Health Canada drafting national guidelines for wind turbines

Clean, renewable power from abundant natural sources. Remember when that seemed like something that just required harvesting?

Lately wind power can’t shake persistent debate. In Canada, critics charge that wind turbines create visual pollution, depressed property values, danger to migratory birds and a range of health issues for humans living near the massive blades.

A few years ago, the Province of Ontario warmly embraced wind power as a way to reduce current dependence on coal and nuclear power plants. Official provincial support is still strong, although it is also starting to sound defensive. The Dunnville Chronicle reports that Ontario’s Minister of the Environment, Jim Bradley, just released a consultant’s report stating:

…the province’s rules to control wind turbine sound are “rigorous” and that Ontario has one of the strictest noise limits in North America, which includes a 550-metre minimum setback based on a 40-decibel level.

Ontario’s initial rush to approve wind farms has slowed as opponents have organized around issues of health. There’s a moratorium on off-shore wind projects (which is not terribly significant as most projects are built on land) and calls for holding off on new land-based wind projects until more studies are done.

Now Canada’s federal government says national safety guidelines for wind power are being developed to address the current province-by-province patch work.  As described in this Ottawa Citizen article:

“Health Canada has been working in collaboration with the provinces and territories to draft voluntary Canadian Guidelines for Wind Turbine Noise,” wrote Health Canada spokeswoman Olivia Caron in an email.

“The voluntary draft guidelines are health-based, and focus on minimizing potential impacts such as sleep disturbance by recommending noise limits, sound measurement standards and minimum setback distances from homes and occupied dwellings.”

It’s worth noting the guidelines are described as voluntary. With so much dispute about what harm (if any) can be actually be proven and what information counts as evidence, this does seem like a tricky thing to regulate.

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12 Comments on “Health Canada drafting national guidelines for wind turbines”

  1. Mervel says:

    This from the country that is promoting tar sand oil?

    Canada has some good things going for it, taking care of its environment is not one of them.

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  2. Mervel says:

    Of course maybe that is the reason they are standing in the way of wind power?

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  3. Pete Klein says:

    There’s money in the wind – for some. I doubt wind power has ever really been about the environment or “green energy” as much as it is about someone making a buck under the pretext.
    They are a rather odd thing to see. How much noise they make, I wouldn’t know since I’ve haven’t been close enough and have only seen them when driving Rt. 20 or the Thruway.
    When it comes to the environment, Canada kinda sucks. Not just with wind power but also tar sand oil and all the dams they have put up feeding into Hudson Bay.
    What’s the answer? There is no answer until something is done about the never ending growth in the population of humans. More humans equals a greater and greater demand for more and more power from any and all sources.

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  4. tootightmike says:

    I’m suspicious that the anti wind power folks are unwittingly supported by the oil and gas lobby. They have an awful lot of our subsidy money to play with, and it’s easy to imagine them sprinkling some about to stir up opposition among competing industries.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

  5. Walker says:

    We should be pouring money into photovoltaics– the technology with the fewest drawbacks, other than cost, and the more we make, the cheaper they’ll get. We could cover roofs, parking lots, even roadways, with solar cells.

    Popular. Like/Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  6. Mervel says:

    China has got the solar cell market right now and good for them, they are bringing the costs down to make them viable. I heard an article on NPR on Friday where our solar panel manufacturing lobby was trying to impose stiff tariffs on Chinese solar panels to RAISE the cost of solar panels in the US.

    This is not what we need. Walker is right we need mass production of these things, I need to be able to go to Lowes and pick one up for a couple of hundred dollars with easy installation and they need to be in all new housing developments particularly in the southwest.

    Right now they are not really economically viable.

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  7. Solarridge says:

    While I agree that Canada has some environmental legacy issues to deal with, let us not lose site with respect to the tar sands. I also agree that the extraction of bitumen could be improved, as well as the tailings ponds, but the demand for that resource comes primarily from the US, of which over 90 percent of the tar sands is sent to. The keystone pipeline was a political decision, and the additional pipeline from that project represents only a minor increase in the total volume of oil flowing into the US from Canada. Furthermore, Canada is a net exporter of energy, including much of our dam based hydro energy. Lately, jurisdictions like Ontario will be shipping excess wind power into the US due to surplus baseload energy due to off peak wind production. Before we start flinging mud at the Canadian energy resource, perhaps some folks in the US might consider curbing their insatiable desire for energy, of which a major chunk comes from Canada.

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  8. SHARON R says:

    The global drive to reduce carbon emissions could mean billions of pounds of fossil fuel reserves will rapidly lose value. Photograph: PA
    The huge reserves of coal, oil and gas held by companies listed in the City of London are “sub-prime” assets posing a systemic risk to economic stability, a high-profile coalition of investors, politicians and scientists has warned Bank of England’s governor, Sir Mervyn King.
    In an open letter on Thursday, they tell King that the global drive to reduce carbon emissions could mean billions of pounds of fossil fuel reserves will rapidly lose value and cause a “major problem” for institutional investors and pension funds.
    At the most recent UN climate change summit in December, 194 of the world’s nations agreed to enact legally binding curbs on greenhouse gas emissions within three years to limit global warming to 2C. But meeting this limit would mean just 20% of existing fossil fuel reserves could be burned, according to recent research.
    “These high-carbon assets pose significant strategic challenges for the future prosperity of Britain that just can’t be ignored,” said investment manager James Cameron, who is a member of the prime minister’s business advisory group. “Investors continue to pour cash into unsustainable assets without understanding the risks associated with these investments, such as climate change, local pollution, fossil fuel price volatility, political risk and catastrophes such as Deepwater Horizon.”
    The letter is also signed by the government’s former chief scientific adviser Sir David King, Zac Goldsmith MP, former environment minister John Gummer and 17 others. It urges action to investigate the risk of the “carbon bubble”.
    Mervyn King chairs the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) set up in 2011 to “identify and take action to remove or reduce systemic risks to protect and enhance the resilience of the UK financial system.” The letter’s authors point out that “five of the top 10 FTSE 100 companies are almost exclusively high-carbon and alone account for 25% of the index’s entire market capitalisation” and that this risk will exist in other indices and in bank loan books.
    A separate report published on Thursday by the Carbon Tracker Initiative reveals that coal reserves held by 16 London-listed companies will release 45bn tonnes of CO2 when burned, equivalent to 86 years of annual UK emissions, which are the tenth highest in the world. Most of the coal is in other countries such as Australia and South Africa.
    The letter states: “At present, regulators are not monitoring the concentration of high-carbon investments in the financial system and have no view on what level would be too high.” It demands an urgent investigation of the issue by the FPC.
    “We need to prevent the deep and profound harm that could be wrought by an overexposure to high-carbon assets and a rapid shift in their values,” said Ben Caldecott, head of policy at investment company Climate Change Capital, who signed the letter along with Aviva Investors. “Unlike sub-prime mortgages before the financial crisis, this time regulators must act to prevent the build-up of systemic risk in our financial system.”
    Sir David King, now director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, said: “Sustainable economic growth is achievable. Those industries than can combine efficiencies with growth will be the winners in the low-carbon economy. And given the rise in global oil prices, those that find alternatives to fossil fuels will be well placed.” 2011 was the first year in which the average price of Brent crude oil was over $100.
    Another signatory, David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK, noted that other assets held by investors could be damaged by climate change: “It’s clear that we cannot burn all the fossil fuels currently listed on the world’s financial markets without seriously impacting the value of other listed assets – which would affect the future pensions on which we’ll all depend.”
    Concern over the long-term risk posed by high-carbon assets has also been raised in the US, where the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a group of 100 institutional investors with collective assets of $10 trillion, said last week: “In order to fulfil our fiduciary duty to safeguard the long-term interests of our clients and beneficiaries, we believe that it is essential to take action now that will result in substantial reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions within a timeframe that minimises the risk of serious impact.”

    Just because there is excess capacity for the tax sands, why would Canadians subjugate their environmental rights for the primary benefit of the oil industry. Once we committ all of our eggs in one basket, there will be no money for alternative energy resources.

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  9. tootightmike says:

    Mervel, It should be OK for China to subsidise their solar panel industry, however the US is only interested in promoting oil and gas. If we offered meaningful subsidies on photovoltaics, we would have a level playing field.

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  10. Dan Wrightman says:

    Sometimes perception isn’t reality. In the province of Ontario the wind industry IS the oil industry. Suncor, Epcor, TransAlta and Enbridge are all big players in the Ontario wind industry, and they are all involved in either tar sands production, coal generated electricity or natural gas and oil pipelines. Wind energy is just a bonus revenue stream for these fossil fuel corporations, courtesy of the taxpayers of Ontario.

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  11. Solarridge says:

    @ Dan Wrightman. You are correct that energy companies, such as the cherry picked few that you selected to list are also including wind in their portfolios, you are implying that this is bad thing somehow. If not them, then who will build wind? You? The wind industry has a high capex that is paid for entirely up front by debt equity. The Ontario government does not subsidize construction of wind, rather, pays a Fair price for energy delivered to the bulk power transmission system. Taxpayers pay for all forms of energy – that is the nature of the energy system. And before you state the prices of wind are too high, compare the levelized energy costs from all forms of new generation – you may be surprised withi what you may find….

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  12. Dan Wrightman says:

    Solaridge those were first companies that came to mind, I can list more like Florida Light and Power a giant coal and nuclear power producer that is also heavily involved in Ontario, and the list can go on and on. My point was to respond to comments that antiwind activists have the support of the oil and gas industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fossilfuel industry hates us as much as they hate the anti-Keystone pipeline activists, because when we win, we hurt their bottom line.

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