by Harvey Wrightman
“Streamlining” – it is repeated over and over that the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) appeal of Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) is “streamlined” to efficiently render solutions. The characters driving in from Toronto who dispense practical justice for the residents affected, all want to quicken the tempo of hymn we are all to sing – you know, “Whose Bread I Eat, His Song I Sing” – shouldn’t be too hard to find it in their song book – it’s the only one in it.
So, after a full Friday that went on and on to 5PM, one witness, Dr. Jim Salmon gave expert opinion evidence on the topic(s) of the models for the Noise Impact Assessment (NIA) – don’t you just love these acronyms(?!) – and the shadow flicker pattern (noted to NOT be required by the MOE). We learned the witness is both a founding and charter member of CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) with a background in physics and meteorology – NOT an acoustician, therefore please reserve those questions for the next “expert(s)”. So the man can basically tell us he understands the models used, but as to whether he cares about the practical application of his work – like any other apparatchik, he never questions the effects of the noise/flicker he is modelling for – not his problem.
Dave Hyslop, one of the appellants, developed a lengthy set of questions for this witness; and, though the details of both noise and shadow flicker are technically challenging, he got across several points that were to catch the attention of the panel members who followed with some rather good questions of their own. To whit, some of the questions:
Q – My office is in the cab of my tractor or combine. When I am in the field I will experience shadow flicker. Will it affect my ability to operate?
A – I can’t answer that.
Q – The cab is like a cubicle that has glass all around. Will the effects be similar to what happens in a house?
A – I don’t have a definition for that kind of receptor. I wouldn’t consider that space to be problematic for shadow flicker. The light will pass through and not be perceived in the same way.
OK, now to clean up the BS. There is a video shot inside a greenhouse in Holland. The flicker effect can only be described as “bewildering.” A nephew of mine operates a custom service to spread liquid manure. I remember him saying that the flicker effect is quite distracting and disorienting. There is a dearth of scientific investigation on the subject. It was obvious from the shadow flicker analysis that Samsung was seeking to present as low a numerical estimate (for hours affected) as possible. In addition, they were using a model that basically was geared for the dwelling only. The effect outside is expanded immensely and the shadow does not have to actually pass though the subject. Seeing it in near distance is also distracting. It is a huge property “disamenity” and it drives people wild.
Q – When you experience shadow flicker yourself (field surveys in existing turbine zones), how does it affect you?
A – I am doing other things (tending to instruments, etc.) and don’t notice it.
Mr. Hyslop sought a better detailing of the amount (time period) of flicker at his house and property. The map showed the area affected but the time periods stated were “averaged” for the year. (Where have we seen this trick used before?). The panel chair, Robert Wright, put forth a request for more detailed time analysis of the flicker periods. Dr. Salmon maintained the task would be “onerous”; yet, as Mr. Hyslop noted, the flicker analysis was produced in ~ 7 days time. I noticed Samsung lawyer, Sarah Powell, on the edge of her seat. She probably knows that the exposure time varies immensely depending on exact location, from less than a minute to many minutes – it all depends on the subject position and the azimuth angle of the sun. In the winter, it can be literally hours. Dr. Salmon was not about to do the work gratis; perhaps, he would run the model after hours – Mr. Hyslop made the request and offered to pay for the service! Oh well, he said it was “too onerous” to do. We shouldn’t make any impositions on Samsung should we?
In answer to a question from Lester Green, traditional Onkwehonwe, Dr. Salmon admitted that the flicker report was “human-specific” in that flicker was NOT a parameter considered in siting turbines near woodlots, water courses and wetlands. Also not considered receptors were roads or vehicles on roads. No post-construction monitoring is planned for – small wonder, the effects on people and animals will be far greater than these maps of affected areas and the minimized time exposures stated could ever convey – people who live with phenomena can tell you – of course, they can’t give “expert opinion.” Only the “white coats” can do that and do it dispassionately.
Betty Ortt (Haldimand Wind Concerns) who has the insight and sensitivity of a veteran primary grade teacher (only the best can tech those grades), is so deceptively pleasant that one is never quite prepared for the grenades she launches.
Q – Why are towns/villages given only one receptor number?
A – For convenience, such entities are assigned a “surrogate receptor ID#”
— oh how I love the reporting jargon developed for these projects! No point in seeing lots of individuals in those towns – that might mean susceptible persons – much, much better to “aggregate” them – you know, that’s better “streamlining.”
Q – Do you formally “field test” these new turbines before they are deployed to ensure that the models are correct?
A – No. (The short answer)
The Sound Power Level (SPL) of the wind turbine used in this project is calculated and certified by Kaiser-Wilhelm-Hoog which is a division of Germanischer- Lloyd a certifying organization principally for ship-builders, but G-L now does a huge chunk of work for wind turbine manufacturers including the base Sound Power Level (SPL) – that all important number which determines how close the wind company can stick the fan to your bedroom window. Curiously, as the years go by and the turbines get taller and way more powerful, the SPL “number” rarely ever goes up to 108 dBA. Mostly they can keep it down to ~104 dBA or less. 4 dBA represents a drop by a factor of one-half of noise level. I’ve always wondered, “How they do that?”, because we are seeing field reports of a symptoms which suggest an autonomic response factor in people exposed to the larger turbines. Have they created the perfect “zombie” apparatus? But this is digression, Germanischer-Lloyd is itself owned by (3 guesses) – Garrad Hassan who seem to be doing a lot of Noise Impact Assessments (NIA) for the industry. G-L itself is well connected with the banking/insurance industry where all the financing comes from. All very neat and cozy. Garrad Hassan taking over Germanischer-Lloyd is an example of a really nice fit.
Lastly Betty asked,
Q- “ Why the legal disclaimer prefacing the noise and shadow flicker reports?”
A – Our lawyers tell us to do that.
This went on until past 4 PM and it was wearing on Freddy, showing a little attention deficit-like symptoms, was squirming in her seat, flicking open the Crackberry, finally rising to express her concerns about the length of the cross-examinations from the non-lawyer appellants. Exasperated she blurted out, “…there’s only 4 days left for 7 witnesses” – that’s 7 Samsung and MOE witnesses. Someone in the audience said loudly, “What’s a few here or there. After all, this is going to affect me for the rest of my life.” Freddy wheeled around, got out a couple of words in reply: and, as quickly as I’ve ever seen him move, chair Mr. Wright cut her off with, “This is not the place for this sort of argument.”
“The rest of my life.” – that pretty much summed up Friday’s ordeal.