Wind Controversy Research Report

Here, on a request, is a link to Renew Canada’s 2011 research report, Wind Controversy in Ontario. The report was intended to be a neutral evaluation of the evidence cited by pro and anti-wind groups. According to the Executive Summary:

The report examined several of the most commonly referenced issues surrounding generating energy from wind including: economic viability, reliability, environmental footprint, and potential health concerns.

Like every form of energy, wind power is not perfect. There are both positive and negative attributes to producing energy from wind. However, the current debate in Ontario has framed wind energy as either a blessing or a curse. Some of the resources used by both sides have been taken out of context. In other cases, the research was poorly conducted or has been sponsored by advocacy groups, which has led to accusations of bias in the research.

Even so, the considerable volume of independent research that exists demonstrates that the arguments made in favour of wind are considerably more supported than those against it. This report demonstrates that the arguments made against wind, specifically the potential impact on the environment, human health, and the economics of wind power, are not supported by the available resources.

However, as in the case with most issues, the findings are not black and white. For instance, projects located in internationally recognized Important Bird Areas, as defined by Bird Life International, can have the potential to negatively impact the local environment. While wind power can be of net benefit to the environment and the public, regulators must pay more attention to project locations.

 

Comments

  1. NIABY

    Thank you for your attention to this issue.

    Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to get all the way through this paper yet, but on page 3, an obvious error jumps out at me. Wind Concerns Ontario is not "now" Ontario Wind Resistance. WCO and OWR are two separate entities now in existence. Simple yet significant mistakes like this bring into question the credibility of the entire report. Furthermore, there appears to be a bias in the paper in that it discounts– or completely denies– the experience of actual Ontarians who have had the misfortune of sustaining adverse health effects attributable to wind turbines operating too close to their homes.

    I understand that for those who have had not had the misfortune of experiencing adverse health effects attributable to wind turbines, it may seem difficult to understand, especially when there is no much influence that needs this truth to go unrecognized.

  2. NIABY

    (cont'd)
    I sincerely ask you to please consider the following observation made by Ministry of the Environment Officer Tim Webb on October 14, 2010. Officer Webb was in Clear Creek, Norfolk County investigating into wind turbine complaints, and following his visit he reported this finding about what he felt:

    "I would describe it as a sensation that was neither a discernable sound nor a detectable vibration, but somewhere between the two. Definitely more felt than heard. If I concentrated very hard, I could sense something below the hearing threshold, but above what can be felt as a vibration. I have to say, though, that it takes an unusual amount of concentration to even notice it." The email is available here: http://www.windyleaks.com/2011/09/26/another-envi

  3. NIABY

    (cont'd)
    Can you imagine the physiological implications when you are "feeling" this "sensation"? While it may not be clear what the sensation is, it is commonly reported by people near wind turbines that they can "feel" something, particularly in the chest. Whether it's the chest cavity resonating, or the diaphragm fluttering, or something else, it can't be denied that something is being "felt" in the body. Ontario regulations covering audible sound don't protect against this. Officer Webb's final sentence might explain why when many people head out to the countryside to "listen" to wind turbines they don't get 'sick'. Maybe they don't concentrate hard enough. Or maybe they're not one of the unlucky ones who is susceptible to these kinds of effects. Most importantly, they don't try and sleep there, nor do they spend prolonged periods of time experiencing this "sensation" allowing it to cause sleep deprivation and other chronic illness.

  4. NIABY

    (cont'd)
    We may not know what are the effects of prolonged exposure to this "sensation" but we can safely say that the "sensation" is not psychologically-derived. Furthermore, the "sensation" itself is an adverse health effect. While Officer Webb may posit that it's unnoticeable without intense concentration, to others the sensation may be more pronouced and acutely discomforting. Can you imagine how insulting it is for victims of wind turbines to have to listen to others (who haven't bothered to try and understand our experience) proclaim that wind turbines are safe, deny our experience, and dismiss us as simply "anti-wind," "psychosomatic," or "mentally unstable"? Victims are pushed to their breaking points and then teased about it.

  5. NIABY

    (cont'd)
    Dianne, I wish that you could help those of us who are being left as collateral damage by wind turbine developers. We can't afford to hire a lawyer to take on a corporation that has millions of dollars to defend its operations, and a government that has seemingly endless resources and which is willing to deny the advice of its own internal professionals. This government is not doing an adequate job of regulating wind turbines. This is social injustice, not environmentally-friendly, and certainly counter to the principles of sustainability that encouraged wind turbine developments in the first place. This is a dark moment, and the fact that tragedies like those in Clear Creek, Norfolk County have gone ignored discredits other green initiatives, this government and those who prop it up.

  6. Eldon

    There has never been any conclusive evidence to back up claims of this noise or vibration causing health problems. You are more likely to get a headache or a nosebleed from having a fridge or a running computer in your home. These are nimby arguments from people who are generally more concerned about the view from their patio than the actual health effects of wind turbines. If they were genuinely concerned for their health, why would they not be lobbying against coal fired plants and such, as they cause documented and provable damage and illness.

  7. This report relies heavily on the claim that wind power costs consumers about the same as gas power. What the report ignores is the fact that gas power is costly because it is run only as backup and delivers when needed. Meanwhile incremental wind will be effectively useless once the Ontario government's current plan to build 10.7 GW of non-hydro renewable generation is implemented by 2015. Notice also that the referenced report ignored the devastating impact of wind power development on the value of neighbouring recreational and residential property.

    • DSS

      Tom,
      Perhaps you are not aware that the Assessment Review Board has held a six day hearing, and ruled that wind turbines on Wolfe Island have NO adverse impact on the value of nearby residential property.

  8. Why would you have such confidence in the independence of Ontario government administrative agencies on a subject so close to the government's agenda, particularly when the ruling contradicts so much evidence of severe devaluation of property?

    • DSS

      Dear Tom,
      I think that this slight on the Assessment Review Board is unwarranted and inappropriate. The Assessment Review Board is a specialized quasi judicial body whose decisions are independent of the government of the day, not an administrative agency of the government. That is exactly why such boards exist, and why they receive a degree of judicial deference.

  9. Elizabeth Barr

    Perhaps you are not aware that the landowners represented themselves at this hearing, perhaps naively. The wind developers and the local govt.paid apprx. $30,000 to the lawyers who represented their interests at the ARB.
    What can we take from this? That the outcome could have been different had the little guys been able to afford legal counsel.

    • DSS

      Dear Elizabeth,
      Having read the ARB decision, I think it was based on the evidence, not on the presence or absence of lawyers. The ARB is very careful to accommodate unrepresented litigants.

  10. David Norman

    I read the "2011 research report, Wind Controversy in Ontario" which you endorse in method and conclusion. I also analyzed it using language "diplomatics" software and protocols. The following quote from the report is indicative of any relevance it holds: "The goal of this report was not to demonstrate support for the wind industry, nor was it to criticize the anti-wind movement. The purpose was to examine the statements and claims made by both sides and attempt to establish facts from fiction." Please take note of the structure of the first sentence, paying particular attention to the affective word connotations associated with the subjects. Then compare this with the subjective orientation indicated in the second concluding statement of purpose. If you examine this carefully you will see quite clearly the subjective bias of this report which is endemic in this document.

  11. Oatbag

    Thanks for this Diane!
    Indeed there are no silver bullets, but wind is net-positive. I feel for those living with symptoms of annoyance (I don't use that word to diminish the symptoms, but out of my understanding of the issue). If affected parties were able to share in the economic benefit as citizens in the Netherlands and Germany are, it seems likely that the prevalence of symptoms from annoyance would be lower, as is there case in those European towns where many live closer than 550m. But surely investment in the technology will yield improvement on the Low Frequency Noise front.

    The need for green energy is enduring. It is a shame that imperfection in a promising medium of generation is being used to advocate for much more costly (economically, environmentally, and human health) mediums of generation.

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