When a heat wave hit Ontario in late July, the blades of several wind turbines across the province stood still at a time of peak electrical demand, explained John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO).
“You can’t shovel wind at it,“ Laforet told a crowd at the Orangeville fairgrounds last week. “It sits there like a monument to a bad idea.”
Organized by local residents on Thursday (July 28), about 80 people gathered to hear presentations from Carmen Krogh and Dr. Scott Petrie on the impacts of industrial wind turbine projects on health, environment and communities.
SAGE Publications Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society recently published two articles by Krogh inside a peer reviewed scientific journal on the impacts of wind turbines.
“We have come so far. The health effects are real,” Krogh said, claiming the province’s denial of adverse health effects related to wind turbines is “scientifically incorrect.”
During an Aug. 2 government announcement, declaring plans to make it easier for energy developers to do business in Ontario, Minister of the Environment John Wilkinson disputed that claim.
“Our approvals process ensures that all projects meet our stringent requirements to protect human health and the environment,” he said in a news release.
According to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), the province’s noise limits for wind turbines are more stringent than California, Minnesota, New York, as well as countries like France, Denmark and Germany. In fact, MOE officials have said it reviewed more than 130 studies when developing regulations, plus implemented the toughest minimum setback in North America.
Critics of those calling for more stringent, authoritative wind guidelines have continuously claimed there is a lack of peer-reviewed evidence. Referring to the SAGE publication, “our peer reviewed articles have passed the test,” Krogh said.
Although an Environmental Review Tribunal recently sided with the ministry, Krogh said the panel at least noted evidence demonstrates wind turbines can cause adverse effects if placed too close to people.
“We did get quite a lot of admissions coming from the tribunal,” she said.
According to Krogh, governments are missing important points about stress, annoyance, and sleep disturbance, among other factors, when determining in what ways wind turbines are harmful to humans. She criticized the government for only monitoring decibels, claiming other factors can cause health effects.
“We don’t have a complete picture,” she added.
Krogh used the example of how one family – whose home was later bought by a wind developer – chose to sleep in a tent outside of their home to reduce the effects of low frequency noise.
“People will resort to dramatic acts if they are affected by low frequency noise,” she said, adding low frequency sound from wind turbines resonates inside buildings. “Right now, our guidelines are from outside, not inside.”
According to Petrie, who is studying the impact of industrial wind turbines on migratory bird patterns, there are several environmental threats facing waterfowl near the Great Lakes. One of the newest threats “is improperly placed” wind turbine developments, he believes.
For example, Petrie said wind turbines in Denmark aren’t allowed within one kilometre of roosting areas, between roosting and feeding areas, or in agricultural fields traditionally used by large flocks of waterfowl.
In Ontario, the Green Energy Act (GEA) allows wind turbines to be placed no less than 120 metres away from significant wildlife habitat areas without an ecological assessment, something Petrie called “totally inadequate.”
“The main concern is waterfowl displacement,” Petrie said, noting if turbines are placed in the wrong location, birds will avoid them. “That’s habitat loss.”
Ever if turbines are placed five to 10 kilometres offshore, it will affect waterfowl populations, Petrie claimed.
“We can expect to have major effects in Lake Erie and the Great Lakes,” he said.
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