Recognizing health concerns in wind energy development a key recommendation in new study

January 26, 2016
A Vestas wind turbine. Image credit: Vestas

As wind energy development blossoms in Canada and around the world, opposition at the community level is challenging the viability of the industry. A new study with research from the University of Waterloo, published in Nature Energy, identifies four major factors leading to disputes over wind farms, and offers recommendations on avoiding disagreements.

The research project focuses on the province of Ontario. It lists socially mediated health concerns, distribution of financial benefits, lack of meaningful engagement and failure to treat landscape concerns seriously, as the core stumbling blocks to a community's acceptance of development.

"There has been debate over whether reported negative health outcomes in nearby residents are valid" says Tanya Christidis, a PhD researcher at Waterloo's School of Planning, who contributed to the study by looking specifically at the health impacts section in the publication. "Regardless of whether or not people are sick from wind turbine noise or from social factors they deserve to be acknowledged if renewables are going to become a key part of our future energy mix."

The study makes recommendations for all four identified major areas of dispute.

For community members who feel the distribution of financial benefits is unfair, it recommends the province, which is constitutionally responsible for managing all energy resources within its territory, mandate more community-level decision-making and ownership. It also recommends increased transparency and compensation distribution for everyone in a community.

The study suggests that Ontario's approval process does not encourage enough meaningful engagement. Acknowledging that this is difficult to mandate, its recommendation is that improvements in this area should still be pursued.

Finally, the study recommends greater consideration for the impact on landscapes, and in particular changes to the cultural landscapes of areas with .

Over the past decade global wind energy capacity has increased eight-fold. Ontario, with a population of close to 13 million people and land area of 1.1 million km2 is approximately equivalent in population, size and contracted wind energy capacity (5,700 vs 6, 200 MW) 2 to Sweden and Norway combined.

Research for the report was assembled by researchers, from Waterloo. York University, Western University, Queen's University, University of Ottawa as well as Trent University. The study is unique as it also includes a community representative and a wind industry advocate engaged in the Ontario wind energy industry.

Explore further: Denmark sets wind energy world record

More information: Stewart Fast et al. Lessons learned from Ontario wind energy disputes, Nature Energy (2016). DOI: 10.1038/nenergy.2015.28

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12 comments

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Shootist
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 26, 2016
Kill the birds.
Noise pollution.
Part time power.

Build 100 1000 megawatt fission plants and all those niggling little problems go away.
Noumenal
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 27, 2016
"Build 100 1000 megawatt fission plants and all those niggling little problems go away."

dangerous waste
low but high impact risk
absurd cost
water ecosystem problems

WillieWard
2 / 5 (4) Jan 27, 2016
dangerous waste
except "no one has been killed or sickened by the radiation"
http://www.nytime...isk.html
While wind kills much more per unit of energy produced than nuclear.
http://www.forbes...-humans/
http://newsbuster...-nuclear
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2016
"Finally, the study recommends greater consideration for the impact on landscapes, and in particular changes to the cultural landscapes of areas with wind energy development."
http://phys.org/n...key.html
Nuclear power is compact, energy dense, lowest footprint; it requires small areas, low impact on natural landscapes and wildlife's habitats; birds and bats and other endangered species are protected, no wind blades/solar mirrors to slaughter them.
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2016
dangerous waste
...
water ecosystem problems
"biggest windfarm ​responsible for high levels of cancer-causing chemical in public water​ supply​"
"Test results obtained by Rachel Connor over a four-year period showed high levels of potentially cancer-causing chemical trihalomethane (THM)."
http://www.dailyr...-4881760
"1,000 litres of oil leaked from a turbine" "..and contaminate groundwater."
http://www.sunday...1.282890
Noumenal
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 27, 2016
except "no one has been killed or sickened by the radiation"

Apart from all the people that died at:
https://en.wikipe...ath_toll

"1,000 litres of oil leaked from a turbine" "..and contaminate groundwater."
how much cesium has leaked into the ocean?
http://www.global.../5356276

Finding a solution for keeping birds away from wind turbines can't be that difficult, we keep them away from buildings after all.

Noumenal
2 / 5 (4) Jan 27, 2016
"birds and bats and other endangered species are protected, no wind blades/solar mirrors to slaughter them."

http://www.treehu...000.html
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2016
"birds and bats and other endangered species are protected, no wind blades/solar mirrors to slaughter them."
http://www.treehu...000.html
House cats do not kill eagles and other endangered species as wind does.
http://capitolhil...bles.jpg
http://www.family...ARGE.jpg
http://cdn2-b.exa..._hbfcdnh
https://worldcoun...erzo.jpg
http://theresilie...elur.jpg
http://www.ksbw.c...-jpg.jpg
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2016
"1,000 litres of oil leaked from a turbine" "..and contaminate groundwater."
how much cesium has leaked into the ocean?
http://www.global.../5356276
"..radiation levels above the sea are relatively low despite being only 1.5 km from the plant.."
"..radiation levels were not high enough to be detected by a dosimeter used during the session."
http://ajw.asahi....11100001
"Nearly all of the radioactive material in the ocean is natural, and represents material that has been on Earth since its formation."
http://www.watere...ean.html
WillieWard
3 / 5 (4) Jan 27, 2016
except "no one has been killed or sickened by the radiation"

Apart from all the people that died at:
https://en.wikipe...ath_toll
Nuclear power, in spite of all incidents, has an outstanding safety record per gigawatt produced even when it is unbiasedly compared to wind/solar.
http://www.forbes...61b649d2
http://nuclear-ec...8100.jpg
http://thoriummsr...7_23.jpg
http://scienceblo...ctricity

Lord_jag
5 / 5 (1) Jan 30, 2016
"birds and bats and other endangered species are protected, no wind blades/solar mirrors to slaughter them."

And how many fish are puree'd by hydroelectric turbines?

We've never had a problem killing wildlife to feed our energy needs. Why the SUDDEN concern?

WillieWard
not rated yet Jan 30, 2016
And how many fish are puree'd by hydroelectric turbines?

We've never had a problem killing wildlife to feed our energy needs. Why the SUDDEN concern?
the problem is two sets of standards of bogus-environmentalists that are promoting destruction of natural landscapes and birds' massacres in large scale by wind/solar/tidal/hydro, while nuclear power is proven much more ecologically friendly per gigawatt generated.

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