Concerns about damage to the environment, and exposure to industrial power generator noise continue as the community ponders options
Concerned Citizens of North Stormont leader Margaret Benke : power not needed, plenty of environmental risk ahead
May 7, 2017
As seems to be typical for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, the announcement of a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) for the controversial “Nation Rise” wind power project came late in the day last Friday, May 4.
The project has a nameplate capacity of 100 megawatts of power. Ontario currently has a surplus of electric power for the foreseeable future, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) has said, but approved five more contracts in 2016, regardless.
The community group, Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, is worried about the impact of turbine construction on the aquifer and local water wells, especially following the failure of 20 wells in the Chatham-Kent area during construction of the North Kent Wind power project. The geology there is fragile Kettle Point Black Shale; independent hydrogeologists have said the vibration from pile-driving disturbed the shale and now wells are clogged with shale particles. The shale is known to contain toxic heavy metals such as arsenic.
In the Nation Rise project area, the hydrogeology is not shale but there are concerns nonetheless; in fact, almost all of the turbinesare planned in an area designated “highly vulnerable aquifer.” (See map, below)
And, in spite of just receiving approval late Friday, the company has already done pile-driving for the project, without a formal construction plan or indeed, a formal Notice To Proceed from the government.
The community group has 15 days from the approval announcement to decide whether to appeal.
Turbines near Strathroy — reports of noise ignored [Photo London Free Press]
After more than six years of working with communities facing wind power projects, the president of Wind Concerns Ontario still can’t find a rationale for Ontario’s wind power push
By JaneWilson, Guest Columnist
Every time I am interviewed by the media, or speak at a public meeting, I am asked: Why is Ontario continuing to push ahead with its program of industrial-scale wind turbines and wind power, when all the facts seem to argue against it?
I don’t know.
I don’t understand why Ontario’s Liberal government never did a cost-benefit analysis, or why it has ignored the admonitions of two auditors general about impacts and costs, or why it seems unable, or unwilling, to look at the real-world experience of its wind power experiment.
I don’t know why the government signed contracts in 2016 for 600 megawatts of wind power when we already have a power surplus.
In 2016, Ontario paid $2.7 billion for generators of electricity from nuclear, gas and hydro not to produce power, because we were forced to accept wind power (when it shows up) to the grid.
In September, a new 100-megawatt wind power facility started commercial operation, but that same month, 42% of wind power in Ontario’s west region was curtailed (surplus, not added to the grid).
Ontario’s electricity customers paid for that power, anyway.
I don’t know why the government keeps adding more new power, which adds costs to people’s electricity bills, so much so that “energy poverty” is a new, sad phrase in Ontario.
The government claims to have reduced electricity bills by 25%, but it has done nothing to cut costs by cancelling contracts for unneeded power.
I don’t know why we are adding more “green” power when Ontario is already “green” by most standards.
Ontario’s engineers point out that more intermittent wind power means more natural gas back-up, which means more fossil fuel use, not less.
I don’t know why the government persists in saying wind power is good for the environment when its effect on the natural environment and wildlife is well known.
Last month, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner pointed out that no request to “kill, harm or harass” wildlife had been refused for four years – she cited wind power projects where development actually took precedence over environmental balance.
Finally, I don’t know why the government is ignoring the thousands of reports of negative impacts from the huge, noise-producing turbines.
Between 2006 and 2014, the government received well over 3,100 formal reports of excessive noise and vibration, according to documents provided to Wind Concerns Ontario.
When the Green Energy Act was passed in 2009, the government already knew there were problems, but it pushed ahead anyway, going so far as to remove local land use planning power from municipalities seeking to protect their residents.
Of those thousands of reports, more than 50% received no response from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. Only 1% resulted in a priority response.
On the formal Pollution Incident Reports kept by the government, there is space to name the “client”.
Who might that be, for the ministry whose pledge it is to protect the environment and human health?
Noise measurement protocol needlessly complex, failing to identify critical issues with wind turbine noise, Ontario engineer says.
He used MOECC data to confirm “tonal” quality to wind turbine noise emissions. One project has been operating for eight years — residents continue to complain, no action by Ontario government
Ontario engineer William Palmer has proposed a rigorous, but simple and transparent technique to assess wind turbine noise, that could replace the problematic complex computer models and “black box” algorithms currently used in the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change newest protocol to assess wind turbine noise compliance.
The method had to consider that an effective monitoring system must take into account more than just averaging sound power levels over a long term. The method recognizes that humans are bothered by the changes and annoying characteristics that occur, as well as long term averages. Others describe this as the need to determine how the special characteristics of sound quality may impact quality of life.
To verify this approach, assessments were conducted using the method at two wind power developments in Ontario. In the K2 Wind project, he used MOECC data from testing in early March 2017 at a home within the K2 project. He was able to demonstrate that the MOECC data confirmed that the noise from the turbines surrounding the home had a tonal quality; that means it should require a 5 dB(A) penalty be applied to the other test results.
Although the Ministry did not provide calibration files for their sound recordings they did provide in their report their assessment of the sound pressure level for each sample. Using the Electroacoustics Toolbox, and working backwards to set the given sound pressure level for a number of the recordings provided as the calibration level, permitted a “Quasi Calibration” of the Ministry data, and from that a calibrated FFT analysis was made. … Again, it was seen that when the residents described adverse effects in their comments filed with their initiation of recordings, FFT analysis of the sound recordings taken at those times clearly show a tonal condition occurring at about 450 Hz.
In the Enbridge project, where Mr. Palmer also conducted testing, he found similar tonal quality to the noise emissions in that project, and confirmed that the noise coming from the turbines is above the approved levels at several locations.
For this facility as an example, where the turbines first went into operation in November 2008, and citizen complaints occurred soon after, it has not yet been possible to complete a report to demonstrate compliance. The monitoring is still in progress, over 8 years later, with the turbines continuing in operation, and residents continuing to complain. The hypothesis is that individual samples are not representative due to variation.
Process is complex
He offered comment on the current protocol being used to assess compliance by the MOECC:
A premise of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change wind turbine monitoring protocol is that monitoring to show compliance must be conducted over a long period. The protocol requires the initial acoustic monitoring by residents to produce at least a 10-minute sample for each complaint period, and the final compliance protocol requires a minimum of 120 one-minute measurement intervals for each integer of wind speed. During each of those one-minute intervals there must be no changes in wind speed or direction. A further 60 samples are required for each integer wind speed with the turbines not operational. So far data collection has taken years to obtain a sufficient number of samples, and in at least one array, initial reports showed that over 90% of samples taken were discarded as non-compliant. All samples are logarithmically combined to determine the Leq produced by the facility, which eliminates any short-term change effects. This appears to be precisely the sort of monitoring that was cautioned against by Genuit and Fiebig described in Section 1 when they noted, “By relying on sound pressure levels averaged over long time periods and suppressing all aspects of quality, the specific properties of environmental noise situations cannot be identified, because annoyance caused by environmental noise has a broader linkage with various acoustical properties such as frequency spectrum, duration, impulsive, tonal and low-frequency components, etc. than only with SPL [Sound Pressure Level]. In many cases these acoustical properties affect the quality of life.”
The annoyance aspects that impact the quality of life of impacted residents are not being assessed.
People walking away from loved homes
The current protocol cannot possibly identify critical issues in wind turbine noise emissions, Palmer asserts. In conclusion, he said:
This paper has demonstrated a method for rigorous monitoring of wind turbine sound. The goal of the method was to establish evidence for the condition noted by Karl D. Kryter: “The most direct, and perhaps most valid, insight into the possible presence and magnitude of stress reactions in general living environments is probably that which has been obtained from attitude surveys and real-life behaviour of people.” Behaviours such as walking away from an unsold loved home to live at the home of a family member, or when normal people become activists in trying to communicate their concerns provide such valid insights. The rigorous method had to consider the present acceptance criterion for wind turbines, in light of the insight given by those who study the quality of noise and its relation to annoyance. Those who study the subject identify that, “Current acceptance criterion relying on sound pressure levels averaged over long time periods and suppressing all aspects of quality cannot identify the specific properties of environmental noise situations.”
The results reported by Bill Palmer are typical of the community testing being undertaken in many communities near wind turbine projects across Ontario.
These findings indicate that the complex processes used by the MOECC and required of wind companies for compliance testing fail to identify key issues that can be quickly identified using much simpler techniques.
Meanwhile, the turbines, shown by other methods to be out of compliance, continue to operate.
New Ontario wind turbine noise compliance protocol falls short
As in, little or no understanding of the problems with wind turbine noise emissions.
On Friday, April 21, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change released a new protocol document intended for “assessing noise from wind turbines that have already been built. It is used by industry and ministry staff to monitor compliance.”
While in the absence of guidance for staff, and the complete lack of compliance audit information from wind power developers and operators, this is a step forward, the truth is, the protocol doesn’t change much.
the protocol still relies on audible noise only, when many of the complaints registered with the MOECC concern effects that are clearly linked to other forms of noise
the protocol does not take into account lower wind speeds, which is where problems are being experienced, particularly with newer, more powerful turbines
there is no comment on any sort of transition between the protocol that existed before and this one
the Ministry’s action in producing this protocol is an indication that they know they have a problem
the description of Ministry response is a good step forward
requiring wind power companies to actually have, and to publish, compliance audit documents could be a sign of expectations of greater accountability among the power developers/wind power project operators.
This table outlines the critical gaps in the new protocol document.
Assessment of noise at wind speeds between 4 m/s and 7 m/s
MOECC testing indicates problem noise starts below 3 m/s which is outside of wind speeds involved in the protocol.
Narrow time period assessed
Wide seasonal variations while wind turbine noise constant
Only test outside of home
Very different inside noise conditions
Uses criticized techniques
Narrow band analysis shows tonal noise present.
Resident concerns drive other MOECC procedures
Elevated levels of infrasound in homes
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change needs to acknowledge that there is a problem with wind turbine noise, and accept that it must play a role as a government agency charged with protecting the environment and people in it — preparing an industry-led document may look like a positive step, but this document does not meet the needs of the people of Ontario forced to live with wind turbines, and their noise emissions.
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to conduct more tests on homes near Goderich; wind corporation says it is confident the power project is operating legally
April 11, 2017
CTV News London is reporting that several residents living near the K2 wind power project have received notification from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) that the turbines near their homes, and causing them to report excessive noise, are in fact out of compliance with provincial noise regulations for the power generating machines.
In the conclusion of the “Acoustic Recording Quantitative Screening Measurement Report” of testing performed by the MOECC recently, the MOECC states
… it is acknowledged that sound from the wind turbines was audible during the measuring campaign at levels that appear to exceed the applicable sound level limits, and based on C3 measurements conducted at a nearby receptor (the distance is about 1250 m from R876; where the same turbine(s) within 1500 m distance impact both receptors) it was further concluded that there is a possibility that sound from the nearby turbines could be tonal.
The use of the word “tonal” is key as the MOECC–and the wind power industry–have up to now refused to admit that the noise emissions from turbines are tonal, or producing vibration.
The complaints voiced by people living near turbines, however, seem to indicate that pressure or vibration is a key feature of the emissions being experienced.
K2 wind is located in Huron County and is operated by a consortium of Capital Power, Pattern Energy, Manulife, and the Alberta Teachers pension fund.
Residents near the South Branch project are reminded that they should report any adverse effects from wind turbine noise to the MOECC Spills Action Centre by calling 1-800-268-6060. Callers should provide their name and telephone number, location, location relative to the nearest wind turbines, direction of the wind and wind speed if available (this can be noted from weather data on your cellphone), and a rating of the noise/vibration on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most severe.
Callers should be sure to get an INCIDENT REPORT reference number at the time of their call, and keep a record of their call(s) together with the reference numbers.
With the Ontario government introducing a new program severing the link between the cost of power and the price of power so it can shift 25 per cent of household power bills today to future generation by way massive new debts, it seems like a good idea to know why Ontario’s power rate crisis developed.
Ontario’s power rates were relatively stable until 2008, when they started steep yearly increases. With the fastest rising rates in North America since then, Ontario’s rates surpassed the U.S. average years ago. The largest single factor driving this increase has been new generating capacity from wind and solar renewable generation.
The Ontario government and its supporters commonly report the costs of different types of generation counting only payments made directly to particular forms of generation.
But, when renewable energy costs trickle down to consumers, those costs are much more than just payments to renewable generators. While it is true that the payments to generators for wind power – 14 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) – is cheaper than for gas power — 17 cents/kWh – not all electricity has equal value. (For context, the average rate households pay for the commodity portion of their bill is about 11 cents/kWh.)
Why don’t we replace wind power with gas power, save money and cut emissions?
Where gas power is delivered on demand, wind is fickle. Eighty per cent of Ontario’s wind generation occurs at times and seasons so far out of phase with usage patterns that the entire output is surplus and is exported at a substantial loss or squandered with payments to generators to not generate. Gas power in Ontario backs up unreliable wind and solar, a necessary function if the lights are to stay on, but we pay twice for the same service.
Direct payments to solar generators average 48 cents/kWh, but the output is similarly low value. Except for a few days per year, Ontario’s peak usage of power is just as solar panels shut down – in the evening.
Massive losses through exports
Not only is Ontario’s renewable energy production driving massive losses to subsidize exports and payments to generators to not generate under the terms of contracts that obligate consumers to buy even useless power, but it is also driving costly but low-value “smart grid” projects required to accommodate renewables.
Rising power rates have driven down usage. Spreading rising costs over declining sales has amplified the pace of rate increases.
Again, government and its supporters have pumped their claim that using less will save us money. What has actually happened is that conservation in Ontario is indeed saving money but mostly for utilities and their customers in Michigan and New York State on the receiving end of our subsidized exports.
But didn’t renewables enable Ontario to get off coal, saving us from smog days, and slash health-care costs? Although endlessly repeated by the government and its supporters, none of these claims bear scrutiny.
Coal’s replacement in Ontario was achieved with increased output from nuclear and gas generators. Improvement in air quality in recent years has been the result of a massive conversion to gas power in the mid-western states upwind of Ontario as well as improvements in transportation fleets and industry. Most of the coal power Ontario produced in its last years came from plants with good new scrubbers, delivering effectively smog-free energy. Predicted health-care savings from the coal phaseout never materialized.
But isn’t the cost of renewable energy plunging?
Ten years ago, the average payment to Ontario wind generators was around 8.3 cents/kWh. Taking into account inflation, the average today is up 50 per cent.
Wind and solar aren’t the only renewable energy ripoff. Recent additions to Ontario’s hydro-electric capacity have added billions in new costs but no additional production. Ontario’s most costly generator is a converted coal-fired station in Thunder Bay, now fueled with a wood product imported from Norway.
Punishing contracts in place for 20 years
A bad smell emanates from renewable politics at Queen’s Park. Renewables developers who made the biggest donations to the provincial Liberals have tended to win the biggest contracts.
Ontario’s renewable energy program is not the only disaster on consumers’ bills. Excessive payroll costs and wasteful conservation programs also lurk, but no single factor has contributed more to the compounding semi-annual increases in rates since 2008 than renewables.
Most of the punishing cost consequences of Ontario’s radical renewables program are locked in with 20-year contracts. Children today will be paying these irresponsible contracts long into the future, along with current costs that the Wynne government has now decided will be added to this future burden.
Tom Adams is an independent energy and environmental advisor and researcher focused on energy consumer concerns, mostly in Eastern Canada. He has worked for several environmental organizations and served on the Ontario Independent Electricity Market Operator Board of Directors and the Ontario Centre for Excellence for Energy Board of Management.
“Poverty is getting worse in Ontario,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president
Wind Concerns Ontario welcomes the acknowledgement by Premier Kathleen Wynne of financial hardship imposed by her government’s energy policies, and has sent six recommendations for action that will provide immediate relief.
“We know that energy poverty in Ontario is real and worsening under this government,” says WCO president Jane Wilson. “Hundreds of thousands of people are having difficulty paying their electricity bills, and many are having to choose between ‘heat and eat.’ Meanwhile, corporate power developers are getting paid huge profits in Ontario – this has to change, now.”
Wind Concerns Ontario sent the Premier a list of recommendations:
Immediately cancel LRP II renewable power program. Currently “suspended,” its target was to acquire 1,000 megawatts (MW) of power, even though the government says we have a “robust” supply of power for the future. The cost of this new capacity would go straight to Ontario’s electricity bills
Cancel the five wind power contracts awarded under LRP I for 299 MW. This action will save ratepayers about $65 million annually and $1.3 billion over 20 years. Cancellation costs will amount to a small fraction of the annual cost, probably on the order of about $2 million, at most. In addition, cancelling approved but not yet built wind power projects, and the new FIT 5.0 program will also save money. Together, these cancellations can save ratepayers from future rate increases of nearly $4 per month.
Cancel “conservation” spending of $400 million annually. This action would have an immediate effect on ratepayers’ bills, reducing them by $5.50 per month or about $70 a year. Ontario’s ratepayers have already reduced their consumption from 157 TWh in 2005 to 137 TWh in 2015, for a significant 12.7% decrease.
Allocate the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) to the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The OESP is essentially a social assistance program and it is questionable as to whether ratepayers should bear the burden of its costs. With an estimated annual cost of $200 million, the effect of this would be an immediate savings of about $4 per month on ratepayers’ bills, and an annual savings of $50. We recognize, however, that the move would impact the budgetary shortfall by a like amount so we recommend the following action.
Levy a tax on wind and solar power generation on a per-megawatt basis starting at $10 per/MWh. This would result in raising sufficient revenues to offset the OESP costs. The effective rate could be held at that level or increased in the event the OESP costs exceed the forecast $200 million per annum. The Auditor General previously reported the award value per MWh of the 20-year contracts to wind and solar power developers exceeded those in other jurisdictions by a considerable margin. The tax would serve as a recognition of those excessive margins. (Note: the wind power contracts also contain cost of living increases of up to 20% over the term of the contracts.)
Immediately reduce the Time of Use (TOU) off-peak rate. We recommend an immediate reduction in the TOU off-peak rate from 8.7 cents/kWh to 7.4 cents/kWh to encourage the shift of power consumption from peak to off-peak time in order to flatten daily demand.
“Poverty is a major factor in population health,” says Wilson, a Registered Nurse. “It is time Ontario takes action to help people now, and not cause further hardship for Ontario families.”
Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups, individuals and families concerned about the impact of industrial-scale wind power development on the economy, on the natural environment, and on human health in Ontario.
OTTAWA WIND CONCERNS NOTE: The contract for the “Nation Rise” wind power project in North Stormont, just south-east of Ottawa, will cost Ontario residents $430 million over its 20-year contract, for intermittent wind power we don’t need. Cancelling the power project, slated to be 100 megawatts and over 30 industrial-scale wind turbines, would cost no more than $600,000. Other projects in our area would be the much-contested Amherst Island project which will endanger birds and other wildlife species, and the White Pines project in Prince Edward County, also a danger to migratory birds and other wildlife. Cancelling these projects which are not yet built will save millions.
‘Resounding condemnation’ of wind power bid process: WCO on comments to IESO
The IESO asked for comments on its Large Renewable Procurement process. Looks like nobody is happy, least of all Ontario citizens and the municipalities that would be forced to have the power projects.
The agency setting the ground rules for the next multi-billion-dollar round of wind farm development in Ontario says it can only go so far to meet demands for changes in its program to acquire more electricity.
Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which picked the winners in the last round, asked residents, wind farm developers, municipalities and First Nations how the controversial program could be improved.
A persistent theme in the 120 pages of responses was a call for municipalities to be given a veto over developments, a power stripped away by the Liberal government — to the anger of many municipalities — when it launched its green energy program.
“Municipal support must be a mandatory requirement. There must be greater consideration given to the impact of the power projects on the community, and on the people who must live near them,” wrote one respondent.
But Adam Butterfield, IESO’s manager of renewable energy procurement, said such a decision would have to be made by the provincial government.
“The feedback we get will be communicated up to the Ministry of Energy for them to consider any related policy changes. We provide our advice, as we always do, on these aspects. But at the end of the day there are some policy ones, such as the veto aspect, that are in the government’s purview,” he said.
In Southwestern Ontario, home to the largest wind farms in the province and the most wind turbines, the Liberal government’s decision to take away local control over where the highrise-sized turbines can be built left many centres joining a movement of so-called “unwilling host” communities for energy projects.
Butterfield said he doesn’t know how the government will respond to the latest feedback.
“To date they have been pretty firm that renewable energy is a provincial issue and so they haven’t been amenable to considering a (local) veto. We will provide the feedback up and see where things go over the course of the summer.”
Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a provincial coalition opposed to wind farms, said the survey responses show the process doesn’t respect Ontarians and their wishes for how their communities develop.
“The point is made repeatedly that the process for locating renewable power projects differs from any other sort of development — that there is little openness or transparency, and that municipalities ought to have real ‘say’ in where these power projects go,” Wilson wrote in an email.
“The comments are a resounding condemnation of the procurement process,” she added.
The IESO has been instructed by the government to procure another 600 megawatts of wind energy, with the contracts awarded by 2018.
The generating capacity is being added at a time when the IESO’s own forecasts project Ontario will remain in a surplus power position for at least a decade.
A report last year by Ontario’s auditor general concluded Ontarians paid $37 billion extra for power over the last eight years because of the government’s decisions to ignore its own planning process for new power generation projects.
Along with suggestions for a municipal veto, other respondents to the IESO survey called for more openness by companies about their plans and an end to non-disclosure agreements with property owners.
“Proponents intentionally misled, failed to follow the process (meeting and information distribution), and used other methods to ensure the community was misinformed and had little time to respond,” wrote one. …
Ottawa Wind Concerns Editor’s NOTE: As of today, 73 Ontario municipalities (the majority of communities that would be vulnerable to wind power projects) have passed a resolution stating that municipal support MUST be a mandatory requirement in future wind power bids. That list includes Ottawa.
Want to do something?
Write to the IESO: LRP@IESO.ca and tell them you agree, municipal support MUST be a mandatory requirement. You deserve a say in where power projects go.
Rideau-Goulbourn councillor Scott Moffatt wants the City to be able to have a say on where future wind turbines are placed.
He’s tabling a report at Thursday’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee meeting, recommending Council ask the Province of Ontario to change the law, to give municipalities “a substantive and meaningful role” in deciding where future wind power projects will go.
The report says municipalities deserve a role in the process, because “the siting of wind power projects has local planning implications” and decisions on renewable energy projects need to take place “within the context of community sustainability.”
The report further states that early municipal input should not only be a priority for proponents of new wind projects, but it should also be a deciding factor for Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) when approving a new project.
Currently, the Province has sole jurisdiction over where wind farms are located.
If the recommendation is approved, full City Council will vote on whether to send their concerns to the Provincial government, the energy minister, the IESO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and all municipalities in Ontario.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The community of North Gower presented a petition to Ottawa City Council in 2013 asking for recognition as an “unwilling host” to a proposed wind power project that would have been close to thousands of residents. Council passed a motion unanimously asking the Government of Ontario to return local land-use planning power to municipalities. The government gave no response to Ottawa, Ontario’s second largest city.
At present, more than 90 communities in Ontario are officially “unwilling hosts” to wind power projects–that represents the majority of Ontario communities vulnerable to the industrial-scale power projects.
Rubbing salt in the wounds of the communities who just got notice of wind power contracts forced on them, despite unwilling host declarations, Energy Minister now says process will allow for input earlier in the process. (We’re still not hearing communities can say “No.”)
Just a little bit more “input”? But Bob still doesn’t want to hear you say “no.”
simcoe.com, March 28, 2016
By Jenni Dunning Barrie Examiner
Towns to have input ahead of solar, wind farm decisions
A few weeks after the province approved a wind energy project in Clearview Township, sparking an appeal, Ontario’s energy minister said municipalities will soon be asked for input ahead of future decisions.
“There was a problem with particular large wind and solar farms. There was not enough of an alignment of what they were doing and what the municipalities wanted,” said Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli.
“We are in the process now… It involves much more communication with the municipality. It (will be) almost impossible for (contractors) to win a contract without having participation with a municipality.”
Chiarelli clarified that “participation” referred to approval from a municipality, adding all contractors will be required to show proof they consulted municipalities. One wind energy and 13 solar projects have been approved in Simcoe County, according to the provincial Renewable Energy Projects Listing.
The Clearview project is the only wind farm. There are five solar energy projects in Springwater Township (three of which are in Midhurst), four in Tay Township (three of which are in Waubaushene), three in Orillia, and one in Oro-Medonte.
Chiarelli said he expects the ministry to announce more projects “in a month or two.”
Springwater Township Mayor Bill French said he has noticed the province has slowly started asking municipalities for more input on solar and wind projects in the past year.
They have been asked to use a scoring system to rank their support for proposed projects, he said.
“We always thought there should be a final approval process at the municipal level. It should’ve always been that way,” he said. “We’re quite welcome to that change in legislation.”
French said the township has been concerned when “fairly good agricultural land” was chosen as the location for solar farms.
“The ones that are approved, you can’t turn back the clock on those ones,” he said, adding once municipalities are more involved, Springwater will likely approve energy projects in areas with steep slopes or on smaller properties.
“Multi-acre ones, that’s going to be much more of a challenge,” he said. “We have acres and acres of rooftops around. That’s where solar panels belong.”
Collingwood Mayor Sandra Cooper said she has heard the promise of more municipal involvement from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“I’m hopeful. I just have not seen it thus far,” she said. “Municipalities have been sending the message for quite some time — we need to be part of the process.”
Cooper and the rest of Collingwood council voted last month to legally oppose plans to build a wind farm with eight turbines west of Stayner, near the Collingwood Regional Airport. The town is concerned about the possibility of a plane hitting a turbine.
Cooper said the province made a “snap decision” to approve a wind farm despite of this possibility.
By allowing municipalities more say in the approval process, they can help stop decisions that may negatively affect residents, said Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes.
For example, a couple in the township built a home about five years ago that ended up being surrounded by a solar farm, he said.
“If municipalities had a say in it, that would never have happened,” he said. “Residents expect their municipal council to have some protection for their property.”
When municipalities are more involved, they can demand companies complete up-to-date soil testing to avoid solar projects taking up quality agricultural land, he added.
The province also does not require companies to repair local roads if damage is caused by solar or wind projects, but some have anyway in Oro-Medonte, said Hughes. …