The much awaited ERT report/decision into the Chatham/Kent wind project seems weighty enough for an official document; but, having attended some of the sessions, I can say that not everything is reported let alone commented on. I thought I should report on the report, since I am one of those “inconvenient” rural receptors who cause so much consternation for our political and administrative masters – rather, those who imagine they are our masters – we’ll see about that.
Really, the report is more notable not for what it discusses, but more for what it doesn’t discuss or wish to confront. For example, acoustician Rick James provided a well thought out description and explanation of the change in cyclic noise modulation, where under conditions of night time wind shear, light swishing of 1 – 3 dBA morphs into heavy metal thumping of 5 – 15 dBA , from actual measurements at project sites. Brian Howe, testifying for the MOE skirts the same issue of cyclic noise by saying that, “… modeling of sound levels is reliable for mean levels but in practice, there is going to be statistical variation with time that can vary by plus or minus 5 dBA on a fairly consistent basis.” – he goes on to hint that the MOE is trying to address this “statistical variation.” – I wonder what they have in store for us???
Similarly, R. Skinner, Hatch acoustician states …”it is not necessary to add 5 dBA as suggested by Mr. James.” Because the models were run with the turbine at full power and sound output. Ah yes, that’s true; but, like the other Judas characters in this production, he ignores the huge increase in cyclic noise modulation. Zipping down to the concluding discussion/remarks/decision, I look in vain for any mention of “cyclic noise”, “swishing” or “thumping”; Nope, none there. Though the Tribunal was able to accurately report Mr. James’ argument, they chose not to reference it in their decision – very odd, and a definite weakness in the decision, for there is ample evidence that “blade thumping” under night time wind shear conditions is the driver of the stressful panic awakenings. But, according to the Panel, this evidence is “exploratory”, not “definitive.” – drives you mad, don’t it?!
This is a complex tome which mirrors the obvious doubts of the Panel has. They quote Dr. Shepherd, “… there is not a single credible research paper in the peer reviewed literature stating that chronic wind turbine noise is harmless to health, and rather, there is an emerging body of evidence that under certain circumstances wind turbine noise can have substantial physiological and psychological impacts on individuals.” – right, an indirect endorsement and call for epidemiological studies, I suppose. Why don’t you just outright call for it then???
The biggest missing piece was no mention of Bill Palmer’s brilliant analysis of the Enbridge wind project near Kincardine. What was most compelling about this paper was that noise data from a study compliled by Valcoustics (for Enbridge and initiated by complaints) was paired with meterological data from Environment Canada and IESO hourly reports of power output of the wind facility. Using a simple, but effective method, Bill eliminated the bulk of extraneous noise by focusing on the night time hours (midnight) – no elaborate set-ups or “value judgements” needed to things like eliminate traffic noise, birds, etc. At the same time, this time focus brings emphasis to the peculiar conditions that exist at night, especially when the phenomenon of night time wind shear fully presents itself. Using a large sample base of 111 midnight readings, Mr.Palmer demonstrated that 50% of the time the recorded noise was above the modeled limit, and 25% of the time noise was above 40 dBA – and this using Valcoustics own data.
Compelled to offer some comment about Mr.Palmer’s work, Geoff Leventhall spoke only of a separate data set that Mr.Palmer collected for another analysis, saying that, “Mr. Palmer did not use the normal class of equipment “ – no comment on the analysis of Valcoustics data, however.
So, here we have a case where an intelligent person who happens also to be an engineer, has provided valuable insight into the causes of the night time noise. Does he work for any organization – NO – it’s purely his own project. Clearly this perplexed the Panel, and though they dared not to exclude the testimony, as Suncor’s Engel and the MOE’s Rotter rather shrilly called for, they really preferred not to use it. Pity. They missed a chance to show considered judgement. Like Mr. Palmer, they are bound to serve and protect citizens.
The question for the Tribunal is, “Why didn’t you at least report on this study? What’s your rationale for ignoring something so cogent and concise?” Note, that none of the other witnesses for the MOE or Suncor dared to mention this paper, let alone criticize it – it strikes at the heart of the matter and they know it. The tribunal, noting the validity of “indirect health pathology” did issue a rebuff to the MOE and industry for slyly focusing on “direct health issues”, ie., hearing loss.
It also has clarified and sanitized the word “annoyance”, as used in a medical sense. Unfortunately, the tribunal has either a lack of curiosity or perhaps a fear of the (un)known factors that comprise the chimeral nature of wind turbine noise. And, following typical bureaucratic line, simply state that they would prefer more clarity on the issues of the argument. Again they quote Dr. Shepherd, “… that the literature regarding the health effects of wind turbines is caught somewhere between the first and second stages.”
-So, for us out here, what comes after Purgatory?