All comments received were reviewed by the ministry and considered during the review of the application. These concerns and comments have been summarized below:
Natural Heritage / Environment
Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) staff have reviewed the necessary natural heritage reports for the Napier Wind Project and provided their confirmation letter (dated September 6, 2012 as an addendum to the original confirmation letter dated March 27, 2012) for wpd Napier Wind Incorporated’s (the Company) Natural Heritage Assessment (NHA). The March 27, 2012 letter confirms that the Company used appropriate evaluation criteria or procedures accepted by the MNR for the:
- determination of the existence and boundaries of natural features;
- preparation of the site investigation and records review;
- evaluation of the significance or provincial significance of the natural features;
- determination that the project location is not in a provincial park or conservation reserve; and
- preparation of the environmental impact assessment report.
The September 6, 2012 letter confirms that upon the Company’s elimination of the feeder line from the project, the project no longer requires an environmental impact study report be prepared as there are no longer any significant natural features identified within 120 m of the project location, and MNR is satisfied that the NHA requirements of O.Reg.359/09 have been met.
Opportunity for public comment on this project has been provided since 2011.
In addition, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) posted the proposal for the project on the Environmental Registry, allowing for a total of 45 days for public comment directly to the ministry. Most proposals for instruments are posted on the Environmental Registry for 30 days.
The applicant accepted and replied to communications received (e-mails, phone calls, letters, faxes or public meeting feedback forms) as documented in their Consultation Report submitted with the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) application. A telephone number and e-mail address were also provided in order to accept communications.
MOE is committed to ensuring that renewable energy applicants are good neighbours when situating a new wind facility in a local community. In order to address concerns raised about wpd Napier Wind Incorporated, the MOE has included a condition to create a Liaison Committee for the Napier Wind Project. This Liaison Committee will be made up of individuals in the community and wpd Napier Wind Incorporated representatives. The aim of the committee will be to keep the lines of communication open during the implementation of the Napier Wind Project, deal with issues that arise during implementation and report on an annual basis to the MOE.
Health and Safety
The Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health’s report concluded that scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects. Scientific evidence to date indicates that, at the typical setback distances in Ontario, there is no direct health risk from wind turbine noise, including low frequency noise and infrasound.
The MOE has built safety requirements into O. Reg. 359/09. For wind facilities, a proponent must meet section 53 of O. Reg. 359/09, which prohibits a proponent to place a turbine closer than the height of the turbine to a property boundary. The proponent prepared a Property Line Setback Assessment (PLSA), as one turbine is closer than the hub height.
MOE staff have reviewed the PLSA and determined that it meets regulatory requirements. Further, a condition has been imposed on the REA to operate and maintain the facility in accordance with good engineering practices and as recommended by the equipment suppliers.
Birds and Bats
Ontario’s REA process includes clear requirements to ensure consideration and protection for natural heritage features, including 120 m setbacks to significant bird and bat habitats. The process also includes requirements for monitoring and mitigation of potential negative effects to birds, bats and their habitats. The developer must identify any negative impacts the renewable energy project may have to natural features and develop measures to mitigate those effects.
An Environmental Effects Monitoring Plan (EEMP) for bird and bat monitoring has been completed and provided to MNR for review and comment. Conditions have been included in the approval for wpd Napier Wind Incorporated to implement its EEMP for birds and bats as submitted as part of the application, and to implement mitigation and monitoring as outlined in the EEMP.
The bird and bat monitoring plan has been developed in accordance with MNR guidelines. This monitoring plan has been reviewed and approved by the MNR.
The range of setback distances for wind facilities with one or more specified turbine is provided in the table in Section 55 of O.Reg.359/09. The table of noise setbacks is used to illustrate the closest distance the base of any turbine can be from the nearest noise receptor. The minimum setback distance of 550 metres (m) must be met in all cases and greater numbers of turbines may result in higher required setback distances applied to the nearest turbine. Proponents are also given the option of conducting a noise study to prove that siting turbines closer than the setback distances (but no closer than 550 m) in the table to Section 55 of O. Reg. 359/09 will not cause adverse effects. Such a study must be prepared in accordance with the MOE’s Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms (2008) and must be submitted as part of the REA application.
For this project, the applicant completed a noise impact assessment that was reviewed by MOE. It was concluded that the applicant has met and is in compliance with all applicable sound level limits as identified in MOE’s Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms (2008).
The setback distances are based on the MOE’s conservative sound level limit of 40 dBA at the nearest noise receptor. This stringent 40 dBA sound level limit has been used in Ontario for the approval of industrial facilities built in rural areas for the past 30 years. Furthermore, this sound level limit is consistent with the World Health Organization’s recommendation that the outdoor annual average night sound level should not exceed 40 dBA.
The project meets the minimum 550 m setback distance from all receptors and is compliant with O. Reg. 359/09.
Loss of Agricultural Land
The role of the MOE, with respect to energy proposals, is to ensure that they comply with regulations that have been put in place to protect human health and the environment. The Ministry of Energy takes the lead on the development of renewable energy projects, and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) issues contracts under the province’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program to purchase power. The FIT contracts awarded to project developers restrict the development of solar facilities on prime agricultural lands, e.g. Class 1 and Class 2 agricultural land, as determined by the OPA, in consultation with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. However, no such restriction exists for wind facilities, and the development of wind turbines on agricultural land is determined by the developer in collaboration with the landowners.
Wind turbines occupy only a small fraction of the land they are sited on, and farming or grazing may continue undisturbed.
The MOE understands that the proponent’s preference is to place the collector lines underground. However, the proponent is still working with the County and Township to determine how the collector lines will be built and the associated details.
The MOE recognizes the importance of local interest with respect to specific matters related to municipal land, infrastructure, services and information. For this reason, an applicant of a renewable energy must consult with local municipalities.
With respect to livestock, there is some potential for stray voltage to occur on farms connected to any electricity distribution system and is not unique to systems located near renewable energy projects. The ministry has developed guidance instructing proponents to identify in their REA application any potential for their project to contribute to stray voltage on nearby farms, as well as to describe how they will work with the local distribution company to investigate and address reports of stray voltage. Ontario’s Distribution System Code requires distributors to investigate reports of stray voltage on farms and to take corrective action to reduce levels as necessary.
Health Canada Study / Moratorium
When developing the REA regulation, MOE drew upon extensive existing scientific research from around the world. Reviewing a large body of peer-reviewed reports and studies enabled MOE to develop a regulation that was based on the best available science to protect human health and the environment. MOE continues to review emerging scientific and engineering studies to ensure Ontario's REA regulation remains in line with the latest and best in science.
The Province of Ontario has identified wind as one component of a diversified energy mix for the province, as identified in Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan. The OPA, the agency responsible for supply procurement, and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the agency responsible for the reliability of Ontario electricity system, have both researched, modeled and proposed a target for wind (10% by 2030) that ensures an efficient and reliable system supply to meet Ontario electricity demands while satisfying the Government’s and the Ontario public’s goals for new supply.
MOE noise engineers have reviewed the Acoustic Assessment Report provided by the applicant and have confirmed that the project will meet the ministry’s standards for wind facilities. Further, the noise impact assessment and the project have met the requirements of O.Reg.359/09.
The noise impact assessment was carried out in accordance with “Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms”, MOE, 2008.
If the public has any noise concerns, incidents to report, or has any complaints they would like to raise relating to a wind facility operation, they should contact their local MOE district or area office. The MOE is committed to providing timely services for receiving, assessing, and coordinating responses to all complaints related to potential environmental incidents (including those from wind facilities). The MOE’s first level of field response is provided by environmental officers working out of the MOE’s district or area offices.
During the development of the REA regulation, O.Reg.359/09, the ministry explored the issue of shadow flicker produced by wind turbines. It was determined, based on the research and studies reviewed, that any potential impacts could be mitigated through proper siting of the turbines and potentially additional landscape and/or artificial screening. As such, shadow flicker was accounted for in the regulated setbacks distances to property lines and noise receptors.
Each REA application accepted by the MOE is carefully reviewed by a team of inter-ministerial experts that includes project evaluators, engineers, scientists and technical experts from the MOE, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS), and the MNR. The review team: ensures the application satisfies all regulatory requirements; reviews all submitted reports, including the Consultation Report; and considers all comments submitted to the MOE prior to making a decision on the application. A significant part of the REA review process is the consideration of how the applicant addressed municipal, public and Aboriginal community concerns raised during the pre-application consultation process and the direct municipal, public and Aboriginal community input received during the review process.
Support for the project
Comment noted and considered.
Note – This is the end of the decision notice. Please disregard the “Leave to Appeal Provisions” section below.