Wolfe Island – One Year Later

Kingston Life
As everyone in Kingston surely knows by now, there are 86 wind turbines on Wolfe Island. All are on the island’s west side, which is exposed to the prevailing winds blowing off Lake Ontario. According to Canadian Hydro Developers, Inc., the company that erected them, the turbines will crank out enough electricity to power 75,000 homes per year. The rotors began spinning last June after more than decade of dreaming, negotiating, public and private meetings, planning and building. At a total cost of approximately $450 million, the wind farm is the Kingston area’s largest-ever construction project.

Its advocates claimed the turbines would be clean, quiet, environmentally benign and would position Wolfe Island as a pioneering contributor to Ontario’s green economy. More important, they said, their construction and the annual fees paid by Canadian Hydro to the Township of Frontenac Islands and to landowners who signed an agreement allowing turbines to be built on their property would bring a much-needed economic boost to a rural farming community. Others feared that the turbines would be noisy, cause health problems, kill birds, and disrupt the rural ambience and landscape that generations of islanders had come to love.

Roughly 11 months after the “windmills” began spinning, Wolfe Island is a different place, but opinions vary as to whether the change is for better or worse. The most obvious change is visual: On the island’s northwest side, the towers of the “Wolfe Island EcoPower Centre” are omnipresent. You can see them from almost anywhere on the Kingston waterfront, but also, on a clear day, from Highway 401. What’s not visible, however, are the lingering tensions between the project’s supporters and those who questioned its value.

“People come to the island to get away from this sort of thing,” says Bruce Horne, a native Wolfe Islander whose family has operated the ferry between the southwest end of the island and Cape Vincent, N.Y., since the 1860s. “And now here it is, in their face.”

The Mayor of Frontenac Islands Township, Jim Vanden Hoek, has a different view. “The project is here, it’s running, and we’re going to receive benefit from it,” says Vanden Hoek. “I’m not sure how much merit there is in reflecting on criticism by different groups.”

From breeze to gale

The first person to try to harness Wolfe Island’s wind commercially was an electrical entrepreneur named Ian Baines. In the early 1990s, in response to a call for innovative power-generation ideas by Ontario Hydro, the Queen’s University electrical engineering graduate teamed up with Queen’s engineering professor Fred Siemonsen to study the viability of wind turbines on the island. Ontario Hydro cancelled its program, but the pair’s tests had convinced Baines that wind power on Wolfe Island was a proposition worth pursuing. The host municipality, too, also knew there might be something to the turbine idea. “Wolfe Island is a pretty windy place,” says Vanden Hoek. “That resource is a strength we have, and the appreciation that the resource is here is not new.”

By 2002, Baines was president and chief operating officer of a company called Canadian Renewable Energy Corporation (CREC), and he and Siemonsen had quietly signed options with 15 Wolfe Islanders who together owned approximately 1,500 acres. The options gave CREC the right to erect turbines on those properties in exchange for a payment to the owners based on acreage and the size of the turbine. That year Baines was claiming that a 10-unit, $30-millon wind farm on Wolfe Island could be a reality by December.

Baines was not alone. Hearthmakers Energy Co-operative, a Kingston-based non-profit organization that promotes energy conservation, and Gaia Power, a renewable energy startup formed by Samit Sharma, then a freshly minted MBA from the Queen’s School of Business, also had their eyes on the island. In 2003, with $200,000 in funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and an equal amount contributed by themselves, the two organizations teamed up as the Greater Kingston Tradewinds Project (GKTP) to begin a feasibility study for a 24-turbine, 36-MW wind farm. Savings resulting from energy audits that Hearthmakers would conduct in municipally owned buildings in Kingston would offset the turbines’ cost, and profits from selling power to the province would be distributed among island residents. The GKTP ultimately fizzled, but Sharma secured a number of options from landowners and a grid-connection agreement from the province. In time, these would prove to be valuable commodities.

Meanwhile, Baines kept at it. By April 2004, CREC had joined forces with a deep-pocketed partner, Calgary-based Canadian Hydro Developers Inc., and the two announced they were prepared to build up to 150 turbines with a total annual capacity of 300 MW on four Wolfe Island sites — with one major caveat. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty had committed the province to buying 1,350 MW of power from renewable sources by 2007 and had invited prospective suppliers to submit proposals for projects that would meet the demand. CREC and Canadian Hydro needed to win one of those coveted contracts, but they failed to meet the government’s basic bidding conditions and were excluded from the bidding process.

After a second round of government tendering, in November 2005 the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) awarded to Canadian Hydro a 20-year contract to supply 200 MW of power to the provincial grid. The OPA would purchase the power at a premium price that would help make the proposed $410-million, 86-turbine project economically feasible. Ironically, Baines, who had worked so long to achieve this goal, was essentially out of the picture; Canadian Hydro had acquired his company in January 2005. CREC was a now Canadian Hydro subsidiary and Baines was acting as a part-time consultant to its new proprietors. Instead, another familiar player was named as a partner in the winning bid: Gaia Power. Sharma had sold to Canadian Hydro the land options and grid-transmission contract Gaia had gathered during the Trade Winds initiative.

By now, some initially supportive Wolfe Islanders were having second thoughts about wind turbines. Many were taken aback at the larger scale of Canadian Hydro’s successful bid. The early proposals were for 24 turbines; now there were 86. Why? Too, some residents were alarmed by epidemiological studies from Europe and the U.S. that reported how some people living near wind turbines had experienced health problems including dizziness, sleep loss, tinnitus, permanent loss of hearing, heart palpitations and epileptic seizures, and attributed their troubles to noise and vibration from the machines. Most of these maladies correlated to the “setback” — the distance between the wind towers and houses, schools, roads and environmentally sensitive areas. The further away people were from the turbines, the fewer complaints they had.

One step forward, another step back

Over the next year, Canadian Hydro employees and consultants — geological surveyors, archeologists and others — ranged across the leased properties, sighting, measuring and recording, and meeting with landowners in an attempt to delineate property boundaries and prepare site plans for the turbines and access roads. Planners from Frontenac Islands Township and the company ploughed through reams of bureaucratic paperwork to secure dozens of permits and regulatory approvals.

A big project milestone came in November 2006, when the Frontenac Islands municipal council passed a zoning bylaw that gave planning approval, established preliminary setback distances and formalized a handful of other conditions for the project. It was welcome news for Canadian Hydro, but not all residents were delighted. Some felt the company’s 350-metre setbacks were inadequate and that the council vote should have been postponed until the results of Canadian Hydro’s environmental review were known. Too, the bylaw vote took place shortly after the 2006 municipal election, but before incoming council had been sworn in.

Gail Kenney, a longtime Wolfe Islander and founding member of Wolfe Island Residents for the Environment (WIRE) — a group of islanders who said they weren’t necessarily against the project, but wished to see it unfold transparently and in a manner that would not adversely affect wildlife or human health — wonders what might have transpired if the crucial vote had been taken by the new council. “We don’t know if that vote would have been different,” says Kenney, a retired schoolteacher. “I suspect it would have been.”

The zoning bylaw and the proposed 350-metre setbacks were so troubling to Wolfe Islanders Sarah McDermott and bird expert Dr. James Day that, in January 2007, they launched an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), hoping that the OMB would overturn the bylaw. The appeal made McDermott and Day instant pariahs to islanders who supported the project and feared that a successful appeal might push the start date for construction back by months. One resident who wished to remain anonymous in this story said the appeal was brave and well-intentioned, but was “like standing in front of a $450-million freight train.”

The three-day OMB hearing took place in July 2007 and resulted in some key amendments to the bylaw. Originally the setback from schools and the village of Marysville was 350 metres; the appeal increased the distance to 600 metres. The setback from seniors’ homes and hospitals was increased from 350 metres to 400 metres, while the setback from wetlands and roads was also bumped up. At the conclusion of the hearing, both sides were praised by the OMB adjudicator for having reached a compromise. Though McDermott and Day were not wholly satisfied with the outcome, they said the appeal was a partial victory and vowed to keep an eye on the project’s environmental consequences, which they felt had not received adequate attention during the planning stages.

Canadian Hydro countered that for years, and particularly since the project got the go-ahead from the province, dozens of studies had determined not only the optimal locations for the turbines, but also their potential effects on birds, bats, snakes, wetlands, geology, human health, roads and other factors. Canadian Hydro president John Keating pointed out that, specifically in response to the community concerns, the company had voluntarily undertaken a more rigorous environmental examination than it was legally obliged to do.

Nevertheless, the Environmental Review — Ontario’s second-most-stringent level of environmental reporting for large developments — was a flash point for some citizens and environmental groups such as Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, who were upset that planning approval had been issued before the document was finished. When the results did come in — four thick binders, with information from 20 separate technical studies — a number of citizens complained that it omitted information. They appealed, twice, to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to require Canadian Hydro to submit an even more rigorous Environmental Assessment (EA). Because EAs are incredibly complex and require input from dozens of government agencies at every level, public consultations and final ministry approval, they can take years to complete. Canadian Hydro was eager to avoid one.

Two events that took place during the appeals bolstered the belief of wind farm critics that the Ontario government was treating the project with kid gloves. The first event took place in the summer of 2007, when wind-farm supporters organized a private barbeque-corn roast attended by, among others, Canadian Hydro officials and the MPP for Kingston and the Islands, John Gerretsen. A year later, Gerretsen was Ontario’s environment minister and, as such, the person who would issue a decision on the final Environmental Review appeal. It also came to light that Canadian Hydro had purchased $1,500 worth of tickets to a fundraising dinner during Gerretsen’s 2007 re-election campaign. Some citizens complained that these occurrences put Gerretsen in conflict of interest. Lynn Morrison, Ontario’s acting integrity commissioner, ruled that he wasn’t. Still, she wrote to Gerretsen, “both of these events appear to have created a perception that you favour one group of ministry stakeholders over another.”

Three days before the second and final MOE decision on the appeal, Peter Fonseca, the minister of tourism, was assigned to the case, and, in late May 2008, it was he who closed the door for good on any further appeals. Its final environmental hurdle cleared, Canadian Hydro could finally put shovels in the ground.

The turbines rise

Five weeks later, in early July 2008, construction began. In the following weeks, convoys of dump trucks, backhoes and bulldozers rumbled from barges onto the island. The first order of business was to widen some of the island’s roads for some of the heavy equipment that would be needed to build gravel access roads through the leased farm fields to the towers. To create solid foundations for the turbines, four-metre-deep craters were either dug or blasted out of the island’s limestone bedrock, then filled with formed, steel-bar-reinforced concrete made from sand and gravel mostly extracted from local quarries.

The influx of some 250 contractors and labourers created a mini-boom on the island. The island’s two general stores, Fargo’s and Mosier’s, did gangbuster business. Tables at The Island Grill and Ernie’s diner were constantly full. But while business traffic in Marysville village was much appreciated, the traffic passing by some homes elsewhere on the island was not. Although Canadian Hydro spread water and dust suppressants on the dirt roads, the roar of engines and clouds of dust stirred up by trucks travelling to and from the quarries were constants during the day. The heavy-equipment disruption was so intolerable for one well-liked island couple, Dawn and Dean Wallace, that they sold their house and moved to the mainland.

The turbines began arriving in August 2008, shipped in 11 trips across the Atlantic from Denmark and up the St. Lawrence River to Ogdensburg, N.Y. In Ogdensburg, they were transferred to a special barge that, guided by tugboats, ferried them 100 kilometers upstream to Canadian Hydro’s staging ground at Wolfe Island’s winter ferry dock at Dawson Point. Each barge carried one complete wind turbine: the 80-metre tower, in three hollow steel segments; the school bus-sized “nacelle” containing the gearbox and generator; and three 45-metre long wood-and-fibreglass blades that together comprise the rotor.

As they worked through the winter, the work crews became so practised at raising the towers that by the end of the project they could erect four in one day. They repeated the same process for each tower. A large metal case containing the tower’s computer system was bolted to the foundation. Next, the three tower segments were lowered into place using a large crane. The nacelle was then attached to the top of the final segment. Finally, the rotor and its nose cone — the “hub” — were hoisted and fixed to the front of the nacelle. Electrical cables, buried for esthetic purposes under fields and roads, connected the turbines with a transformer station behind the Canadian Hydro office and maintenance yard on the Fourth Line.

Perhaps the trickiest part of the construction phase was laying the $40-million, 230-kilovolt transmission line that carries the wind farm’s electricity from Wolfe Island to transformer stations on the mainland. Billed by Canadian Hydro as “the world’s largest extension cord,” it is a marvel of engineering: 12-kilometres long, with three wrist-thick copper cables and fibreoptic lines wrapped in a Kevlar-and-steel sheath. It weighs 736 tonnes and was transported to Kingston in a giant coil on a special boat from Norway. Over two weeks, the transmission line was spooled out along the lakebed in a snaky path to avoid shipwrecks, water intake pipes, rocks and other submarine cables.

The island today

If you talk to Jim Vanden Hoek, who has been the mayor of the Township of Frontenac Islands since 2000, he’ll tell you that the wind turbines are not the most significant change on Wolfe Island in his lifetime. As he and other islanders are prone to point out, 40 years ago almost 150 families ran dairy farms on the island. Many of them supplied milk to a small Kraft cheese-processing plant that once was the island’s single largest employer, with about 30 full-time employees.

When the wind power people came knocking, most dairy farmers had sold off their milk quotas to retire or find a more stable job in Kingston. The Kraft plant had closed for good in 2000, leaving only a handful of full-time public-sector jobs for workers on the Wolfe Island ferry or in the township office. Not surprisingly, the dearth of local taxable businesses severely constrained the township’s ability to deliver basic services. Vanden Hoek says this socioeconomic shift was the biggest change on the island in the past half-century.

The wind farm presents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to turn this situation around, he says. The Canadian Hydro office (now the corporate property of TransAlta, the Alberta-based energy giant that acquired Canadian Hydro last October) employs about a dozen technical people engaged primarily in preventative maintenance on the towers. At the moment, says the office’s operations manager, Mike Jablonicky, six are contract workers on loan from Siemens, the company that manufactured the turbines, while the rest are graduates of the Energy Systems and Engineering Technology program at St. Lawrence. A dozen or so jobs may not seem like much, says Vanden Hoek, “but if you look at it in terms of a percentage increase in employment on the island, it’s huge.”

Then, of course, there’s the amenities agreement: $7,500 per turbine per year, or $645,000, which Vanden Hoek says is among the most generous of such agreements in Canada, on top of the property taxes on Canadian Hydro’s turbines, office building, maintenance yard and transformer installations. Together these monies have almost doubled the township’s annual tax revenue of approximately $1.5 million. “The amenities agreement gives us the opportunity to do things we’ve never been able to do,” says Vanden Hoek, adding that the township is now consulting with the community to discover what some of those things might be. One of them is likely to involve road improvement, as the mayor says this year’s roads budget is the biggest in the township’s history.

Other options include purchasing a refrigeration plant for the island’s new ice rink, which was built last year with volunteer labor and materials from islanders, Canadian Hydro contractors’ and residents’ financial donations — including a $100,000 contribution from hockey icon Don Cherry, who is a long-time summer resident. There might be new parks for kids or more funding for the local library, the historical society or ecotourism initiatives. Frontenac Islands Councillor Denis Doyle says there are already a small group of artisans and community gardeners on the island and speculates that some sort of small-business fund might lure more of them.

The most direct beneficiaries of the turbines, of course, are the landowners who signed leases with Canadian Hydro to allow turbines to be built on their property. Two types of contracts were available: one paid the landowner a flat annual fee, while the other’s payout was determined by the turbine’s annual power output. Since the contracts include non-disclosure agreements, leaseholders can’t discuss the amount they’re getting, but talk on the island suggests that it’s somewhere between $7,000 and $10,000 per turbine.

“It’s not nothing, but it’s not a retirement fund by any stretch of the imagination,” says Paul Hogan, an erstwhile dairy farmer who has three turbines on his 380-acre property and who was among the first landowners approached by Baines and Siemonsen back in the 1990s.

Hogan’s neighbour, Dick Posthumous, a part-time beef farmer who has a single turbine on his land, says the Canadian Hydro payment will be nice to have — he and his wife Lisa have two growing boys, Jeremy and Derek, who both play competitive hockey and need equipment — but says the wind farm is even better for the place he calls home.

“The island was basically dying,” he says, echoing the thoughts of many wind turbine supporters. “To keep it going they needed a big project like this to bring in money. And it did [bring money]. The company looked after the islanders first, had them driving trucks and making cement. I think the pros of the project outweighed the cons.”

Many of those who resent the turbines understand why some landowners jumped at the chance to have one. “You can’t blame them for taking the money,” says ferry operator Bruce Horne. “But I don’t think it’s fair. The property owners get the money, but there are neighbours in a 30-mile radius who are affected. If they don’t like them, they’re not getting anything from them.”

Like many critics of the wind farm, Horne — who is married to Peggy Smith, the lawyer who represented Sarah McDermott and James Day at the OMB hearing — says he’s not against wind turbines per se. He’d just like to see them situated “in a proper place, where they’re not going to annoy people.”

Horne’s position underlines one of the great uncomfortable realities of wind power. Obviously, wind turbines need to be located where there is wind. Too, massive projects like Wolfe Island’s must be as close as possible to the main power grid, since stringing high-capacity transmission lines over a long distance — which would be necessary if a wind farm was located at a remote site in, say, northern Ontario — is prohibitively expensive. Unfortunately for non-supporters, the most cost-effective locations are often close to inhabited areas.

Thus, economics definitely helped to create the adversarial scenario that arose on Wolfe Island. WIRE and other residents critical of the wind farm said that if the setbacks were further increased or the number of towers reduced so that the turbines could be further away from homes and environmentally sensitive areas like wetlands, they might find the project more palatable. But Canadian Hydro couldn’t do this, because the company had won its contract with the Ontario Power Authority to supply 200 MW of power because, in addition to submitting all the legally required approvals and studies, it had claimed it could do the job at a lower cost than its competitors. This entailed cutting margins to the bone during the bidding process. As a result, to cover the expense of the turbines, the submarine transmission cable and other fixed project costs — and, since it is a publicly traded company, turn a reasonable profit for its shareholders — Canadian Hydro needed all 86 turbines to make the project economically feasible and financially sustainable.

To the critics, this rationale only reinforced their contention that the wind farm was a “done deal” from the outset and that, studies notwithstanding, Canadian Hydro wasn’t paying enough attention to legitimate concerns.

There were, and are, legitimate concerns — especially regarding birds (including snowy owls, wintering raptors) and waterfowl. Wolfe Island is on a provincially significant bird migration route, a pit stop for them as they fly between the north shore of Lake Ontario and the American side. There is debate whether the rotors of the turbines spin slowly enough for birds to avoid a collision. Though the number of bird fatalities might be small in a given year, for some rare or threatened species these losses could spell the difference between survival and extinction. The danger is greater when the cumulative effects on birds of other proposed wind farms on nearby Amherst Island, Galoo Island and on the American side of the St. Lawrence River are taken into account.

And then there’s the noise. Wind turbines are not silent. Wolfe Islanders living near them tell you that, depending on the wind speed and how far you are from them, the sound they emanate is similar to wind rushing through trees or like a jet plane flying high overhead. Though it’s hardly deafening — normal “city” sounds of cars or trains are often louder — it’s easy to understand how even a muted whoosh whoosh in the background would disturb islanders long used to rural peace and quiet. Similarly, the regular blinking of the red lights on top of the turbines at night would not be welcome to those used to seeing only the moon and stars. According to wind-industry sponsored reviews of medical literature on the subject, noise or low-frequency vibrations from wind turbines might cause stress in some people, but they can’t make them physically sick.

To the chagrin of some Wolfe Islanders, revisions to Ontario’s Green Energy Act stipulate that to minimize noise complaints, wind turbines must be set back 550 metres from the nearest human habitation — a full 100 to 200 metres farther than most on Wolfe Island.

Into the future

The hopes and frustrations that Wolfe Islanders have experienced over the past decade are sure to be repeated many times over across Ontario. The Green Energy and Green Economy Act — legislation passed in May 2009 that maps how the province will phase out its coal-fired, greenhouse-gas-emitting electric plants by 2014 and replace them with cleaner, renewable energy sources — has spawned a frenzy of investment in the renewable-energy sector. The core of the act is the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program, which mandates the Ontario Power Authority to pay a premium price to homeowners, small businesses and large-scale developers who build or install renewable energy sources and feed the power they produce into the Ontario electrical grid.

The FIT program is the reason why other large-scale Kingston-area wind and solar farms are slated for Amherst Island and Prince Edward County and five solar farms on land just west and north of Kingston. The most ambitious project of all is a 300-MW offshore wind farm in Lake Ontario — Ontario’s first — proposed for a 19,200-hectare area bordered by Wolfe Island, Amherst Island, Prince Edward County and the United States border. The developer of the 60-turbine scheme is Windstream Wolfe Island Shoals Inc., whose president is Ian Baines, the man who got the ball rolling on Wolfe Island.

Love them or hate them, Wolfe Island’s wind turbines are a reality, and each islander must now come to terms with them in his or her own way. Kathy Rothermel, the proprietor of an organic farm called Vegetables Unplugged, lives within sight — and earshot — of several turbines situated on neighbouring properties. Though she notices their noise, she doesn’t mind them being there. “It’s easy to demonize the big guy [Canadian Hydro],” she says, “but at the same time, if we want to move more towards sustainable energy production, I don’t think this is a bad way to go.”

For her part, WIRE’s Gail Kenney still feels the project was rammed through and is angry at the social upheaval it caused. Still, she says it’s time for “healing” on the island. “There’s effort all around,” she says. “I see people trying. There’s no point walking around with sour grapes.”

Similarly, Councillor Doyle says the most productive future path for the community would be to accept that the turbines are there for the foreseeable future, move on and try to restore the sense of close-knit neighbourliness that Wolfe Islanders have known for generations.

“We’ve got to look at it as, ŒWe’ve been dealt this hand, and what can we do with the [financial] benefits we’re getting from it?’” says Doyle, who represents Wolfe Island district. “We have to try to expand the common good of every islander, and try to address the concerns of the people living among the towers who are more inconvenienced than the rest of us.”

15 thoughts on “Wolfe Island – One Year Later

  1. After all is said and done, today there is no net benefit to reducing CO2 emissions or reduction in fossil fuel consumption. Wind power remains today, a welfare industry that sucks the tax marrow from Ontario’s citizens. These machines are a mythological solution that is promoted by greed and sanctioned by inept government agencies around the world.

    The lease holders on Wolf island that receive monies from these projects are in effect taking money directly from their fellow citizens without providing any net benefit.

    Wolfe island aesthetics is destroyed. When the subsidies end, and they will end. These same lease holders will be hosting derelict equipment which be a liability and not an asset. Don’t come whining to the Ontario tax payers for financial support for decommissioning.

  2. Not so nice trying to tell your neighbours to suck it up and live with their decision to build Wind Turbines. Why not just throw salt on their neighbours’ land as well?

  3. Wolfe Island is a “Dead Island” now with no future but a lingering example of how people can be “bribed” to basically kill themselves!

    A shameful legacy on the depths humankind will go to make money!

    Many many years from now Wolfe Island may become a school trip to show children how GREED destroyed a once beautiful place!

  4. An economic boom? How so?

    The incoming money is simply Tax Dollars — paid through the Feed In Tariff (FIT). There is no economic boom — simply a downgrade in life of other Ontarions caused by their tax dollars feeding a losing proposition. Without a three to five times subsidy of the going power rate this project would never have been economically viable.

    Within a few years the likely scenario is that the subsidies will be abandoned — and so will the windmills.

    The Wind Turbines make no substantive difference in the power available to Ontario. I have updated my paper “Watts With The Wind” to include an overview of 2010. From the time that Wolf Island came on-stream there is no significant improvement in the output of all the wind turbines in the Ontario Power System.

    The economic windfall is my tax dollars and yours. Rob Peter to pay Paul.

    Projects are being built east of Toronto because there is some transmission capacity available. The wind is best where there is no transmission capacity available.

    Follow the money.

  5. Yeah here’s to Wolfe island! The “farm” hasn’t even produced it’s namplate capacity…….IN THE LAST 48 HOURS TOTAL!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. So far Wolfe is running at 26% – and that will go down as summer comes on. The farmers aren’t getting the money they were planning on. Too bad, so sad.

  7. I wonder what the children think of their Parents or Grand Parents who “sold out” their “legacy” to the Greed Mongers called Big Wind?

    They must be ashamed for what they have done to this once beautiful land OR they have hated their lives for so long that they welcome a few shekels so they can get out and leave this area to start a new life in the Big City which of course is absolutely “pristine and full of wildlife”………NOT!

  8. David Robinson’s entry should be read by anyone who thinks there is some faint hope that industrial wind turbines provide any additional energy to what we already have. He is someone who knows it is not. Wolf Island at 26% capacity as reported by Wayne Gulden is not even at a steady state 26%. The 26% is in bits and pieces and not at all the same as the steady power produced by traditional power sources and not the type of bits and pieces or power surges our electrical equipment can tolerate. Without an excessive amount of effort and additional traditional power supply to be available to counter these surges and dips the grid would fail. That balancing takes more fuel than if we didn’t have wind turbines at all and costs much more in the process.

  9. Simmering division on the island about this issue which, in intself is so wrong.

  10. “Kathy Rothermel, the proprietor of an organic farm called Vegetables Unplugged, lives within sight — and earshot — of several turbines situated on neighbouring properties. She says, “but at the same time, if we want to move more towards sustainable energy production, I don’t think this is a bad way to go.”” Last sentence should read, I didn’t think. This is a bad way to go. Problem is nobody thought when the money was flung under their noses. Property values, now zero and those that took the bribe will be forever indebted to their neighbours. Also, who needs birds?

  11. Please help! I am from a small rural community in Ohio, USA and our school is in the final stages of proposing a approx. 350 foot turbine on school property. The fall zone covers my family’s farmland and a majority of a parking lot… over 100 homes are within 1 mile. Some of us are staunchly opposed, but we need data. Can anyone send me hard data via email to help? Thanks for such an informative website!!!!!!!

  12. You can stop at “nobody thought…”

    They just listen to the Chicken Littles of the world and then the smell of money overwhelms them…
    … and it’s not much money!

    Learn more about the adventures of Chicken Little on the Climate Battlefront here…

    As a challenge see if you can find their story about the Wind Turbine near “City Hall”.

    Just make sure you watch the Chicken Little video — Ontario Green Energy Policy is based on this insightful analysis!

  13. The following stories are from a series of articles and are worth reading. Wise people learn from others’ mistakes and experiences. Reinventing the wheel is a fool’s game. Thanks to the internet, the real problems associated with wind turbines can’t be hidden despite an industry that thrives on secrecy (we don’t know where turbines will be located, who the investors are, what kind of deals have been already made, while those who signed leases also agreed to a “gag order” forbidding them from talking about problems…a restraint which is unconstitutional).

    1. From an article called Safe setbacks: how far should wind turbines be from homes?

    “Let’s start with what one mf. considers to be safe for its workers. The safety regulations for the Vestas V90 (with a 300-ft. rotor span and a total height of 410 feet), tell operators and technicians to stay 1,300 feet from an operating turbine – over 3 times its total height – unless absolutely necessary.

    In February 2008, a ten-year-old Vestas turbine, with a total height of less than 200 feet, broke apart in a storm. Large pieces of the blades flew as far as 1,640 feet – more than 8 times its total height.

    The Fuhrlander turbine planned for Barrington, R.I, is 328 feet tall with a rotor diameter of just over 250 feet (sweeping more than an acre of vertical air space.) According to one news report, the mf. recommends a setback of 1,500 feet – over 4.5 times the total height.”

    Note: 500 foot turbines have a three acre sweep, not one acre!

    “In Wisconsin…ordinances generally specify a setback of one-half mile.” (But these aren’t the tall 500 foot turbines. The old regs are outdated).

    Manufacturer recommended “danger” setbacks from hurl have nothing to do with vibrations. From the same article, read this:

    “Jane and Julian Davis, whose home is 3,050 feet from the Deeping St. Nicholas wind energy facility in England, were forced by the noise to rent another home in which to sleep. In July 2008, they were granted a 14% council tax reduction in recognition of their loss…The combination of several turbines creates a manifold greater disturbance.”

    We are going to have more than several turbines. As we calculate the monetary “gain” from turbines, remember to deduct losses from crashing property assessments, town payoffs to owners to relocate, lawsuits, inability to economically develop surrounding properties, catastrophic costs associated with breakages and decommissioning entire wind projects in case of breach of contract. See #2, below, for other associated expenses.

    Sound expert Rick James recommends more than 6,560 ft. setbacks from turbines – and this recommendation is for the shorter 400 foot turbines. (you can find Rich James’s published articles on wind turbine noise). “Both the French Academy of Medicine and the U.K. Noise Association recommend a minimum of one mile.” And that’s also for the shorter turbines. “In France, Marjolaine Villey-Migraine concluded that the minimum should be 3 miles.” This recommendation is also for the shorter turbines.

    2. From the article Rancher Describes experiences associated with Wind Farms http://www.mcphersonsentinel.com/articles/2005/12/01/news/news2.txt. These are dealing with shorter turbines, not the 500 footers. Again, you can see that the amount of money towns receive will be more than offset by expenses. The location is Kansas.

    “One of the things we continually found in the wind prairie task force was [that] the wind industry would give us one set of facts. The facts or information we found from independent sources was often totally different,” said Bacon. One issue Bacon addressed was health and safety – noise, lights, ice, fires, rescue. She said the wind industry touts that these are not problems, but she took issue with the wind industry’s stance. Bacon said 22 fires originated by wind turbines have been documented since 1999, usually from overheated bearings. She said that emergency services of any community in which a commercial wind farm is located would have to be upgraded to include training and equipment to rescue workers from the tops of turbines should the need arise.”

    [Wind companies] can go to the energy commission and, as in Butler County, in two weeks and a little bit of paperwork, they had the power of eminent domain to go across adjacent landowners’ property with power lines, with trenches, with no public hearing,” said Bacon. Bacon said that she receives calls all the time from people wanting to buy agricultural land for farming or ranching or building a home, who want to know where the commercial wind farms are planned. “They do not want to be anywhere near them,” said Bacon.”

    “As far as tourism and the proposed scenic byway that affects the Lindsborg area…the speakers agreed that the misplacing of commercial wind farms in the state’s scenic areas would detract significantly from the tourism industry.” ie., lost revenue.

    3. From the article, The Dangers of Wind Power. The article points out that turbines have gone up fast due to govt. subsidies with “no time for testing.” The 500 foot towers are rare, and even newer that the others which have demonstrated cracks and breakage problems. The shorter turbines experience less stress than the 500 foot ones.

    Insurers find insuring turbines a risky venture. “[Insurance] industry giant Allianz was faced with a thousand damage claims in 2006 alone. Jan Pohl, who works for Allianz in Munich, has calculated that on average, “an operator has to expect damage to his facility every four years, not including malfunctions and uninsured breakdowns.” Many insurance companies require wind companies to replace components like gearboxes every 5 years (requiring cranes able to reach 500 feet). “But a gearbox replacement can cost up to 10% of the original construction price tag…Between 3,000 and 4,000 older facilities are currently due for new insurance policies,” says Holger Martsfeld, head of technical insurance at Germany’s leading turbine insurer. “We know that many of these facilities have flaws.”
    • “In December of last year, fragments of a broken rotor blade landed on a road shortly before rush hour traffic near the city of Trier.
    • Two wind turbines caught fire near Osnabruck. The firefighters could only watch: their ladders were not tall enough to reach the burning casings.
    • In the same month, a 230-foot-tall wind turbine folded in half in Schleswigi-Holstein right next to a highway
    • The rotor blades of a wind turbine in Brandenburg ripped off at a height of 328 feet. Fragments of the rotors struck into a grain field near a road.”
    • Even the basic concrete foundations are suffering from these strains. Vibrations and load changes cause fractures, water seeps into the cracks, and the rebar begins to rust. Repairs are difficult.”
    LISTEN TO MY WARNING ABOUT THE LANDFILL!!!! And answer the question of what would happen if a wind company (any wind company) left the moment the turbines begin to break in four or five years. GET THE FULL BOND UPFRONT.

    Incidentally, one turbine broke spewing hydraulic fluid which then contaminated the groundwater. Imagine that happening here. We’d have all sorts of problems then, especially if it entered the Tioughnioga River Watershed, which it would be likely to do given the location of the proposed wind farm. Who picked this location?

    4. From the article Noisy Wind Turbines Stir Up Protests.

    Ikata, Japan. “Residents here have complained that noise from newly-installed wind [20] turbines perched atop a ridge of the Sadamisaki Peninsula has been rattling their homes and plaguing them with sleepless nights. Residents living near the rackety turbines are demanding their dismantling or a relocation of operations…According to the residents, since the turbines began turning in December, they have been tormented by the booming sounds from the generator and the swooshing of the fan blades. The noise is enough to drown out the audio from their television sets. Some said they could not sleep at night, while others complained of health problems due to the racket.”

    Town officials and wind company officials finally agreed to “discuss the issue.”

    “The average noise level exceeded 50 decibels. That’s the noise level of an airport runway, or a Shinkansen bullet train,” said Yasuhisa Oiwa, 44, whose home is near a wind turbine. “We have asked that the wind turbine be relocated.” This was not an option. And this is how the town dealt with it: “Ikata town official Kazutoshi Abe commented…‘We’ll consider implementing appropriate insulation measures such as aluminum sash window frames and double plated windows.”

    We know that low frequency vibration and turbine noise can’t be shut out by these measures – let’s not be as out of touch as Ikata, Japan. Note: this is why I want an immediate “shut-down” provision to be determined by a citizens’ board, so that our citizens aren’t poor sufferers like these.

    5. From wind turbine syndrome.com: “I live at Brownsville, WI in the Forward/Invenergy industrial wind farm near South Byron. Turbine #4 is 1560 feet behind my house. Turbine #3 is about 500 feet east and a little north of turbine #4. Turbine #6 is about ¾ of a mile to the northwest of our home. Across the road is turbine #73 and across the road at 2480 feet, down the hill to the west is turbine #74. We can hear all 5 of these turbines…I can add that #75b is 7/8 mile to the east and #70 is one mile straight south.

    March 3: 10 PM I looked up in the sky to try to see the jet flying over. It was not a jet but the turbine.
    March 6: same sound as Wed. 3
    March 8: Loudest sound so far. Like jet in sky with a whoosh to it. I have not written every day. That does not mean the turbine sound is not there. I feel we may never have peace and quiet ever again. We can only hope there are days with no breeze. Robert still has headache.
    March 18: we hear the turbines daily.
    March 25: #6 turning with jet sound with whoosh of turning blades.
    March 29: jet sound with only slight wind.
    March 31: 6 a.m. Jet sound.
    April 1: I hear #6 with jet sound.

    6. From article What Have I done? Printed in the Chilton, Wisc., Times-Journal, Oct. 25, 2007.

    “I am involved with the BlueSky /Greenfield wind turbine project in NE Fond du Lac County…As I view this year’s crops, my eyes feast on a most bountiful supply of corn and soybeans. And then my eyes focus again on the trenches and road scars leading to the turbine foundations. What have I done? In 1003, the wind energy company made their first contacts with us…The city salesmen would throw out their nets, like fishermen trawling for fish. Their incentive “gift” first lured some of us in. Then the salesmen would leave and let us talk with other farmers. What have I done? Nobody realized all the changes that would occur over which we would have no control. How often my friends and I have made that statement! What have I done? When the cats and graders started tearing 22-foot-wide roads into my fields, the physical changes started to impact not only me and my family, but unfortunately, my dear friends and neighbors…A field already divided by their road was now being divided again by the cables running to a substation. It was now making one large field into 4 smaller, irregularly-shaped plots. Other turbine hosts also complained about their fields being subdivided or multi-cable trenches requiring more lands. Roads were cut in using anywhere from 1000 feet to over a ½ mile of land to connect necessary locations. What have I done? At a wind company dinner presented for the farmers hosting the turbines, we were repeatedly told – nicely and indirectly – to stay away from the company work sites once they start. I watch as my friends’ faces showed the same concern as I had, but none of us spoke out. Months later, when I approached a crew putting in lines where they promised me they definitely would not go, a representative told me I could not be here. He insisted I leave. The company had the right. I had signed the lease. What have I done? Grumbling started almost immediately after we agreed to a 2% yearly increase on our 30 year lease contracts. What farmer would lock in the price of corn over the next 5 years, let alone lock one in at 2% yearly for 30 years? [try 45!] Without regard for our land, we were allowing them to come in and spoil it. All of the rocks we labored so hard to pick in our youth were replaced in a few hours by miles of roads packed hard with 10 inches of large breaker rock. Costly tiling we installed to improve drainage had now been cut into pieces by company trenching machines. What have I done?
    I tried, as did some of the other farmers, to get out of our contracts, but we had signed a binding contract…If you are considering placing wind turbines on your property, I strongly recommend that you please reconsider. Study the issues. Think of all the harm versus benefits to your land…” Counties might do well to do the same.

    7. From the article Hard lessons from the Fox Island Wind Project. The writer described the excitement of having the wind project go in. “The turbines were running, the community had pulled together, and with the support of the Fox Islands Electric Cooperative Inc….the dream of community-based wind power on Vinalhaven was a reality! Although our group overwhelmingly supported the project, we now live with the daily presence of turbine noise, 24/7. The noise is as constant as the wind, building in intensity according to wind speed and direction. It can be a low rumbling, whooshing…or it can build to an in-your-face noise like jet engines roaring combined with a grinding and pulsating sound that echoes in your head, keeps you awake at night, and beats on your house like a drum. As neighbors of the wind turbines, we find ourselves in the midst of an unexpected, unwanted life crisis. When GE flipped the switch and the turbines began to turn, island life as we knew it evaporated. As I watched the first rotation of the giant blades from our deck, my sense of wonder was replaced by disbelief and utter shock as the turbine noise revved up and up, past the sound of our babbling brook, to levels unimagined. It was not supposed to be this way! During informational meetings…we were all told that ambient noise from the surrounding area would cover the sound of the turbines…We have learned to count windmill rpm and discovered that above 15 rpm the noise is tough to take. We have read lengthy amendments and studied sound protocols. We have learned about state sound regs and found that the 45 decibel limit that is designated as “quiet” in Maine is truly a cruel joke…45 decibels is loud. …We have done research on the impact of turbine noise on domestic and wild animals. We are scrambling. We do not want to leave the homes we have built with our own hands, the gardens we have planted, the memories…we are desperate to gain back what has been taken from us.
    This is a far cry from what we were told and what we expected…Ironically, for households within earshot of the turbines, the GE windmills fly in the face of island sustainability. Some islanders who lived close to the turbines were given the choice of either selling their homes or land to FIW at the assessed value or living with the turbine noise. Most chose to sell rather than live with the noise….Before any other island community takes the step toward wind power, come to Vinalhaven and see for yourselves the consequences of those actions…Come stand on our porches, listen to the nonstop roaring, thumping, whooshing, grinding sounds of the turbines, and compare it to the quiet you currently experience.” Written by Sally Wylie of Vinalhaven.

    From the same source: “My name is Ethan A. Hall. I am a resident of Vinalhaven, twelfth
    generation of Hall to live on the coast of Maine…And then this fall, the Fox Island Wind turbines began to turn. Prior to their construction, our community was assured on numerous occasions that the sound disturbance generated by the turbines would be minimal. The sound of “a quiet conversation in a living room” at 1000’, and barely audible at distances beyond…My property is just north of the project site, approximately 3000’ from the nearest turbine….Since they have been turning, I have experienced sounds/feelings that are unlike anything I could have predicted…It is perceived by my ear as a whoosh followed by a whump that I feel in my sternum and head [the low frequency noise]. I am finding the experience overwhelming and am sincerely concerned for my health and well-being…I have discovered that there is no spot on my property that I can go to take a break from the stress created by the sonic bombardment. I am fortunate that my father has a home in town that I can retreat to for the night…I am greatly concerned that this home that I’ve worked so hard to build will be unlivable…I don’t understand how the promoters of this project were able to sincerely assure us of minimal sound disturbance…our community believed that the turbines would help us to be able to more easily afford to live on our island and not displace our neighbors…Please do all that is in your power to put forth laws and legislation which enforce the responsible placement of future wind projects, and take the time necessary to better understand the potential destructive effects.”

    Why not learn “hard lessons” from others? I have vacationed at Vinalhaven. I’ll not go there again.

    8. By Carol Cowperthwaite in the Waldo County Citizen, 6/5/08, Wind Turbine Hell.

    “We had heard about the windmills, but when we asked how they would affect us if we bought the land, the town manager told us we wouldn’t even see them, much less hear them…We believed him. That was our biggest mistake. We had no idea that the town fathers had not even read the application that they had co-signed, nor hired a lawyer to explain it to them. They had no idea what they had agreed to. They believed everything UPC had told them. The biggest lie of all was that there would be no noise, or you had to be within 500 feet to hear anything. We had one winter of quiet solitude, then with the spring came giant bulldozers and cranes took over our mountain. Roads three lanes wide were being cut through the trees. Blasting began. The windows shook…The heavy equipment would start up before daylight and go late in the night.
    What a shock it was to all of us when they blasted away the whole end of the mountain…Then there were more huge scars across our beautiful mountain. The whole terrain was being devastated. The massive white giants started turning in March 2007. Our lives greatly changed that day. We had been upset over the blasting…but nothing compared to the noise…If we got up in the middle of the night, we couldn’t get back to sleep. We closed the windows, the doors…the drumming never stopped. Our TV flickers with each turn of the blades…When I went out the front door, a sense of rage would hit me that I have never known before…
    When our autistic, seizure-prone granddaughter comes to visit, we spend no time outdoors due to the shadowing effects and the strobing effects. The shadowing and strobing red lights are known to induce seizures…Insomnia has become a way of life for me. We are still on medications for these problems. Most of our days were spent outdoors with gardening, the dog, or just drinking tea on the porch. Now we have to do what we have to and head inside and turn up the TV. We have had this lifestyle forced on to us.
    If you live within two to three miles, I pity you because of the noise. If you live within 50 miles, I pity you because of the eyesore. One more thing – If you use your ridge for recreational uses that will be gone. We are not allowed on that mountain at all. All access trails are gated or chained, with no trespassing signs everywhere. They will tell you it is up to the landowners that they rent from, but that is another lie. Even with signed permission slips from the owners, try to find a way up….They should never be within five miles of a dwelling. Also, money should be put in escrow to remove them when their earning power is gone or they are too expensive to repair. I worry about Maine becoming a windmill bone yard because no small town will ever be able to afford to remove them.

    Note: No town or county will be able to afford to remove or even repair them…but leaving them up broken is not an option. The lawsuits will be unending when parts start breaking unless you secure a bond up front to cover FULL repair and decommission costs. As for not being able to access the land, the wind leases to landowners say the wind company has the right to exclude landowners from their own property. Verbally, they assure you that this won’t happen. But the company has leased surface rights for nearly half a century – they can do with it what they wish, and the homeowner is powerless to prevent it.

    9. From the article Not So Fast With Wind Power.
    “The real results of giant wind turbine facilities have been the opening up of rural and wild places to industrial development and the destruction of communities powerless to stop them.” (This article deals with turbines only 400 feet high, whose blades swept only 2 acres.) “A large underground foundation, often requiring blasting of bedrock, of hundreds of tons of steel-reinforced concrete, most of which would be left after decommissioning, is necessary to hold it all up. Each tower requires acres of clearance. New high-voltage transmission lines and pylons are needed to handle the potential surges and to carry the promised power to distance populations centers (or to let it dissipate as heat). The destructive impact of such construction…is obvious: erosion, alteration of wetlands and watersheds…” all of which engender lawsuits. “At least 2,000 bats were killed by turbines on Backbone Mountain in West Virginia in just 2 months during their 2003 fall migration. And the 195-turbine facility on the Tug Hill Plateau in Lewis County, N.Y., will kill at least 8,500-16,000 birds and bats annually, according to data from its first year of operation. Other animals are adversely affected. In 2005, several abandoned and dead seal pups were found off Great Yarmouth, England – investigating biologists concluded that noise from offshore wind turbines disrupted feeding and nurturing. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society recently warned of the threat…of low-frequency noise from off-shore wind turbines. In many places, people notice a drastic reduction of wildlife after the turbines go in.”

    US Fish and Wildlife has said mammals may be driven away ten miles from turbine sites.

    “Everywhere that people live near industrial wind turbines, they are shocked at the noise. People say they never get used to it. Researchers in Portugal have found that conditions for developing vibroacoustic disease exist in homes near wind turbines.” This is described as including migraines, dizziness, disorientation, and sleep problems. More alarming are the studies showing that low frequency turbine noise creates abnormal growth of collagen and elastin in the blood vessels, cardiac structures, trachea, lungs, and kidneys of humans and animals. The problem that people with pacemakers can’t live near them…

    The article concludes with this warning: “There is no meaningful benefit to weigh against the substantial negative impacts on communities, individual lives, and the environment. The destructive boondoggle of industrial wind should be roundly rejected wherever its promoters try to gain a foothold.”

    10. From the article Turning Wilderness over to Development in Maine from the July 10, 2008 “Daily Bulldog” newspaper talking about the LURC wind project in Maine:

    “LURC will change the western Maine mountains forever. A project so huge it’s difficult to sum up the total environmental impact, but let us provide a brief overview: LURC is about ot give final approval to TransCaanad’s Kibby Wind project based on a design plan that doesn’t have final surveys, core testing completed, or hydrology mapping finished. (which means add at least 20% to the following figures). There will be 47 intermittent and 38 perennial streams impacted by bridge ways and culverts that will divert streams up to 225 feet. For road building and towers, a total of 423 acres will permanently be impacted [and filled with concrete and rebar]. Another 310 acres will be cleared and changed from forest and wetland to right-of ways for transmission lines. The estimate for total road length is 30.5 miles [a wind project in Pennsylvania has 40 miles of roads running through people’s fields], with widths ranging from 25 to 35 feet, and for 21.75 miles a 150-foot wide “right of way” for the kV line. A 60 foot “right-of-way” for the 34.5 kV buried collector system that runs form turbine to turbine, and then moves to overhead poles moving down the slopes and ridges to the substation. There will be new buildings, a temporary batch plant that will be producing 700 yds of concrete per turbine pad, rock crushers, and at least 20 acres will be filled by the unused rock and dirt from blasting and road construction.

    The project will impact many species of Maine…Five state-listed plant species have been identified in the project through the wetlands that will be impacted by the transmission lines. The accumulation downstream due to unforeseeable [really unforeseeable?] erosion…”

    Note: I have already warned everyone about lawsuits that will accrue from landfill leakages due to vibrating turbines. Never forget, for a single moment, that the Tioughnioga is a Chesapeake Bay watershed river. Secondly, let it be known that two rare plants have been identified on my property, which property will be impacted by turbines. These plants are now part of Cornell’s permanent collection. Those with properties that will be impacted (if you can figure out who you are, since the turbine company has deemed it a “trade secret” to say where the turbines will be erected) had better notify the county and towns if you have rare plants or unique features on your land.

    11. From the article Blade retrofitting, forex losses hit firm.

    The Suzlon Energy company is the world’s fifth-largest wind turbine maker. In 2007, cracks were found in more than 10% of the blades they mf. for their S88 V2 model supplied to the U.S. Note: even higher percentages of cracks were reported on the turbines from Cohocton, N.Y.

    12. Wind Turbines: Offensive Industrialization of Human Space written by a behavioral scientist and two wildlife ecologists from Alberta, Canada.

    “People are barking up the wrong tree by promoting, or succumbing to, wind turbine construction regardless of where it is proposed and how many there might be…The list of environmental costs imposed on wildlife and people are now being recognized; they are far from meaningless, but they have been trivialized by turbine promoters and politicians that have systematically tilted the deck sharply in the developers’ favor….Nothing delivers a more intrusive and intense visual picture than the tower and blades of wind turbines. Turbines erode freedom of the human mind hour after hour, night after day, virtually forever, like a cell phone ringing incessantly and yet no one is able to turn it off…In an honest and fair regulatory and political environment, local citizens and communities would bury turbine projects long before they get to the serious implementation stage. Once again, however, citizens are being forced to try to employ the very tools that degrade our quality of life and humiliate us as mere pawns of some corporate created market economy…The recent proliferation of wind turbine farms is just one more case of serious aggression and destruction…This socially, legally, and politically defective agenda and process is being exploited by corporations, some local residents, and local governments. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not freedom and it is not democracy; it is vandalism and oppression in the name of commercialism.”

    The wind turbine industry is already being termed “a colossal boondoogle.” The bubble of government subsidies will burst sooner rather than later. In what position do we wish to be when this happens?

  14. Oh well, Not so nice trying to tell your neighbours to suck it up and live with their decision to build Wind Turbines. Why not just throw salt on their neighbours’ land as well?

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