This page contains answers to questions Northland Power is often asked about wind.
As we learn more about issues that matter most to you, we will update this page.
- Why are you building this project?
- Why is the project being built in this location?
- Does the project require environmental approval?
- How long will construction take?
- Will the project increase traffic in the area?
- Will the project produce emissions?
- Will the project create noise?
- Will the project require new high-voltage power lines?
- Have you asked residents for input?
- How can I ask questions or make comments?
- What impacts will the project have on the natural environment? How will these effects be mitigated?
- Will the project impact water quality?
- Will the project impact groundwater quality or quantity? Will my well be impacted?
- Will the project impact my property value?
- Are there any health impacts associated with wind projects?
- What about the study released recently, “Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health” by Michael A Nissenbaum, Jeffery J Aramini, and Christopher D Hanning?
- What happens when the project is no longer required?
- Will this project be a burden on local taxpayers?
- Can I build on my property close to a turbine?
- Will the wind farm benefit anyone other than a few farmers?
- How many jobs will Grand Bend produce?
- Why do we need wind energy – don’t we already have too much power?
- Is wind energy efficient?
- Is wind energy more expensive than other forms of power?
- Do you have any examples of Ontario municipalities that have already successfully integrated wind power into their community?
1. Why are you building this project?
A: The Independent Electricity System Operator, formerly known as the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), is responsible for ensuring the long-term electricity supply for Ontario. The province also has a strategy to focus on environmentally friendly energy sources. Wind power projects are seen as a way to achieve both goals. The IESO has invited Northland and any other energy company to propose wind projects that fit its requirements. This project was proposed to the IESO by Northland, and the IESO selected it as a project it would contract for under the feed-in tariff (FIT) program.
2. Why is the project being built in this location?
A: This area of the province has a strong wind resource. In addition, the Grand Bend site addresses the Province’s strict land use concerns and is located close to main power transmission lines.
3. Does the project require environmental approval?
A: Yes. Northland has commenced the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process as required under Ontario Regulation 359/09 and the Environmental Protection Act. Other permits will be obtained as required by law.
5. Will the project increase traffic in the area?
A:During construction, there will be some heavy equipment, truck and car traffic to and from the site. Please see the project construction report for preliminary information on the construction process. Once the facility is operating, there will be minimal traffic as the site will have only a few full-time staff.
6. Will the project produce emissions?
A:Although the construction process itself will produce some emissions (operation of trucks & heavy equipment), operating wind farms do not produce emissions. The carbon footprint created by manufacturing the turbines will be offset within 8 months of operation, due to the wind farm’s reduced emissions as compared with coal-fired generation.
7. Will the project create noise?
A: Wind turbines produce sound when operating. At the minimum mandated setback from residences of 550 m it is difficult to distinguish the sound from the turbines from the background noise of the wind passing through trees and other obstructions. Even right at the base of the turbine, the normal level of noise from a turbine is not high enough to prevent a normal conversation.
8. Will the project require new high-voltage power lines?
A: The project will require a new 230 kV electrical transmission line to connect to the Hydro One transmission system. The power produced by the individual turbines is collected at a lower voltage using buried cables and then “stepped up” to 230 kV at the project’s sub-station.
9. Have you asked residents for input?
A: Yes. We have been working on this project for 8 years and have had informal meetings with the public in the past. In July 2011 we received a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) from the Ontario Power Authority.
In April of this year we held our first public information centre. Our second public information centre is being held on November 28th, November 29th, December 3rd and December 4th. In the spring of 2012 we began running a bi-weekly column in the Exeter Times and Lakeshore Advance covering topics of concern with respect to this project and wind farms in general. As a result of our consultation we have received letters, emails and telephone calls from interested community members and are committed to answering all questions in a timely fashion. Our REA submission will include a summary of these communications.
10. How can I ask questions or make comments?
A: Please comment via the Feedback page of this website or come see as at our Public Information Centres.
11. What impacts will the project have on the natural environment? How will these effects be mitigated?
A: In order to obtain a Renewable Energy Approval (REA), detailed environmental studies of natural features (wildlife habitat, woodlands, wetlands, valley lands) and water bodies on and surrounding the project site are required. Through these studies, the existing environmental characteristics of a given project location are identified.
Once the studies are complete, the effects of the project can be determined and mitigation measures identified to limit any negative effects. This work, in draft form, is currently available on the Reports page of the project website in the Natural Heritage Assessment reports, the Water Body reports, and the Construction Plan Report. Printed copies can be found at the local municipality and county offices. Final versions of all reports will be made available on the Reports page of the project website, in January 2013.
12. Will the project impact water quality?
A: Wind turbines will not be located within the flood plain of any watercourse. Furthermore, Northland will undertake mitigation measures (such as sediment and erosion control), as identified in the Water Body reports and Construction Plan Report, to ensure that the installation of the turbines does not impact water quality.
Final Water Body and Construction Plan reports will be available when the REA process is complete, currently expected in the summer of 2012.
13. Will the project impact groundwater quality or quantity? Will my well be impacted?
A: No groundwater wells will be installed on the project site. Any water required for construction and operations will be brought in from offsite sources.
As part of this plan, geotechnical assessment has been done at each turbine site to indicate potential issues with groundwater, and precautions will be taken during construction to minimize impact.
14. Will the project impact my property value?
A: There is no evidence to suggest property values are negatively impacted as a result of proximity to wind farms. The Municipal Property Assessment Commission (MPAC) has studied this issue and has found no negative impact on property values. In a recent Assessment Review Board hearing in Ontario focused on wind turbines and property values, MPAC argued that there was no evidence to show that construction and operation of wind turbines had reduced the current value of the landowner's property.
As well, a comprehensive analysis by the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that proximity to wind energy facilities does not have a pervasive or widespread adverse effect on the value of nearby homes. Researchers examined 7,500 single-family property sales between 1996 and 2007, covering a time span from before the wind farms were announced to well after construction and operation.
Northland Power has gathered suggestions from neighbouring landowners on ways to mitigate the impact of the project. Suggestions have also been provided to Northland through direct conversation, at public meetings, through comment cards and via email. Northland continues to welcome suggestions through these and other channels.
15. Are there any health impacts associated with wind projects?
A: Despite many allegations, there are no known health impacts associated with wind projects. This was documented as recently as May 2010 by the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health in a report titled “The Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines.”
In fact, the use of wind energy will contribute to the province’s ability to retire coal fired power plants, and thus will contribute to the improvement of air quality throughout the province. According to Environment Canada, 80% of the total national greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the production or consumption of fossil fuels for energy purposes.
Recent statistics on the Environment Canada website show that air pollution causes approximately 5,000 premature deaths each year in Canada. In Ontario, exposure to air pollution results in an estimated 60,000 emergency room visits and 17,000 hospital admissions each year, with children and seniors at the highest risk of suffering adverse health effects.
16. What about the study released recently, “Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health” by Michael A Nissenbaum, Jeffery J Aramini, and Christopher D Hanning?
A: While recently published, much of the information contained in this recently published paper was previously reviewed and considered by experts at the first Environmental Review Tribunal (Erikson v. MOE 2011) hearing on wind energy in Ontario and in the Queen’s Bench of Saskatchewan case McKinnon v. Martin (Red Lily Legal Case in 2010). This information was also reviewed by an expert panel on wind turbines and human health commissioned by The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MassDEP/MDPH, 2012), which concluded, “attributing any of the observed associations to the wind turbines (either noise from them or the sight of them) is premature”.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) jointly commissioned experts to conduct a scientific critique of this now published paper. The review by Intrinsik Environmental Sciences has identified “concerns related to study design, methodology, sample size and administration of questionnaires to participants”. They concluded, “Overall, in our opinion the authors extend their conclusions and discussion beyond the statistical findings of their study. We believe that they have not demonstrated a statistical link between wind turbines – distance – sleep quality – sleepiness and health. In fact, their own values suggest that although scores may be statistically different between near and far groups for sleep quality and sleepiness, they are no different than those reported in the general population. The claims of causation by the authors (i.e., wind turbine noise) are not supported by their data.”
Download the Intrinsik critique here: http://www.canwea.ca/pdf/Intrinsik-Review-of-Nissenbaum-2012.pdf
17. What happens when the project is no longer required?
A: Under the terms of the REA Northland is required to decommission the project once it is no longer required, and to restore the lands consistent with their original uses. This requirement passes to any subsequent owner, should Northland ever sell the wind farm. Details of this requirement are contained in a Decommissioning Plan that Northland has provided in draft form and will submit as part of the final REA reports.
18. Will this project be a burden on local taxpayers?
A: No. This project is entirely financed by the project partners. In addition to providing jobs and rental fees to landowners, the project will pay annual taxes of between $100,000 and $150,000 to the municipality.
19. Can I build on my property close to a turbine?
A: Yes. The 550 metre setback is solely for the benefit of existing residences. There are no provincial or municipal setback requirements regarding new construction near wind turbines.
20. Will the wind farm benefit anyone other than a few farmers?
A: There are approximately 20 family farms that will benefit from renting their land for turbine sites. In addition, the wind farm will provide the community with construction and permanent jobs, additional municipal taxes, and potential tourism opportunities. More broadly, the project will benefit all Ontarians, by providing a clean, renewable source of energy generation that will help to improve Ontario’s air quality.
21. How many jobs will Grand Bend produce?
A: The project will employ about 150 people at the peak of construction. In operation, it will employ 6-8 full-time people, including both Northland Power employees and maintenance contractors.
22. Why do we need wind energy – don’t we already have too much power?
A: Ontario currently has a small surplus of electricity due to falling demand from a restructuring of our economy and conservation efforts. However, this surplus is only temporary. All of our coal plants are being phased out and, as soon as 2015, all of our nuclear plants will need refurbishing. Removing these energy supplies from our grid will require new power sources to be in place. We’re getting started now to be ready for the future.
Canada needs a variety of reliable, clean and safe sources of new energy to meet its future electricity demands and greenhouse gas emission commitments. Wind energy is part of a balanced energy mix.
23. Is wind energy efficient?
A: Yes. A modern wind turbine produces electricity 70-85% of the time, but it generates different outputs dependent on wind speed. Over the course of a year, it will generate about 35% of the theoretical maximum output. One modern wind turbine will generate enough to meet the electricity demands of more than a thousand homes over the course of a year.
24. Is wind energy more expensive than other forms of power?
A: A 2011 Pembina Institute study, Behind the Switch: Pricing Ontario’s Electricity Options, found that cancelling the Green Energy Act would result in a slightly slower increase in electricity prices – about the price of a coffee and doughnut per month for the typical household. But in the long term, it found that the investments we’re making in renewables are far more likely to lead to cost savings because the price of more traditional energy sources is expected to increase.
The cost of electricity from onshore wind turbines will drop 12%in the next five years thanks to a mix of lower-cost equipment and gains in output efficiency (Bloomberg New Energy Finance).
Electricity prices are poised to increase across Canada as a result of necessary investment in new electricity generation and infrastructure – the Conference Board of Canada predicts that $347 billion in investment is required between now and 2030. All new generation is more expensive than existing generation and wind energy is extremely cost competitive. This is even more apparent when all costs are considered when choosing an energy source – including impacts on the air we breathe, the water we drink, and cost over-runs that are often passed on to ratepayers.
25. Do you have any examples of Ontario municipalities that have already successfully integrated wind power into their community?
A: Yes. Below are quotes from municipal leaders across Ontario who have already benefitted from wind power.
“The Erie Shores wind farm has become a part of our identity here in Bayham. We’ve actually incorporated a wind turbine into our tourism logo. My advice would be to come to the Erie Shores Wind Farm and see for yourself.
They are majestic and sleek. Stand beneath a turbine and listen for
yourself. Talk to the farmers and hear what they have to say.”
-Lynn Acre, Mayor, Municipality of Bayham
“The township as a whole is happy with the wind farm. We have 61
of its turbines and I wish we had 60 more. When you consider the
revenue, why wouldn’t I? We receive taxes from the wind farm, but
we don’t plough the road, we don’t do garbage pick-up, and we don’t
provide policing. For the township, it’s a win-win.”
-Lou Madonna, Reeve, Township of Prince
“We very early realized the benefits that came with construction of
the wind farm, but there was also an attitudinal change. We are
working on a renewable energy plan, but when you have a business...
that actually turns it into reality and people can see it and people can
touch it, then that acts as a real catalyst.”
-John Roswell, Mayor, Sault Ste. Marie
“I personally think this wind farm is the best rural Ontario good news
story that you will find. Annual income from the wind development
has allowed this municipality to achieve sustainability and to reduce
property taxes. The construction phase significantly increased
business for local shops and restaurants.”
- Former Frontenac Island Mayor, Jim Vanden Hoek, played a key leadership role in working with the wind developer to capture social and economic benefits for his community.