Current regulations inadequate to protect health, safety, Ottawa standing committee told today
Turbines and home inside Nation Rise power project
MEDIA RELEASE PUT DISTANCE BETWEEN WIND TURBINES AND HOMES, COMMUNITY GROUP TELLS CITY OF OTTAWA April 7, 2022, Ottawa—
The only way to prevent or mitigate problems with industrial-scale or grid-scale wind turbines is to put distance between the huge, noise-emitting machines, community group Ottawa Wind Concerns told Ottawa’s Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee (ARAC) today.
It is well known that the large, 60-storey wind turbines produce noise which can affect sleep and health; the machines can also pose a safety risk if located too close to roads, and a risk to wildlife such as birds and bats.
Ottawa Wind Concerns board member Mike Baggott of North Gower, asked that City Planning staff adopt a 2-kilometre setback between the power generating equipment and homes.
The recommendation is based on a recent statement by community group coalition Wind Concerns Ontario.
There are more than 2,000 wind turbines in Ontario presently, and the provincial government has more that 6,000 formal Incident Reports, documenting complaints about noise, many associated with health impacts.
Ottawa is currently engaged in developing new zoning bylaws following completion of the city’s new Official Plan. Ward 21 Councillor Scott Moffatt, a member of ARAC, said that there would be opportunity for rural residents to engage in the development of new bylaws to protect citizens, should wind power projects be proposed for Ottawa in the future.
City Councillors say no, no, no, but illustrations on City publications say yes, yes, yes
December 9, 2021
After emails and telephone calls to their offices during the development of the new Official Plan this fall, which allowed wind turbines on prime agricultural land, Ottawa City Councillors claimed that the City has “no plans” for wind turbines.
Ward 21 Councillor Scott Moffatt, also the Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, wrote in his constituent column in the Manotick Messenger that:
“A big part of that [the city’s climate action plan] will be renewable energy One of our Modelling documents shows what that looks like and includes mention of 700 industrial wind turbines. This has led some to believe that the City is planning on developing that many wind turbines in rural Ottawa. That could not be farther from the truth.”
But then, there is this: an illustration from the City’s Climate Action newsletter, which clearly depicts a wind turbine.
And, the City’s Planning department has this illustration on slide 10 of a recent public presentation, designed to show its various functions. It includes wind turbines as an example of land use planning.
Mr. Moffatt also said that the City was not “finding locations where wind development could occur.”
An email from staff, however, says this:
“Staff are currently undertaking a preliminary assessment of renewable energy generation potential within the rural areas identified in the new Official Plan to better understand how the potential compares to the Energy Evolution model requirements. This study is expected to be complete this summer …”
It is also worth noting that an illustration of the site plan for the Tewin development also features a depiction of wind turbines. (Apologies for the size of the image.)
The debut of Official Plan discussions shocked more than a few people back in July when Manager of Planning Policy Alain Miguelez revealed in an online public meeting that wind turbines were coming to Ottawa’s rural area—being “directed” there, he said. Because, he said, Ottawa was estimating an increase in population and as power demand rose, “that energy has to come from somewhere.” In other words, the rural communities.
In subsequent presentations staff tried to assure residents that they would “get it right” by developing protective zoning bylaws for wind turbines.
But councillors still say that’s not happening, and anyone who says it is, is fear mongering. The City did revise the renewable energy part of the Official Plan so that it now says “large-scale” wind turbines will not be permitted on “agricultural resource areas,” but that does not prevent applications for Official Plan amendments.
Councillors also say that while Ottawa is not actively planning wind turbines (in spite of Planning staff public comments and various illustrations that indicate the City is open to wind power), if proposals were to come along, Ottawa cannot say “No.” This is not correct, but more on that later.
Why the concern? Wind turbines are a highly invasive form of power generation, using a significant amount of land , creating noise pollution, and posing a serious risk to wildlife including birds and bats. Ottawa’s Energy Evolution plan does not include any mention of developing new nuclear, despite the fact that the federal government has spent millions on new nuclear, and Canada is a global leader in clean, reliable, emissions-free nuclear energy.
The complaints started even before the wind “farm” did.
While turbines were being constructed and tested, residents of North Stormont filed complaints with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks about construction noise, dust, vibration and then, the noise from the actual turbines once they were running.
By the time the project was formally commissioned—despite dozens of citizen complaints—there were many indications that the Nation Rise wind power project was causing problems for some people.
Now, the Ontario government is conducting an investigation into the noise complaints and allegations of adverse health effects, according to a news report yesterday. In Ontario, it is a violation of the Environmental Protection Act to cause adverse effects including disturbing quiet enjoyment of property and causing health to be affected.
The problem is, the “investigation” will likely (we hope not) follow Ontario’s outdated and flawed noise protocol for wind turbines. Prescribed measurement use only dBA and calculates the averages, but doesn’t punish exceedances for individual days or nights, or even a small range of dates.
Complaints from residents include reports of not being able to sleep, which as anyone knows, will cause long-term health effects.
The people of Nation Rise were shocked when the Wynne government awarded the Renewable Energy Approval days before the 2018 election began, and surprised again when it got a Notice To Proceed (the last step) after concerns about the environment, wildlife and health.
Ontario needs to conduct a complete overhaul of all the regulatory processes related to wind power. With the City of Ottawa proclaiming its wish to have industrial-scale wind, the same old rules and lack of enforcement will not do.
The founder of the Ottawa Renewable Energy Cooperative (OREC) has written a letter to the Globe and Mail calling for an entire grid of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, to replace the current system. An excerpt from the letter by Dick Bakker follows.
The traditional, unidirectional electricity system from big central generation sites, with top-down control, hopefully will be replaced with a new grid of distributed renewable generation, decarbonised and locally controlled. New entrants will bring the advanced technology that the traditional utilities resist and introduce local capital to address community level opportunities.
The regulators, pension funds and unions that have benefited from the past century or more of centralised planning must adapt, as their traditional solutions are simply too expensive and unreliable. Distributed renewables, with battery storage, optimized for the distribution network, and integrated with demand response are simply cheaper and more resilient.
Massive changes are coming to our electricity system; hopefully Canada can leap ahead of where we are today, by localizing most of the benefits.
The problem is, wind power for one is not cheap* and it is certainly not “reliable” as our experiences during the recent heat wave indicate. Ontario went more than eight days with barely a whisper of wind, yet we experienced peak demand periods. And that’s typical of wind power in Ontario: it comes during low demand periods of spring and fall.
As to “local” benefits, Mr. Bakker told participants in an online regional update meeting held by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) last January, that anyone objecting to large-scale wind turbines was a “NIMBY”. They have some valid objections he said but in the main, opposition is “a knee-jerk reaction to industrialization.”
He doesn’t plan to take into account any environmental or financial concerns Ottawa’s rural residents might have. His knee-jerk NIMBY response was in fact an answer to our question about the need for cost-benefit and impact analysis. He doesn’t want that. He won’t care if the people living in Kars, Osgoode, Carp, Dunrobin, KInburn or North Gower have concerns about noise, harm to wildlife, and impacts on our aquifer.
But the prime problem with this letter is that Mr. Bakker’s views ignore the reality of the electricity grid. Baseload power is needed, and wind and solar cannot do that, not can they replace anything. Wind did not replace coal in Ontario; nuclear and natural gas did.
The one word Mr. Bakker will not say is “nuclear” despite the fact that clean, efficient, reliable nuclear is a real answer to the Net Zero goal. Ontario’s power workers recently said, you can’t get to Net Zero without it.
Facts are simply beside the point for those pushing large-scale renewables.
*While wind power developers’ trade association the Canadian Renewable Energy Association or CanREA claims wind power is now inexpensive, they do not present truly levelized costing. Moreover, Eastern ONtario is a low wind resource area. Ottawa’s Pathway Study of Wind Power in Ottawa (2017) acknowledges that there will have to be financial incentives to lure wind power developers to the area.
Too big, too close, too noisy: Ontario wind turbine regulations have failed rural communities. Will Ottawa be a leader in protecting health and safety?
July 28, 2021
In a letter to Ottawa Wind Concerns from Alain Miguelez, Ottawa’s Manager of Planning Policy and Resiliency, the timeline for the new Official Plan and public consultation is laid out. And, we have a better idea of when the zoning that will apply to wind power projects will be developed.
Here’s what he said:
The revised version of Ottawa’s new Official Plan will be posted on the Official Plan webpage very shortly. The new Official Plan will include policies that will:
· Generally direct where large-scale renewable energy generation projects are to be located in the rural area;
· Be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement for renewable energy generation in prime agricultural areas; and
· Provide direction to establish zoning by-law provisions for renewable energy generation facilities to address impacts such as noise and shadowing.*
Although other municipalities have more detailed policies about wind for their Official Plans, Ottawa will address this level of detail through the subsequent zoning bylaw as noted in the third bullet above.
When the new Official Plan is released, additional detail will be provided about how to make public delegations at the statutory public meeting expected later this summer and at the Joint Planning and Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee meeting, currently scheduled September 13-15.
Following Council adoption of the Official Plan, work will begin on the zoning bylaw. Public and stakeholder consultation will be undertaken on any new proposed zoning provisions, including those related to wind. The new Official is not subject to appeal but the new zoning regulations will be.**
(*With respect to Mr. Miguelez, this statement is not correct: it is possible, we believe, to appeal sections of and amendments to the Official Plan though not, as he says, the entire Plan itself. ** There are many other impacts from wind power generators and the associated infrastructure.)
We have already written to Mr. Miguelez offering to provide information that we and Wind Concerns Ontario have about setbacks and noise regulations employed in other jurisdictions, including the European Union. We also recommend that the City talk to officials in other municipalities where people are already living with wind turbines, to find out what the issues are.
Again, the Ontario regulations for noise limits and setbacks are not adequate; they were established in 2009 (with more than a little input from the wind power industry) and have not changed in 12 years, despite province-wide problems with turbines.
The approvals process needs change, too, as does the process to appeal a wind power project approval—the current one is restrictive and unjust. We sent a letter to Ontario’s new environment minister yesterday, requesting change.
Ottawa has an opportunity to be a leader in developing zoning bylaws that will truly protect health and safety, and the environment.
OTTAWA WIND CONCERNS
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Industrializing rural areas and causing division among neighbours doesn’t make for a healthy, happy place [Photo Dorothea Larsen]
July 22, 2021
The City of Ottawa’s public health department has spent time putting together ideas for a healthy “built environment” which broadly includes where people live, work, and go to school, as well as areas in which “food systems” operate. The City has laid out characteristics that are important to a “healthy” built environment:
Promote being active, eating healthy and other healthy habits;
Encourage social connectedness;
Prevent injuries and promote safety;
Improve air, water and soil quality;
Provide access to natural and green spaces;
Ensure all members of the community have good opportunities to be healthy regardless of their age, income level, gender, ethnic background, or any other social or economic reasons.
However, there is a glitch.
The City’s Energy Evolution document, which calls for 20 megawatts of wind turbines (five or six 60-storey towers that are power generators) by 2025, 200 megawatts sometime thereafter, and a massive 3,200 megawatts (more than 700 industrial wind turbines) by 2050.
In a presentation on June 22nd, City planning staff confirmed that these renewable energy projects would be “directed” to Ottawa’s rural communities. Of course: these structures are so huge and problematic, it is impossible to locate them in the urban area, so rural citizens will get them.
Here’s the problem:
Wind turbine siting depends mostly on finding willing landowners (Eastern Ontario is a poor wind resource, so siting is not dependent on where there is more wind) which means the landowners who choose to allow them on their land are sacrificing their neighbours’ quiet enjoyment of their property—that doe not aid “social connectedness.”
There are safety concerns due to turbine blade failures, ice throw and fires; plus, the noise emissions are linked to stress or distress and can indirectly result in adverse health effects.
Next, turbines do not improve the quality of the air, water and soil: in North Kent Ontario, wind turbine construction and operation has been linked to water well failures. This is currently under a formal public health investigation. And, noise is a form of pollution.
Green spaces? Forget it: wind turbines are an industrial use of the land.
Last, wind turbines do not ensure health and equality; there will be dramatic stress as a result of the urban-rural divide, as quite rural communities will suddenly have huge industrial power generators forced on them.
So, out of six points needed for a healthy environment, the City’s plan to “direct” wind turbines to the rural communities (“That energy has to come from somewhere,” planning manager Alain Miguelez said in the June 22 presentation) violates five of them.
This plan should not even start without a cost-benefit analysis, impact analysis, public consultation and the finalization of protective zoning bylaws to regulate noise and setbacks between wind turbines and houses.
Tremendous step backwards for environmental protection, citizens group says
Water supply, wildlife and noise pollution were concerns in the community fight against an unwanted wind power project [Photo: Pexels]
May 15, 2020
The decision released Wednesday by the Ontario Superior Court which overturned the Ontario environment minister’s move to revoke approval of a large wind power project has shocked the communities that have been fighting for five years to stop the wind “farm” due to concerns about the environment and wildlife.
While the urban media, at the urging of the wind power lobby, power developer, the NDP and Green political parties and so-called environmental organizations are happy about the court decision, those familiar with the power project and the evidence presented against it are not.
The court decision does not merely overturn the minister’s revocation of the project approval, it declares the minister had no authority to act and in essence, writes new public policy over development decisions and the environment. Referencing the “Ford government” with obvious distaste and a transparently one-dimensional view of the government’s approach to environmental issues, columnists failed to recognize what the court has really done.
Concerned Citizens of North Stormont chair Margaret Benke said the decision leaves the “entire Province highly vulnerable. The Minister and Ministry of the Environment with all their resources can’t protect our natural resources and species at risk. The only protection against these kinds of mistakes by the ERT [the quasi-judicial body that hears appeals of approvals] is now in the hands of private citizens,” Benke said.
“We will be asking the Court of Appeal to reconsider what seems to be a tremendous step backwards for environmental protection in Ontario.”
The community group appealed the approval for the project on the grounds of risk of harm to wildlife, the environment specifically the aquifer which is noted as “highly vulnerable” by the Ontario government, and the risk to human health from the wind turbines. The appeal was dismissed; the group then filed a direct appeal with the minister, noting errors in the Environmental Review Tribunal decision. The minister revoked the approval last December saying the risk to endangered bats was significant, he wanted to “exercise precaution” and in any event, Ontario does not need the electrical power from the wind project.
While media reports claim the Ford government dislikes renewable energy projects, the truth is, the Wynne government halted all procurement in 2016 saying the province had enough electricity, and 90 percent of the power suppl was emissions-free. The Wynne government actually cancelled several wind power projects, but gave contracts to five that year, including Nation Rise.
The power developer insists the community did not bring forward bats in their appeal, which is not correct: written submissions were presented to the Tribunal but then, the wind power developer filed a last-minute report which gave the community group’s expert witness no time to review it, so little of his evidence was presented.
The Concerned Citizens group has spent over $100,000 on legal fees; in Wednesday’s decision they were punished for their work to protect the community and environment by having to pay the power developer $60,000 in costs.
The office of the Attorney General or the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks have not made a comment on whether they will appeal the decision, which clearly has an impact on ministerial authority.
One of eight Nation Rise turbines built, now idle: 800m from nearest house. At least three bat colonies at risk in the power project [photo: CCNS]
May 13, 2020
It has been almost a month now since (virtual) hearings concluded in the matter of the cancellation of the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) for the contentious “Nation Rise” wind power project, south of Ottawa.
The 100-megawatt power project was developed by EDPR, a power developer and utility based in Portugal, Spain and Texas. It was granted approval in the last days of the Wynne government in Ontario (arguably during the period when governments do not take major decisions) and was given a Notice To Proceed by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) in early days of the new government, despite campaign promises to end large wind power contracts.
Current Ontario environment minister Jeff Yurek issued a decision last December saying that he had reviewed the situation and decided that it would be in the “public interest” to revoke the REA, due to significant risks to wildlife and the environment, even though the power project was already under construction.
The power developer argued against the cancellation, and took legal action asserting that the minister did not have the authority to act.
The outcome of this case, which is now before a panel of three judges for deliberation, affects all Ontario. Nothing less than the minister’s authority to act in the public interest is at stake. Although the minister’s authority is clearly described in the Environmental Protection Act, the power developer and the wind power lobbyist the Canadian Wind Energy Association, claimed the decision was political and that the current government hates “green energy.”
The project was to have 29 turbines encompassing the communities of Finch, Crysler and Berwick. Citizens’ group Concerned Citizens of North Stormont appealed the approval originally on the basis of the risk to human heath from noise and vibration, danger to the environment due to turbine vibrations in a highly vulnerable aquifer, and dangers to wildlife such as migratory birds and bats. The appeal was dismissed but the group then filed a direct appeal to the minister, as allowed under law, based on “public interest”—it was this appeal to which the minister responded.
Legal costs for this action to protect the community and wildlife have been substantial. The community group has had to suspend fundraising efforts due to COVID-19.
Anyone wishing to donate can go to the website here or send a cheque to CCNS c/o 14950 County Rd 9 BERWICK ON K0C 1G0
Wind Concerns Ontario recently released its latest review of wind turbine noise complaints received by the Ontario government; the new review document is based on complaints filed with the then Ministry of Environment and Climate Change for the 2017 calendar year.
The total number of complaint files 2006-2017 is now more than 5,000 Wind Concerns says, though it also has evidence that the reports provided to them via Freedom of Information request is a fraction of the real number.
Highlights for data in the report, which may found here are:
almost 700 reports were filed in 2017–but there are likely many more
there was “NO” ministry response noted in 54% of the Incident Reports
ministry action was confirmed in just 1.3% of the reports
42% contain government staff notes about adverse health impacts
16% of the complaints have details of physical symptoms that suggest exposure to harmful low-frequency noise or infrasound
The wind power project that was proposed for the North Gower-Richmond area in Ottawa would have exposed dozens of families to wind turbine noise emissions. In a special information presentation to the community, Queens University Professor Emeritus John Harrison said that the proposed turbine layout in the North Gower project would have created additional noise problems due to wake turbulence.
The Ontario government halted procurement of large-scale renewable power projects; however a recent survey of leadership candidates for the Ontario Liberal Party showed that every single one supported more wind power, especially front-runner, Steven Del Duca.