By Dan Reid January 15, 2012 The Sun Times
I am not a farmer, nor am I a member of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). For some, those two facts will negate any credibility that I have to offer an opinion on the organization. I accept that. However, before jumping to conclusions, let me assure you this editorial is not a public rant about the value of the organization or a call for it to be dismantled. Rather, it focuses only on their activity with respect to industrial wind projects.
In that regard, in spite of claims to the contrary, I would submit that the OFA has demonstrated no particular aptitude for protecting the health of rural Ontario. That would specifically apply to their membership, largely comprised of those who have opted to host wind turbines on their property. However, by extension it could also apply to rural Ontarians at large.
The predicament that the OFA is in may be attributable to a rather limited understanding of some of the key issues that actually impact the health and well being of those in proximity to turbines. In view of this, they are not blameless for their situation. But, by the same token, they are not entirely at fault. The rules established by the Ontario Government to roll out wind projects are stacked against the OFA. Also, some OFA members adamantly fight to place their property rights over their own health. Let’s consider these one at a time.
The primary example often quoted by the OFA as substantiation for how they are protecting health, is their successful lobbying to move turbines from 420 meter setbacks to 550 meters for participating land owners. Although well intended, this move could best be characterized as tinkering. It will do very little to alleviate the potential ill effects of turbines. One only need look at a couple of current examples.
At this time there is a Renewable Energy Application in front of the Ministry of the Environment for the McLeans Mountain industrial wind project on Manitoulin Island. This application is for the construction of 24 turbines each with 2.5 megawatts in power output and a maximum sound power level (noise level) of 104 decibels per turbine. As with most projects like this, there is a requirement for a detailed Noise Impact Assessment.
In the Mcleans Mountain noise assessment you will find a map that illustrates four distinct ‘noise envelopes’ drawn around clusters of turbines. The perimeter of each envelope indicates where noise levels are predicted to be 40 decibels. That noise level is the benchmark for compliance for the MOE. That means beyond that boundary, further from the turbines, noise levels are deemed acceptable. In this project that border physically occurs at approximately 650 metres in a 360 degree direction around each turbine cluster.
In a similar example, the Watford Wind Farm project recently approved by the MOE has 4 turbines each with 2.5 megawatts of power output but with almost 108 decibels (107.9) as a maximum sound power level (noise level). The 40 decibel boundary for the ‘noise envelope’ in this case occurs about 700 meters in a 360 degree direction around the group of 4 turbines.
To clarify, inside the boundary of each of the ‘noise envelopes’ in the above examples the predicted noise levels start at greater than 40 decibels and increase to over 70 decibels as you get closer to the turbines. Ironically, inside the noise envelope is also the homesteads and workplaces of farmers. Most of who are the constituents of the OFA. Read the rest of this entry