Response to “Blowing Smoke”, the new pamphlet from Environmental Defence designed to attack our efforts to protect the health and communities of rural Ontario
by John Harrison
First there is a pro-wind energy consortium consisting of the multi-billion wind industry, the present provincial government, and the so-called environmental organizations, such as Environmental Defence, funded in part by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. This powerful consortium is fearful of a self-funded group of concerned rural residents.
In Ontario there is about 60 local groups, such as the one on Amherst Island with its over 100 paid-up members. There is also the Ontario-centred but more international Society for Wind Vigilance with 10 to 20 members drawn from the fields of medicine, science and engineering.
And, the pro-wind energy consortium is losing the battle!
The prime problem with wind energy is the noise generated by the turbines. This noise causes annoyance and sleep deprivation for those living within a circle of 1.5 to 2 km radius around a turbine. Environmental Defence quotes from the health study written by the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health that the number annoyed is in the range 4 to 10% of those in this rcircle. Going back to the original reference, the CMOH has misquoted: the range is 13 to 27%.
Environmental Defence, the CMOH survey and an earlier survey by the Canadian Wind Energy Association acknowledge annoyance but do not consider it an adverse health effect; the World Health Organization considers both annoyance and sleep deprivation to be adverse health effects. In turn and over time, annoyance and sleep deprivation lead to other adverse health effects.
I have met a small number of those suffering adverse health effects. The effects are very real and the people are traumatized. Dr. Robert McMurtry has interviewed many of these people and speaks eloquently on their behalf. Over a dozen families in Ontario have abandoned their homes and others sleep away from their homes.
Ontario has a noise limit for turbine noise at a home. However, the regulation ignores characteristics of turbine noise, allows wind energy companies to predict what the noise will be and in no case has it tested compliance with the regulation after construction and operation.
The pro-wind consortium, including Environmental Defence, deny the problem with low-frequency noise and infrasound. Recent research has demonstrated a second pathway for sound into the brain that only kicks in for very low frequency sound.
Environmental Defence argues for the viability of wind energy. However, its argument that the intermittency of wind power can be alleviated by connecting multiple wind projects does not hold water, at least in Ontario. Here wind projects well beyond 400 km from each other need to be interconnected. In northern Europe the distance is 500 km. These distances are impractical. Hydroelectricity is not always suitable as a back-up; in the spring the water has to flow to prevent flooding and in the summer it may have to be conserved. Natural gas is the preferred back-up and needs to be kept operating on standby. Ontario is well aware of this and is building natural gas plants.
Environmental Defence is correct in writing that Denmark is able to supply 20% of its electricity from wind energy. However, only about half of that is used in Denmark; the rest goes to Sweden when it is not needed and to pay for the imported Swedish hydroelectricity when the wind is not blowing. Sweden and Denmark share a high capacity transmission line between the countries. Denmark has to keep the coal plants running at night because the waste heat is used for district heating.
Concerning air-pollution, Dr. Ross McKitrick has undermined the argument that coal-burning pollution is causing the large number of deaths claimed by Environmental Defence and others, by using the Ontario government’s own numbers for particulate matter from coal-burning electricity generating plants.