All comments received were reviewed by the ministry and considered during the review of the application. These concerns and comments have been summarized below:
Efficiency and cost of electricity
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 Ontario Power Authority (OPA), the agency responsible for supply procurement, and the Independent Electricity System Operator, the agency responsible for the reliability of Ontario electricity system, have both researched, modeled and proposed a target for wind (9% by 2032) 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.
Economic impacts of the project
The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program requires developers to have a certain percentage of their project costs come from Ontario goods and labour. Suncor has indicated to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) that they are proposing to use blades manufactured in Tillsonburg, Ontario; steel plates from an Ontario foundry; tower sections and heat exchangers manufactured in Ontario and consultants, accountants and legal counsel who are residents of Ontario.
Human health and quality of life
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.
A MOECC Senior Noise Engineer has reviewed the Acoustic Assessment Report provided by the applicant and has confirmed that the project will meet the MOECC’s standards for wind facilities. Further, the Acoustic Assessment Report and the project have met the requirements of Ontario Regulation 359/09 (O. Reg. 359/09).
The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation’s (MPAC) analysis of property sales to date has not indicated that wind turbines that are either abutting or close to a property have either a positive or negative impact on the value.
MPAC commissioned a study of the effects of wind turbines on the current value of property in proximity to the turbines. MPAC’s study concludes that 2012 Current Value Assessments (CVA) of properties located within proximity to a wind turbine are assessed at their current value and are equitably assessed in relation to homes at greater distances. This finding is consistent with MPAC’s 2008 CVA report. MPAC’s findings also concluded that there is no statistically significant impact on sale prices of residential properties in these market areas resulting from proximity to a wind turbine, when analysing sale prices.
It is recognized that people have varying opinions about the changes a wind facility will bring to the visual landscape. This does not constitute an industrial park which is characterized by development of large portions of the land for manufacturing as well as large scale traffic increases during operation.
The role of the MOECC, 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 OPA issues contracts under the province’s 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, Food and Rural Affair. 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.
Impacts to birds, bats, wildlife and the natural environment
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has reviewed the Natural Heritage Assessment (NHA) and provided a confirmation letter as per section 28(2) and 38(2)(b) of O. Reg. 359/09.
An Environmental Effects Monitoring Plan (EEMP) in respect of birds and bats has been completed and provided to the MNRF for review and comment. The MNRF has confirmed that the EEMP was prepared in accordance with MNRF guidelines. Conditions have been included in the REA for the applicant to implement its EEMP for birds and bats and to implement mitigation and monitoring as outlined in the EEMP.
Concerns were raised regarding impacts to tundra swans and tundra swan habitat. As part of the NHA, the applicant was required to identify Significant Wildlife Habitat (including habitat related to tundra swans) and incorporate applicable setbacks to such habitat in the design of the project. The impact to tundra swan habitat has been evaluated in the NHA and it has been concluded that there will be no impact, as tundra swan habitat is not present within the project’s Zone of Investigation.
As part of the REA application, the applicant prepared a Decommissioning Plan Report which details the procedures for dismantling the project at the end of its lifecycle, in addition to restoring the area once project components are removed.
A condition has been imposed in the REA to require the applicant to decommission the project in accordance with the commitments outlined in the Decommissioning Plan Report and the rules or regulations are in place at the time of decommissioning.
A MOECC Senior Noise Engineer has reviewed the Acoustic Assessment Report provided by the applicant and has confirmed that the project will meet the MOECC’s standards for wind facilities. Further, the Acoustic Assessment Report and the project have met the requirements of O. Reg. 359/09.
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 District or Area Office. MOECC’s first level of field response is provided by environmental officers working out of MOECC’s District or Area Offices.
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 must be met in all cases and greater numbers of turbines may result in higher required setback distances applied to the nearest turbine. Applicants are also given the option of conducting a noise study to prove that siting turbines closer than the setback distances in the table to Section 55 of O. Reg. 359/09 (but no closer than 550 metres) will not cause adverse effects. Such a study must be prepared in accordance with the MOECC’s Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms (2008) and must be submitted as part of the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) application.
For this project, the applicant completed a noise study that was reviewed by the MOECC. It was concluded that the applicant has met and is in compliance with all applicable sound level limits as identified in MOECC’s Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms (2008).
The setback distances are based on the MOECC’s conservative sound level limit of 40 A-weighted decibels (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.
During the development of O. Reg. 359/09, the MOECC 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.
The applicant is required to obtain any necessary authorization under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) should the project have the potential to negatively affect a species or habitat protected under the ESA.
The applicant has determined that the project has requirements under the ESA with respect to Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark, for which the applicant has determined to proceed under the MNRF’s registry process. Conditions have been included in the REA requiring the applicant to meet the requirements of the ESA.
Safety concerns, emergency response, and complaint protocols
The MOECC has built safety requirements into O. Reg. 359/09. For wind facilities, an applicant must meet section 53 of O. Reg. 359/09, which prohibits an applicant to place a turbine closer than the height of the turbine to a property boundary (unless a Property Line Setback Assessment is completed). A Property Line Setback Assessment report was completed for this project and is included as part of the Design and Operations Report.
Setback requirements have been met in all cases, the noise study meets MOECC guidelines and the applicant has committed to implementing appropriate construction and operational health and safety protocols.
As part of the Design and Operations Report, Suncor provided information on how the applicant can be contacted and how the applicant will provide information to stakeholders in case of an emergency. The applicant has also documented that it will be developing an emergency response plan for the project with local emergency services personnel. As appropriate, the emergency response plan may cover response actions to high winds, fire preparedness, evacuation procedures, and medical emergencies.
The applicant has included a Communications and Complaint Response Protocol in Section 6.3 of the Design and Operations Report. A Complaint Response Document is also provided in Attachment E of the Design and Operations Report.
Further, a condition has been imposed in the REA to operate and maintain the facility in accordance with good engineering practices and as recommended by the equipment suppliers.
Impacts to water features, fish and fish habitat
MOECC staff have reviewed the water body reports for the project and determined that the reports satisfy the requirements of O. Reg. 359/09. Standard conditions have been included in the REA for the applicant to employ best management practices for stormwater management and sediment and erosion control during construction, installation, use, operation, maintenance and retiring of the facility, as described in the application.
The Conservation Authorities Act continues to apply to renewable energy projects. The applicant has consulted with the local conservation authorities regarding permitting requirements for the project. The applicant will be required to obtain all necessary permits from the appropriate conservation authorities.
MOECC staff have been advised by the Ministry of Energy that electrical phenomena such as stray voltage occur on all electricity distribution systems, and are not unique to systems located near wind generators. The Ministry of Energy also advises that none of these phenomena have been identified by Health Canada as hazardous to humans.
The applicant will ensure that the project is built and maintained according to the standards in place as prescribed by the Distribution System Code and the Electrical Safety Authority.
The Design and Operations Report contains an EEMP which indicates how potential negative environmental effects, including impacts to telecommunications and radar systems, will be mitigated and identifies any contingency and/or monitoring plans. The applicant has consulted with relevant agencies and licensed providers to identify any likely effects to communications and radar systems. The applicant has indicated that there are no anticipated net effects to telecommunication/radar systems.
EBR comment period extension
MOECC received requests for a 30-day extension to the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) Environmental Registry public comment period for the project. Note that the minimum comment period under the EBR is 30 days. In consideration of the public interest in wind energy facility proposals, the MOECC has been posting wind energy Instrument Proposals on the Environmental Registry for a period of 45 days.
An Instrument Proposal for the Cedar Point project was posted for a 45-day public comment period from December 5, 2013 to January 19, 2014. Given the level of public interest in the project, coupled with timing considerations of posting the Instrument Proposal on the Environmental Registry prior to the holiday season, the MOECC extended the comment period by an additional 15 days, to February 3, 2014.
Impacts during construction, including impacts to roads
The Construction Plan Report provides a summary of potential environmental effects and proposed mitigation and monitoring plans, specifically relevant to the construction phase of the project. The MOECC is satisfied that the applicant has fulfilled the requirements of O. Reg. 359/09.
MOECC received comments regarding impacts to local roads during construction of the project. As a condition of the REA, the applicant will be required to prepare a Traffic Management Plan and provide it to the municipalities. The applicant will also be required to make reasonable efforts to enter into a Road Users Agreement.
Compliance and operational aspects of the project
The applicant must construct, install, operate, use and retire the facility in accordance with the conditions of the approval and the application. If a facility is found to be constructed, installed, operated, used and retired in a manner not approved under the REA, the applicant can be charged under the Environmental Protection Act.
The MOECC 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). Since September 2009, the MOECC has been proactively inspecting existing wind facilities in Ontario. Inspections include an evaluation of approval requirements such as equipment location, operation and maintenance requirements, records related to environmental complaints, measures taken to address the cause of complaints and compliance with transformer sound level limits. Additionally, to follow up on citizen’s complaints about wind turbine noise, Environmental Officers may attend wind facilities and make an assessment as to whether wind turbine noise is causing an adverse effect on neighbouring residents.
Concerns regarding adequacy of the REA application
MOECC staff have undertaken a thorough review of the REA application. The MOECC is satisfied that the applicant has fulfilled the requirements of O. Reg. 359/09.
The MOECC received comments regarding the Consultation Report. While mandatory consultation requirements are specified in O. Reg. 359/09, it is not prescriptive in regards to the techniques or methods used. The MOECC has reviewed the applicant’s Consultation Report and deemed that it satisfies the legislative requirements outlined in O. Reg. 359/09.
MOECC is committed to ensuring that renewable energy applicants are good neighbours when situating a new wind facility in the local community. MOECC has imposed a condition to create a Community Liaison Committee for the Cedar Point Wind Power Project.
This Community Liaison Committee will be made up of individuals in the community and Suncor representatives. The aim of the committee will be to keep the lines of communication open during the implementation of the Suncor Energy Cedar Point Wind Power Project, communicate issues that arise during implementation, and report on an annual basis to the MOECC.
Impacts to private airstrips
Concerns were raised regarding impacts of the project to two private airstrips. During the REA pre-submission consultation process, as a result of concerns raised by a private airstrip owner regarding the applicant’s original Draft Site Plan, the applicant issued a revised Draft Site Plan which removed Turbine 12, a meteorological tower, and shifted turbines 14 and 23. The applicant has commissioned site specific studies with respect to two private airstrips in response to concerns raised by the owners. These studies have been completed and shared with the airstrip owners. The applicant has continued to consult directly with private airstrip owners to identify and address any concerns.
Some commenters supported the project.
Out of scope
A number of comments were received that were not project-specific. As these comments do not pertain to the project, MOECC staff did not consider these comments in the decision making process.