Wind farms are loved or loathed – touted as a source of green energy or decried as a blight on the landscape. Increasingly, though, opponents of wind turbines are also claiming that they make people sick.
Such comments were among the hundreds submitted to the province last month in response to proposed regulations implementing the Green Energy Act and increasing the amount of power we get through renewable sources, such as wind.
While health and safety fears about wind turbines seem to be growing, solid evidence to sustain them is not.
One thorough study of available research, conducted by the Chatham-Kent public health department, categorically states: “Although opposition to wind farms on aesthetic grounds is a legitimate point of view, opposition to wind farms on the basis of potential adverse health consequences is not justified by the evidence.”
This finding bolsters Ontario’s decision to pursue more wind projects. But the province ought not to leave such research up to officials in individual municipalities, who face opposition from anti-wind activists every time a project is proposed in their jurisdictions. The local battles create uncertainty and delay – the very things the Green Energy Act was supposed to reduce.
For renewable energy to have a future in Ontario, public support and confidence in wind farms is essential. The province should lead the way by ensuring that Ontarians have access to the most up-to-date research on the impact of wind turbines on public health.
In April, the government said it would fund a university-based research initiative “to examine potential public health effects of renewable energy projects.” But the initiative has not yet been launched. The province ought to make it a priority, with a special focus on wind turbines. That would ensure that Ontario’s regulations governing wind turbines are based on the best possible evidence.
Right now, unfortunately, there are concerns that Ontario’s proposed regulations for wind turbines are not grounded in science. Rather, the government appears to be attempting to placate an alarmist anti-wind lobby.
There are wind turbines operating – and meeting provincial noise guidelines – less than 500 metres away from homes; yet the province has proposed a greater minimum setback of 550 metres from dwellings and 125 metres from property lines, roads and railroads.
As proposed, the regulations would eliminate three-quarters of the wind turbine projects set for construction, according to wind energy advocates. If so, the regulations would undermine the Green Energy Act rather than support its implementation.
The province is currently reviewing the proposed regulations in light of the comments it has received from both pro- and anti-wind groups. Clearly the way forward is to adjust the regulations to facilitate the construction of wind farms while launching a study of the potential health effects to allay the opponents’ concerns
From Rural Grubby:
Some of the responses to this article were appalling, “buy these people out” ,” expropriate the land”, “we have to have wind turbines if we are going to save the world from global warming”, “what about respiratory illness”
This is what I call real NIMBY mentality. Easy to pass judgement on those facing the onslaught of Industrial wind projects , but what happens when it’s you who is directly facing 1, 2 or 3 of these behemoths less than 1/2 km away. Wake up people, the wind industy has green washed us all including our gov’t officials into thinking that Wind Energy will provide real power for a modern society. It’s simply not true, and you are going along with a scam that is fleecing Ontario taxpayers with 3 x the electricity rates (not counting all of the infrastructure that will be needed). If you don’t think people are suffering, try visiting one at 1, 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning when wind shears kick in and your awoke never to be allowed to sleep for the rest of the night. Go to www.mywinddiary.blogspot.com to see what it is like for a woman and her 2 small sons to live within a 44 turbine project in Kent County Ontario.
Below I am including commentary from Dr. Robert McMurtry MD, FRCS (C), FACS. Former Dean of Medicine and Dentistry at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Western Ontario. Dr. McMurtry has had a long and distinguished career in Canadian public health policy at both the federal and provincial level, including as founding Assistant Deputy Minister of the Population and Public Health Branch of Health Canada, and currently as a member of the Health Council of Canada.
The editorial is missing the mark. With reports of adverse health effects surfacing in the UK, US, Japan, New Zealand and certainly in Ontario it is irresponsible for the Star editorial board to deny this reality. There are now 86 victims many of whom have had to leave their homes. The rate of new reports continues at 2-3 per week but still there is denial of this genuine suffering.
Quoting Chatham-Kent’s inadequate report is also a misdirection. Why not review the May 2009 Minnesota Department of Health white paper which is far more authoritative and credible? It comes to different conclusions. Regulations are now being re-examined in light of their white paper. It is quite instructive to read the 2 reports one of which is authoritative (Minnesota’s)and the other which is weak. Why not reference the Academy of Medicine of France or the National Academy of Science in the US or the National Institutes of Health, or Scotland’s setback’s of 2 km, or France’s noise limit of 25 decibels in homes – all of which are more credible?
In the meantime industrial wind turbines are too close to people under the old regulations. The new regulations are a step in the right direction but considering that the average set-back for the 86 victims is 870 meters 550 meters will not suffice.
All the industrial wind turbines are being pursued when the positive effects on green house gases are debatable at best..
It is time for the Star Editorial board to educate themselves in realities that it is currently denying.
As for Dr. David Colby’s Literature review on the Health Impacts if you examine a little closer, you will find the following:
This review, references from a CanWEA document which indicates that the audible sound created by a wind turbine, measured at 350 meters is approx. 35-45 dB(A). There is no independent, non-biased publicly available scientific data which indicates these are the levels that are emitted especially since MOE does not require post construction monitoring of noise (unless there is a complaint), nor that these levels are sufficient to protect the health of people residing near IWT’s. Please note: wind developers, following MOE noise guidelines. provide noise assessments NOT based on maximum noise ratings at higher wind speeds. (see p. 4 of Vesta 1.65 MW technical sheet; noise levels are given up to 8 m/s when nominal speed is at 13 m/s).
This review further suggests that the “MOE requires a minimum setback of 250 metres to meet separation distances for noise” (p. 11). Nowhere does the MOE indicate a required distance in their guidelines. In fact, the MOE does not even seem to have any standards for individuals performing the sound assessments and these are proponent driven. Clarification from the MOE indicated the following on this issue: “Currently to the best of my knowledge there is no professional organization that qualifies an acoustical consultant….. It is now assumed that if an individual or company designates themselves as a qualified consultant we accept the designation. Denton Miller P. Eng. MOE”. Therefore how did Dr. Colby get assurances that these measurements are being performed correctly and that the noted distance of 250 metres is adequate?
This review then justifies the MOE’s noise levels with a reference from Greenpeace which compares noise emitted from wind turbines to be less than levels generated by road traffic, trains, construction and industrial noise. Note rural settings traditionally live with background noise levels of 20-25 dBA.
The review cites a reference from a CanWEA document, indicating that “rumours surrounding infrasound are not supported by research. (ref. # 53)”. I question the peer reviewed status of this document as well as the unbiased stance of the source since CanWEA is a lobbying organization representing Industrial Wind Proponents.
The review then cites (ref. #58) a Canadian study, “which indicates that infrasound is generated by wind turbines but not at a level perceptible to the human ear”. Infrasound is generally at wave lengths below levels perceptible by the human ear, but there are several studies (which have not been referenced in this review) that show that these are still perceived and are being linked to conditions such as VAD (VibroAcoustic Disease). (N. A. A. Castelo Branco Center for Human Performance, Alverca, Portugal and, M. Alves-Pereira New University of Lisbon, Caparica, Portugal) Vibroacoustic Disease and Wind Turbine Syndrome (Nina Pierpont www.windturbinesyndrome.com )
26 out of the 86 references are from Wind Industry publications (not peered reviewed data)