clear cutting of forest to locate industrial wind turbines and transmission lines is ignored but is detrimental to the environment as noted in Thunder Bay and elsewhere.
Wind Power and Agriculture
- Industrial wind power generation has been presented by the wind industry as a boon to Ontario farmers. On January 20, 2012, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) announced a reversal of its support for the province’s wind power program, citing the damaging effect on rural communities, health effects and serious unresolved issues such as “farm succession.” The Federation called upon the province to suspend wind power development completely, until the serious issues had been resolved. (http://www.ofa.on.ca/media/news/OFA-calls-government-suspend-wind-turbine-development-in-Ontario )
- The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario has joined the groups expressing concern about this government policy calling for a halt to further FIT contracts. According to the CFFO, considering the increasingly obvious stress the current approach has placed on our rural communities, there is ample cause for the Ontario government to stop the further placement of FIT projects until a better way to move forward is put in place. (http://www.christianfarmers.org/images/Policy/fit.pdf)
- The push toward renewable energy in Ontario is costing Ontario’s farm operations as the cost of electricity increases.
- Developers are actually leasing the whole property not just the acre around the turbines, such as roadways, staging areas, electrical lines. In Ontario approximately 20,000 to 24,000 acres will be removed from food production for the future, mostly class 1 and 2 farm land.
- Domestic animals such as cows, horses, chickens etc. also experience negative health effects, manifesting in birth defects, erratic behaviour, etc. This can be from the noise from turbines or electrical issues such as dirty electricity or stray voltage.
- Wildlife leaves the area due to vibration and other causes. Bats and birds are important to control insects. It has also been reported that worms leave turbine areas, which has an effect on soil quality and crop outputs.
Real Estate Values
- Industrial wind turbines erected in proximity to homes, rural farms, retirement and cottage properties affect the values detrimentally as noted by studies in the US, UK and Canada, by as much as 25% to 80%. (McCann, Appraisal One Group, Luxemburger, CBC)
- A recent CBC news feature on real estate values indicated that there were fewer potential buyers for properties in proximity of wind turbines and that property values were lower by as much as 40%, thereby affecting the principal investment of homeowners. This has serious and widespread implications in respect to retirement plans, and farm property transfer within families. It has also affected the ability of property owners to obtain a mortgage, etc.
- Challenges on assessed property values have been launched in Ontario; one appeal resulted in a 50% reduction in assessed value. As more assessment appeals are initiated the result will be that taxpayers will have to pick up the difference to maintain municipal tax revenues, as their rural neighbours pay less tax on their reduced-value properties.
- An industry-funded appraisal study (Simmons Canning) is a deeply flawed attempt at regression analysis and is not a valid support for static or improved property values.
- The Auditor General for Ontario’s 2011 report stated that “there was no comprehensive business-case evaluation…to objectively evaluate the impacts of the billion-dollar commitment [in the renewable energy policy]. Such an evaluation would typically include assessing the prospective economic and environmental effects of such a massive investment in renewable energy on future electricity prices, direct and indirect job creation or losses, greenhouse gas emissions, and other variables.” (Auditor General Report 2011, p. 89.)
- According to the Auditor General for Ontario, the Ontario government’s estimate of the creation of 50,000 jobs in the “green energy” sector is not founded in fact. The AG quoted the report of the Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress which, according to the AG, says the jobs estimate is unclear because “it offered neither a definition of green jobs nor a transparent calculation of how the 50,000 figure was arrived at. …The report further noted that even if 50,000 new jobs were created, the higher energy costs might result in job losses elsewhere in the economy, particularly in industries that use large quantities of energy. Another recent study in Canada estimated that each new job to be created as a result of renewable energy programs would cost $179,000 each year.” (Auditor General 2011, p.118.)
- The Association of Municipalities of Ontario issued a submission to the Ministry of Energy dated December 6, 2011 which contained 14 recommendations pertaining to the FIT and MicroFIT programs and in their “Conclusions” stated the following: “ … the role of municipal governments, as hosts and providers needs better attention.”
- The Green Energy and Green Economy Act superceded 21 pieces of duly passed Ontario legislation, including the Heritage Act, the Conservation Act, and the Oak Ridges Moraine Act. It did NOT supercede the Municipal Act.
- Communities are being told by their corporate counsel that there is “nothing they can do.” Municipalities are able to pass their own noise bylaws, and to demand that the province return municipal land use planning powers.
- Several key issues exist for municipalities that will be “hosting” wind power generation projects—determining the cost of building permits, estimating the cost of damage to roads during the construction process, and—very important—the responsibility for decommissioning of the structures at the end of the life of a project. Experience in the United States shows that some companies will just walk away from projects when subsidies end, leaving municipalities with the substantial cost of removing the structures and disposing of the environmental hazards such as fibreglass, “rare earth” and hydraulic fluids used in the machinery.
Natural Resources and Wildlife
- Wind turbines kill birds and bats at a rate that is greater than reported by industrial wind developers according to the Spanish Society of Ornithology where the estimate of bird and bats kills is estimated between 6 to 18 million annually by the 18,000 turbines currently operating in Spain.
- Ontario has one of the most deadly wind developments in North America at Wolfe Island as reported by Nature Canada, a member-based non-profit conservation organization whose network includes 40,000 supporters and more than 350 naturalist organizations across Canada.
- The 86 Wolfe Island wind turbines in the final 6 months of 2009 killed 620 birds and 1270 bats which would equate to 14 birds and 30 bats per turbine per year.
- Several wind developments are planned for high bird (migratory) and bat density areas such as Amherst Island, the North Shore of Lake Erie, Prince Edward County and the Wolfe Island Shoals. Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller has stated that wind power projects should not be located near any of Ontario’s 70 Important Bird Areas (October, 2012, Annual Report 2011-2012, Part 2)
- Wind developers regularly apply for licences that allow them to kill “at risk” species as noted by the application from Gilead Power to “kill, harm and harass” both the whip-poor-will and the Blanding’s turtle.
- The 420 wind turbines in Pennsylvania killed 10,000 bats in 2010; the animals would have eaten more than 700 million mosquitoes and other small insects. Bats are key to agricultural success.
- In Pennsylvania alone the cost of killing bats in estimated avoided costs, was $277.9 million ($74 per acre) to farmers in that state.
RENEWABLE ENERGY APPLICATION PROCESS
- The Green Energy and Green Economy Act states that community involvement and public participation are key to renewable energy projects and approval by the Ministry of the Environment. In fact, however, wind power developer’s “public consultation” sessions are simply Open Houses with no Question and Answer session required. Typically, the developers display selected documents, such as lobby group CanWEA-funded “research” studies and others. There is no requirement to provide a balanced range of documents on industrial wind turbine projects.
- The Renewable Energy Application process does provide an opportunity for communities and the public to comment. However, comments must be based on a) “serious” harm to human health and b) serious and irreversible harm to the environment.
- There is no oversight on the technical aspects of the Renewable Energy Application put forward by wind developers. The companies have a list of items such as “consultation with First Nations” etc that they must check off but in fact, there are no experts in hydrology, environmental noise, or human health reviewing these proposals.
- The guidelines are minimal as for example, the requirements to protect animal/bird habitat.
- Wind developers’ proclamations about noise and safety of their equipment are based on computer noise modelling, not actual field studies.
By Parker Gallant
Posted on Wind Concerns Ontario