Sunday, 5 February 2012

Weak point, SHOUT!

The Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group (MMWTWG) is a collection of anti-wind advocates.  Their membership includes a number of municipal officials and citizens dedicated to stop wind turbines in south-western Ontario.  While there may have been a semblance of balanced participation in the beginning stages of the group, that is not the case now.  Pro-wind participants have left in frustration and the minutes of the Group's meetings demonstrate a clear anti-wind bias.

On January 25, 2012 they published a document called "Concerns of Municipalities Posed by Wind Turbines".  A copy can be found, tellingly, on the Ontario Wind Resistance web site.  It was contributed courtesy of Bill Palmer, one of the authors and, according to press coverage,  a member of Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO).  Another author, Keith Stelling recently published an article on the WCO web site.

To date, the document has been presented to the Ministry of Energy but the current intent appears to be to present it to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) prior to their annual conference.

What follows is a top-line critique of their submission:

A. Lack of Transparency in Calling for Input to the Feed In Tariff Review

The FIT review had been talked about during and after the election and was announced on October 31, 2011.  The day after the announcement, it was published on the windconcernsontario website.  The posting still exists today on the successor website ontariowindresistance.  2900 people responded to the online survey and there were 150 written submissions.

And the MMWTMG claims that they were left in the dark.  
B. Adverse Health Effects

The WWWTMG "are disgusted that the province refuses to look into the identified concerns – whether caused “directly” of [sic] “indirectly” it is clear that the concerns arose with the placement of the wind turbines."

What they fail to mention is that the University of Waterloo School of Public Health (under the direction of Dr. Bigelow and Dr. McColl) is conducting a study into any health issues.  Here's a quote from Dr. Bigelow:

“By including nursing professionals and other specialized health expertise on the team, we’re hoping to use clinical and biological markers of stress to examine the association of exposure to wind turbine noise with sleep disturbances, fatigue, headache, depression, and other psychophysiological problems.”

In addition, a large number of independent, solidly peer reviewed studies are, and have been available for some time.

On the other hand, Ian Hanna, chairman of WCO, has urged all people to boycott the study.
C. Community Well Being

The notion of wind dividing the community has been overblown (pardon the pun).  There is one side that demonstrates, interferes with public meetings and generally pursues all sorts of aggressive activist activities.  Then there is the silent majority who don't use the same tactics and feel intimidated by the aggressors.

The solution proposed by MMWTMG is to eliminate any possibility of others in the community to legitimately use their property, i.e. to vanquish those who want and/or support wind turbines.  How does that create well being in the community? Does anyone really believe that there is any solution acceptable to MMWTMG that would allow wind turbines in their municipalities?  
D. Municipal Income

The basic tenet of taxation is that it is related to services required by the asset or individual being taxed (i.e. roads, schools, etc.)  Turbines require no, or very little, ongoing services by the municipality.  As a project is proceeding through its permitting stages, municipalities charge permit fees which more than recover the costs of evaluating the permits - in most cases much more.  Is this opportunism or the creation of barriers?

However, as part of a good neighbour policy, most projects have included amenity agreements in recognition that the municipality has to share its tax with the school and county which provide even less servicing.

This demand for more tax is just a ploy to place another barrier in front of wind turbines and further proof that there is no solution that would satisfy the MMWTMG.
E. Community Safety

Icing, fire and other risks have been well evaluated as part of project permitting and they are miniscule.  There has only been one fire incident in Canada in the last ten years and there was no collateral property or personal injury.  There have been no reported ice injuries or damage in Canada.

In contrast, the community doesn't seem to worry about trees and poles on country roads where there are many more instances of personal injury and property damage after ice storms.  There are news reports on this topic every year in the municipalities included in the MMWTWG.  And how many car fires or pole mounted transformer fires have occurred every year in those municipalities?

This section is a clear example of MMWTWG using FUD (the well know technique of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).   How about some facts about one alternative to wind?  There are a little over 400 nuclear reactors in the world.  Three of them had meltdowns.  There are 150 nuclear propelled navy ships.  Three of them had meltdowns.  How many people were injured, killed or nearly killed?

F. Deviations from Regulations

Obviously, if a turbine has been improperly located, mitigation should be applied either by curtailment or transitional aid.  Any complaints to date have been investigated and, in practically all cases,  found to be in compliance.  

The Ministry of the Environment (MoEnv) has ruled on the tonal penalty, using professional acousticians,  but apparently that's not good enough for the MMWTWG.  It's pretty clear that even sound-free turbines would still be resisted by them.

G. Environmental Impacts

The MMWTWG has been misled by the Auditor General's report.  The Ontario system regularly carries more operating reserve for its system than the capacity of the entire wind turbine fleet.  There is no incremental environmental impact from adding a bit of wind into the mix.

As part of every project, an environmental review is performed by independent professionals who assess wildlife impact and measure it later.  Turbine layouts are modified based on their recommendations and that is why the follow-up audits rarely show any impact.  There have been one or two situations where the MNR has required ongoing surveillance and possible mitigation (e.g. Wolf Island) but it's quite rare.

This doesn't stop the MMWTWG from using the FUD word "threatened" and asserting that impacts have occurred, but without citing examples.
H. Adverse consequences of Feed-In-Tariffs (FIT)

The MMWTWG dedicate half of their submission to this issue, obviously written by Bill Palmer, a former nuclear engineer.  Nuclear energy and wind energy are "natural" enemies in an electrical system because neither one can be economically dispatched (i.e. turned off or on when desired).  The nuclear industry wants to push wind right out of what they think is "their" system.  And, of course, Mr. Palmer was part of that system.  

The issue of wind versus nuclear deserves its own blog entry or series of blog entries.  Suffice it to say that energy from  wind is cheaper than that from  a new nuclear plant and may even be cheaper than energy from  a refurbished nuclear plant.  Plus, wind costs are declining and nuclear costs are escalating.

Finally, an note about the tone of the MMWTWG.  What to you think of the following words being used in a submission to an Ontario Ministry or the Association of Municipalities Ontario:

"absolutely unacceptable"
"we are disgusted"
"immense harm is being done to rural Ontario"
"immediate cessation of the illegal practice"
"our children and neighbours are our community assets!"

It sounds a little bit like the famous annotation in the margin of one of Churchill's speeches; "Weak point - SHOUT!"


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