Posted By Natasha Marar, Times-Journal
Posted 3 days ago
Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment received about 1,000 comments during a 45-day consultation period asking whether wind turbines should be set back a minimum of 550 metres from buildings, with different setbacks for roadways and property lines.
The government held public sessions regarding the changes in June in Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Chatham, Port Elgin, Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto.
“We tried to get a cross section off the province and areas where there is a strong interest in green energy projects,” said Kate Jordan, a ministry spokesperson.
“Staff will review those and decide if changes are appropriate,” Jordan explained. “We expect to have more details in the fall.”
The proposed regulations would not impact wind turbines currently operating, but would apply to future expansion, including the proposed installation of 34 more turbines at Erie Shores Wind Farm in Port Burwell.
Built in 2006, Erie Shores Wind Farm operates 66 1.5 MW General Electric wind turbines, which provide a capacity of 99 MW of power or enough renewable energy for about 3,500 households a year.
Elgin and councils in Bayham and Malahide townships and Norfolk County have voiced their disapproval of the new rules to the Ontario’s minster of the environment, John Gerretsen.
Lynn Acre, mayor of Bayham, home to the Port Burwell wind farm, brought the issue to an Elgin county council meeting in late June.
“The setbacks we have now in Bayham are perfectly fine. If he (Gerretsen) goes around and puts in these 550-metre setbacks, it’s going to eliminate so many possibilities.”
Acre estimates the turbines in Port Burwell are an average 400 metres away from a home or building. She said there are farmers still interested in running a wind turbine but that “their chances would be quashed” if the provisions go through.
“I think we won’t have any new development at all in Bayham for sure,” Dennis Haggerty, plant manager for Erie Shores Wind Farm, said. “So (the proposed rules are) going to drastically affect where we can install new ones.”
Haggerty added that running wind turbines further away from settled land would increase operational costs. And the number of ravines in the area would limit the amount of land available for new wind turbines, according to Acre.
Jay Wilgar, vice president of AIM PowerGen Corp., which developed Erie Shores Wind Farm, agrees with setting back turbines to reduce noise, but disagrees with the 550-minimum setback.
“It means less turbines per acre for farmers and it means they have to build these huge access roads in the fields (to reach the turbines),” Wilgar said.
In its comments to the ministry regarding the proposed Green Energy Act rules, AIM PowerGen Corp. indicated that had the 550-metre setback been in place when Erie Shores Wind Farm was being constructed, 40 of the 66 current turbines would not have been erected.
Wilgar said if the new regulations go through it would make expansion difficult, and installing all 34 planned turbines unlikely.
“But there are ways to design around the set backs,” he explained, adding that different models can be used. AIM PowerGen Corp. already installed 18 different turbines east of the wind farm last year.
The turbines, however, may need more than a minimal setback to ensure its success.
In its letter to the minister, Elgin claimed Erie Shores Wind Farm was among the most successful in Ontario. But performance statistics provided by Sygration reveal that the Port Burwell facility ranks fourth out of eight wind farms.
It had a maximum capacity factor of 29 per cent between July, 2008 and July, 2009. This means that it generated an average of 29 per cent of the 99 MW of energy it is capable of producing. A wind farm in Port Alma ranked the highest over the same period at 32.5 per cent.
Typically, all wind turbines run at a 15 to 40 per cent efficiency, according to Ontario Power Authority.
‘IMPORTANT’ TO ELGIN
Acre maintains the wind farm is important to Elgin.
“It has made a dramatic improvement to our tourism industry,” she said. “The best thing is that it’s providing clean, renewable energy into our grid. It’s also a great benefit to our local farmers … it’s an extra stream of revenue they’re getting (up to $10,000 a year), and still they can plant crops right up to the bases of the turbines, so they’re not losing any production.”
Acre said recent public concerns regarding the health effects of living near a wind turbine, such as dizziness and headaches due to flickering and low-frequency noise, are “not an issue around here.”
“They’re not close enough to have a flicker across anyone’s house,” Acre stated. “And to me it’s not loud. The wind and the birds are louder. To me it sounds like the breeze going.”
Haggerty agrees. “I’ve never had anyone coming to my front door about the noise — zero complaints.”
Some comments to this article:
The set-back regulation for wind turbines of 550 metres from buildings only allows the quietest wind turbines to slightly exceed the World Health Organization’s guidelines for exposure to sustained background noise.
Many of the wind turbines slated to be used in Ontario are not these top-of-the-line, “quietest” turbines. A decreased set-back may sound good now but, I and the World Health Organization assure you, it won’t sound as wonderful once you’re listening to it night and day.
This reporter did not lift a finger to find out why the government was forced to consider 550 setbacks. Shameful journalist. Biased and based on lies. This is nothing more than the wind industry whining again. They want absolutely no restrictions whatsoever placed on them. Whine, whine, whine. Next they’ll be whining we’re not subsidizing them enough…like the taxpayers aren’t ALREADY!
Wow – the antiwind groups jumped on this one! CrossCamel: Tell me what the WHO recommendations are that are being exceeded while meeting the regs in Ontario. As far as I know, their report on Community Noise and Health suggested a maximum sound level of 30dBA inside a house for uninterrupted sleep. As you probably know, the Ontario regs are 550m OR a distance that gives a noise of no more than 40dBA outside the house. The WHO says that a wall with open windows will attenuate 15dBA, leaving 25dBA inside the house. How then can any wind farm be permitted in Ontario that exceeds the WHO regulations?
Colemont – it’s Wind that’s scamming ratepayers? How about nuclear? Did you see the new last week about the Nuclear Waste storage? The debt retirement charges on our bills are all towards nuclear, some estimate that the total subsidy to nuclear through reduced liability, guaranteed rate of return on waste management funds, etc. is in excess of $1.50/kWh. Those who live in glass houses…
Thinice. Typical double talk from a windy. You people just don’t seem to get it. People living within present projects in Ontario are not living with noise levels at 30 dBA inside the house because the windies do not monitor for dBC’s, only for audible (dBA) sound levels. They completely ignore the research on low frequency noise which is having real health effects on people. The WHO document states that when higher levels of dBC’s are generated the maximum monitored level of dBA should be even lower.
As for scamming the ratepayers, the typical “Windy” response is always to stear towards the Nuclear costs. If you check the history on this, one will find out that Darlington was stopped 3 times, each time we as taxpayers paid penalties for not adhering to the contract with the developer all because our gov’t officials caved in to the political pressures from the ant-nuclear faction. Perhaps you can explain to me how wind energy is suppose to correct this by allowing huge subsidies to this industry instead, especially when you can only provide on average 25% of your nameplate capacity and rarely if ever replace the need for fossil fuel generation. Is it simply O.K.to provide you with 2 to 3 times the rate for 20 years simply because another energy sector gets supposedly more for a product that is at least safe, realiable and dispatchable. You are also not taking into consideration all of the cost associated with the transmission needed to allow wind on the grid especially if the windies get their way and dominate over every other possible renewable out there.
Colemont – any acoustician will tell you that modern wind turbines will not generate significant levels of sound measured on the dBC scale. It’s another scare tactic from anti-wind.
Even if you ignore the cost overruns for nuclear, look at the capped liability (anything above $10 million is covered by the tax payer), the guaranteed 4% rate of return on the disposal fund (that lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the economic meltdown last year). Then look at the external costs of fossil generation in terms of health care costs, more hard to value things like smog, pollution, acid rain, etc.
The net capacity factor is also another red herring. Everyone knows what these will produce at when they’re installed – it’s factored into the economics. It’s like criticizing car mileage stats because they’re not calculated for the maximum speed a car can go, but at a reasonable driving speed. Check out the actual capacity production of Bruce one of these days, what with the mothballed reactors, etc.
And the claim that wind rarely, if ever, replaces the need for fossil generation is another false one. An electron put into the grid by wind replaces the need for one put in by another source (recognizing it’s more complex with line losses, etc.). The often trumpeted fact that “no coal plant has ever been shut down in Germany” is always cited without talking about how the demand for power has risen in the country. The right question is how many new coal plants have been avoided.
Thinice, acoustaticians hired by the wind industry will certainly tell anyone that supposedly “modern” turbines do not generate dBC noise levels yet they never report these levels in their noise assessment when submitting for certificates of approval by Min. of the Env. nor do they monitor for them after the turbines are up despite residents complaints. There is also evidence showing that noise levels vary with different weather conditions which appear to be “influencing large modern wind turbines more than older ones”. WIND FARM PERCEPTION – A STUDY ON ACOUSTIC AND VISUALIMPACT OF WIND TURBINES ON RECIDENTS IN THE NETHERLANDS Eja Pedersen (1), Jelte Bouma (2), Roel Bakker (3)Frits van den Berg (4). In addition, just recently the gov’t announced within the Renewable Energy approval process linked to the new GEA, that low frequency noises (dBC) will need to be monitored in the future. Seems to me the gov’t is acknowledging that low frequency noises are an issue.
As a taxpayer I don’t ignore cost overruns nor in general the waste of my hard earned tax dollar no matter the issue. As for capped liability , it seems to me the gov’t renaged recently on pursuing Nuclear because of the high cost and the industry’s unwillingness to take on the cost of overruns, besides Ontario is in a position of energy surplus right now, which largely explains why some of the reactors have been shut down. This is largely due to the slow down in manufacturing, resulting from the economic meltdown which Thinice seems to think is the result of the nuclear disposal fund. As for factoring in the economics of wind because they produce electricity, doesn’t that factor include a large portion of gov’t subsidy in order for the wind industry to be profitable?? As for the health cares costs associated with smog, pollution etc. Did anyone say this wasn’t true, so why aren’t we insisting that every coal generation plant have all of the proper scrubbers. Not one does in Ontario. As for the typical one MW in from wind energy displaces 1 MW by another source, does not assure that fossil fuel will be replaced, wind generally generates mostly at night, which would essentially replace base load, which in Ontario is made up of Nuclear, and Hydro (two sources of electricity which do not add to GHG emissions). As for how many new coal plants have been avoided in Germany, did they not announce in the last year the plans to build 26 “new” coal generating plants despite having 20% of the grid dedicated to wind energy. Even Alberta announced last fall a new Natural gas generating plant because they allowed a large influx of wind onto their grid. Fossil fuel generation is needed in order to compensate for wind’s irratic generation. Reality check Ontario! We should be asking questions such as – does industrial wind make economic sense when compared to other options, and what is the environmental cost (including health) of this? In other words, the Ontario taxpayer should be aware what is the full cost per tonne of CO2 saved by wind energy.
Ontario taxpayers must also rely on the dispassionate, comprehensive and scientific adjudication of industry technical claims, by those who are employed to serve ONLY the public interest. This is particularly important when such businesses not only desire enormous public financial support, but also when the stakes (i.e. Global Warming) reportedly involve our very survival as a species. This is the situation we have today with industrial wind energy.
All commercial-scale energy sources are subsidized; but all conventional sources provide capacity value. Wind provides no capacity value–specified, dispatchable, steady power on demand. It only provides the grid with sporadic bursts of energy, not energy commensurate with modern power expectations. Modern power vastly improves productivity. Wind reduces it. Trading wind for nuclear, or coal, or natural gas, or hydro is akin to trading Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Sandy Koufax, and Willy Mays for a third string high school first baseman who made the team because of his father’s contributions to the alumni fund. Pretending that zero capacity wind technology is an answer to building a responsive supply to meet new demand is, energy-wise, incredibly stupid. We need more wind projects like a prom queen needs acne.