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Turbine mast and blades cover the ground in the Bow Lake wind power facility. Photo: Sault Online.

Meanwhile, Ottawa plans to allow industrial-scale turbines in rural areas as early as 2025

September 2, 2021

The failure of a wind turbine at the Bow Lake wind power facility near Sault Ste. Marie is raising questions about safety around the giant industrial structures and current Ontario regulations.

The collapse of the Bow Lake turbine is being investigated by the power facility operator, BluEarth Renewables, and there were no injuries associated with the event. However, as can be seen from the photo of the debris field, it is worth questioning what might have happened if the collapse had occurred on a farm property in southern Ontario.

Interviewed for the story in Sault Online , engineer Bill Palmer said “this incident is the 10th wind turbine failure in Ontario that has put the blades (and in this case all three of the 50 metre long blades for the failed turbine) onto the ground… this is the second collapse of a very similar GE wind turbine and the 6th case in Ontario in which GE turbines have put blades on the ground”.

Palmer has published numerous academic papers and appeared at international conferences on wind turbines and health and safety. He was also a witness in the citizen appeal of the Nation Rise project south of Ottawa. He noted that his personal experience with a turbine failure showed debris was flung more than 500 metres.

The Ontario regulation for setback between a wind turbine and a roadway or right of way is currently blade length plus 10 metres. In the case of the Nation Rise power project for example, that would be 79 metres or just 259 feet.

Just two months ago, a turbine failed in Southgate, just west of Toronto. The roadway nearby was closed for a week. No conclusions of the investigation into the event have been published to date.

The City of Ottawa plans to allow wind turbines in rural areas, according to its “Energy Evolution” document. The City states that one of its projects is changes to the electricity sector, which includes a plan “to develop local or regional renewable electricity supplies”. The “project metric” to “be undertaken 2020-2025” is for 20 megawatts of wind, or possibly six to seven industrial-scale wind turbines.

In a Tweet to Ottawa Wind Concerns today, Ward 21 Councillor Scott Moffatt, chair of the environment committee and co-chair of planning, said the City plans to regulate the turbines “within Ottawa.” He added that Ottawa does not “have any ability to say no to wind turbines in perpetuity.”

(In fact, other municipalities have made large-scale turbines a “not permitted” use [Dutton Dunwich] and others have strict rules about the size of turbines allowed [Prince Edward County]. The difference? Those communities are near active wind turbine projects and know what the issues are.)

“People who have never seen an actual modern wind turbine and who are familiar only with images from the wind power developers’ lobby group may not understand that these are industrial structures,” says Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario. “We are calling for an update to Ontario’s regulations for these power generators, for both safety and health. The current regulations are unchanged from 2009 and the McGuinty government, despite the fact turbines are growing more massive every year.

With the City of Ottawa calling for the installation of wind turbines as part of a Net Zero emissions strategy, more turbines could be on the way for Ontario.

“Government needs to act, now,” Wilson says.

Source: William Palmer PEng. Published in Sault Online