Turbine low-frequency noise taken to court (Ontario)
Dec 3, 2010
Due to concerns over low-frequency noise, a legal challenge has been mounted against the recent approval of a wind farm near Thamesville.
Chatham-Kent Wind Action Inc. (formerly Chatham-Kent Wind Action Group), as well as a non-participating resident in the Kent Breeze Wind Power Project, filed the appeal on Monday.
Suncor Energy acquired the eight-turbine project from original developers Kent Breeze Corp. and MacLeod Windmill Project Inc.
Toronto lawyer Eric Gillespie is representing the plaintiffs in the case. He said there are currently no provincial standards on low-frequency noise.
“Even the government doesn’t appear to be sure how it should be treated,” he said on Tuesday.
It was the first project OKd under the Renewable Energy Approval process, which has a 15-day appeal period.
Cases go before the Environmental Review Tribunal, with decisions rendered within six months.
“The appeal process is also entirely new and the legal test that has to be met hasn’t been considered,” Gillespie said.
He is involved in another Ontario wind energy case, which is contesting turbine setbacks.
Gillespie expects a hearing on the Kent Breeze project could occur in a couple of months.
“It’s quite likely that the hearing will take place as close to the project site as available,” he said.
According to the company’s website, a change in turbine design means fewer turbines on shorter towers producing the same amount of power. There were 10 turbines originally proposed.
Kyle Happy, Suncor Energy spokesman, said he couldn’t say too much at this time about the latest development.
“The appeal has just been brought to our attention,” he said. “It’s worth pointing out that it’s an appeal of the MOE’s decision to approve the project.”
Construction has already begun and is expected to take six months.
“Obviously that can be influenced by weather, any road condition issues and timing of specific approvals,” he said.
Kate Jordan, Ministry of the Environment spokeswoman, said citizens have the right to file an appeal.
However, she defended the province’s process, noting it has safeguards and a chance for public consultation.
“Certainly we believe we’ve put in place an approvals process that is protective of the environment and also of human health,” she said. “We’ve based it on science and we have tested the facts that are established in it.”
Jordan said a consultant report on low-frequency noise will be available soon.
“We’re awaiting that one,” she said.
A report on audible noise is expected early next year.