by PAT CURRIE
A probe into the health effects of new energy technology, sanctioned by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment at the University of Waterloo, has been underway for six months.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CWEA), representing 480 companies that are riding on the coat-tails of the boom in Ontario renewable-energy projects, reported this month that with 2,125 megawatts of signed contracts already in place under Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program, applicants have lined up to seek approval from the Ontario Power Authority to add another 6,672 MW of renewable energy projects to the grid.
Scott Smith, vice-president of policy at CWEA, said one recommendation "is for up to 10,700 MW of renewable power in Ontario by 2018."
In the meantime, at least 76 Ontario municipalities plus other entities such as health boards and conservation authorities continue to demand a moratorium on such projects until an independent and unbiased third party has completed a study on health effects of wind turbines.
And, as of last month the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has joined the push.
"I’m 100 per cent for a moratorium," said Ontario Federation of Agriculture director Wayne Black, a Huron County grain grower, who says aging residents of heritage family homesteads may be especially vulnerable to noise and vibrations of nearby wind turbines. Some turbines set up before the Green Energy Act established minimum setbacks are almost 200 metres within the current 550-metre setback minimum, he said.
"The energy companies’ answer to that has been to resort to buying the homesteads with no value placed on the heritage factor. That could be devastating," Black said.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Arlene King, concluded there is no link between wind turbine noise and health effects.
But in a report last fall, Dr. Hazel Lynn medical officer of health and head of the Grey Bruce Health Unit, stated: "It is clear that many people, in many different parts of Grey Bruce and Southwestern Ontario have been dramatically impacted by the noise and proximity of wind farms.
"We cannot pretend this affected minority doesn’t exist," Lynn stated.
Lynn welcomes an environment ministry announcement that it was allocating $1.5 million for a study by a task force headed by Dr. Siva Sivoththaman, a University of Waterloo professor of electrical and computer engineering, into health effects of all types of renewable power.
However, Jonathan Rose, press secretary to Environment Minister John Wilkinson, dashed hopes that the five-year study will be accompanied by a moratorium.
"We are not considering a moratorium at this time," he told Better Farming.
Rose also cited a Superior Court of Ontario ruling that "upheld our requirements as being based on peer-reviewed science. . . . That is exactly why we are funding the independent academic research chair at the University of Waterloo to study emerging energy technologies around renewable energy. We will review his (Sivoththaman’s) research to make sure our requirements continue to be protective," Rose said.
Drew Ferguson, spokesman for the Grey Bruce Health Unit, said that Dr. Lynn and the Grey Bruce public health board were concerned that the King report sported several omissions.
"They identified eight areas that needed further study, but no action was taken," Ferguson said.
Lynn’s report recently helped trigger a renewed call by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture for a moratorium on wind-turbine developments. At its meeting in April, the Federation’s board supported motions from the Huron and Haldimand County Federations of Agriculture to lobby the province for the moratorium. BF
CORRECTION: JUNE 1 2011
OFA general manager Neil Currie advises that OFA does not in fact support the call for a moratorium at this time. The motion at the April board of directors meeting was referred to a task team which is to provide a preliminary report to the board at it's June meeting.
Better Farming regrets the error.
Wayne Black, who is quoted in the above story, made it clear to the writer that he was speaking as past president of the Huron County Federation of Agriculture and not in his capacity as provincial director of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.