By Jane Wilson, Guest Columnist
Every time I am interviewed by the media, or speak at a public meeting, I am asked: Why is Ontario continuing to push ahead with its program of industrial-scale wind turbines and wind power, when all the facts seem to argue against it?
I don’t know.
I don’t understand why Ontario’s Liberal government never did a cost-benefit analysis, or why it has ignored the admonitions of two auditors general about impacts and costs, or why it seems unable, or unwilling, to look at the real-world experience of its wind power experiment.
I don’t know why the government signed contracts in 2016 for 600 megawatts of wind power when we already have a power surplus.
In 2016, Ontario paid $2.7 billion for generators of electricity from nuclear, gas and hydro not to produce power, because we were forced to accept wind power (when it shows up) to the grid.
In September, a new 100-megawatt wind power facility started commercial operation, but that same month, 42% of wind power in Ontario’s west region was curtailed (surplus, not added to the grid).
Ontario’s electricity customers paid for that power, anyway.
I don’t know why the government keeps adding more new power, which adds costs to people’s electricity bills, so much so that “energy poverty” is a new, sad phrase in Ontario.
The government claims to have reduced electricity bills by 25%, but it has done nothing to cut costs by cancelling contracts for unneeded power.
I don’t know why we are adding more “green” power when Ontario is already “green” by most standards.
Ontario’s engineers point out that more intermittent wind power means more natural gas back-up, which means more fossil fuel use, not less.
I don’t know why the government persists in saying wind power is good for the environment when its effect on the natural environment and wildlife is well known.
Last month, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner pointed out that no request to “kill, harm or harass” wildlife had been refused for four years – she cited wind power projects where development actually took precedence over environmental balance.
Finally, I don’t know why the government is ignoring the thousands of reports of negative impacts from the huge, noise-producing turbines.
Between 2006 and 2014, the government received well over 3,100 formal reports of excessive noise and vibration, according to documents provided to Wind Concerns Ontario.
When the Green Energy Act was passed in 2009, the government already knew there were problems, but it pushed ahead anyway, going so far as to remove local land use planning power from municipalities seeking to protect their residents.
Of those thousands of reports, more than 50% received no response from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. Only 1% resulted in a priority response.
On the formal Pollution Incident Reports kept by the government, there is space to name the “client”.
Who might that be, for the ministry whose pledge it is to protect the environment and human health?
Not the people of Ontario.
On each report, the “client” listed is the wind power developer.
New noise protocols were released earlier this year but guess what?
The newly contracted projects don’t have to abide by the new rules.
There are concerns about the effect of the vibration from wind turbine construction and operation (picture a giant tuning fork stuck in the ground).
But the environment ministry appears to have abdicated its role as regulator, and relies instead on self-regulation by the multi-billion-dollar wind power industry.
What is the reason behind these social, economic and environment costs that so moves the Ontario government to keep pressing ahead with this problematic program?
I don’t know. The government is not answering.
Wilson is a Registered Nurse and health care writer; she is volunteer president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of 30 community groups and hundreds of Ontario citizens