Letter dated March 29, 2010:
Thank you for bringing your concerns about the health impacts of wind energy to the attention of Andrea Horwath, Leader, Ontario’s NDP.
New Democrats believe that wind energy needs to play an important role in reducing our reliance on coal and nuclear and in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Coal kills almost 700 people a year in Ontario.
Nuclear energy poses a constant risk of catastrophic accidents, nuclear weapons proliferation and poses the unsolved problem of trying to isolate radioactive waste for thousands of years.
We believe that it is important to rigorously study the health and environmental impacts of wind energy. A study by researchers at Stanford University concluded that wind had the least impact on human health, water supply, land, wildlife, and water pollution (see http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2009/january7/power-010709.html).
A September 2009 report by Dr. Ray Copes, Director of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Ontario Agency for Health Promotion and Protection concluded that “there is no scientific evidence to date to demonstrate a causal association between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects”, though it “sometimes may be annoying to some people which may result in stress and sleep disturbance”.
A June 2009 report by the Acting Medical Officer of Health for the Chatham-Kent Health Unit concluded that “there is no scientifically valid evidence that wind turbines are causing direct health effects, although the body of valid evidence is limited. It is unlikely that evidence of adverse health effects will emerge in the future because there is no biologically plausible mechanism known by which wind turbines could cause health effects”.
It should be remembered that the Ontario government is pursuing a fairly modest targets for wind – 3400 MW of wind over next 20 years (Spain, which has less than half the surface area of Ontario, added that much in 2007 alone).
As well, the McGuinty government is requiring significant set backs for wind turbines, including a minimum of 550 metres to ensure noise levels do not exceed 40 decibels at the receptor (the noise level experienced in a quiet office or library).
These setbacks are largest in Canada, the United States and eight European countries (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/european-setbacks-minimum-distance-between-wind-turbines-and-habitations/).
Proponents would also be required to monitor and address any perceptible infrasound (vibration) or low frequency noise as a condition of the Renewable Energy Approval.
The McGuinty government is setting up a university chair to continue to monitor health effects of wind turbines. They should also set up a differentiated tariff paid for wind energy, with a higher rate in lower wind areas and a lower rate in high wind area, which would encourage the spreading of wind around Ontario and deter the over development of wind power in the highest wind areas along shorelines (this has been done successfully in Germany, France, Switzerland and Portugal).
The McGuinty Liberals need to strengthen public participation and accountability, by expanding the role of Renewable Energy Facilitation Office to include supporting public participation, by requiring the Facilitator to release information about a project if plant, animal or human health affected and by protecting public’s right to appeal projects (the NDP proposed these amendments to the Green Energy Act, however, they were voted down by the McGuinty government).
I hope this clarifies Ontario’s NDP position on Wind Energy.
We look forward to working to ensure that wind energy is pursued in a safe and cost-effective manner in order to reduce Ontario’s reliance on coal and nuclear energy, and to reduce our greenhouse emissions to limit the dangers of global warming.
Ezia Cervoni, Leader’s Correspondence Officer
On Behalf of Andrea Horwath, Leader Ontario’s NDP