Engineer testifies to safety, noise issues at Armow Wind hearing
By Liz Dadson
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Bill Palmer says neither Samsung Pattern (approval holder of the Armow Wind development), nor the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has addressed properly-identified concerns about the Armow Wind project, which is why he has brought these concerns before the Environmental Review Tribunal.
Speaking at the hearing Thursday morning in Kincardine, Palmer, a professional engineer, was first advised as to what he could speak to when giving testimony at the hearing, chaired by Maureen Carter-Whitney.
Palmer argued that he should be entitled to discuss concerns about shadow flicker from wind turbines because it can distract drivers, and the OPP has stated that distracted driving kills.
Danielle Meuleman, counsel for the MOE director, objected to that because there is no context for that in the hearing.
Carter-Whitney agreed to strike everything about shadow flicker from Palmer's testimony, and sections of his statements about health effects.
"The tribunal asks that your oral testimony to reflect that," she said, "and please hit the highlights."
Palmer discussed Kincardine's history with failures in the wind turbine industry, beginning with the first Huron Wind turbine built beside the Bruce Power Visitors' Centre.
He said it was a near-miss collapse, but fortunately a similar turbine in Germany collapsed and the one in Kincardine was fixed.
Palmer spoke of ice-throw incidents from turbines, as well as turbine blade failures, and turbine fires.
When he presented these properly-identified concerns to the staff at Armow Wind, the response was an acknowledgement of the concern, but nothing was addressed, said Palmer.
He then took his concerns to the MOE but the Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) process failed to address these concerns.
"A public comment process that allows the project proponent to acknowledge but not respond to concerns, is inadequate," said Palmer, "and when the MOE fails to address identified concerns, then a grave injustice has been committed."
He said the tribunal is an opportunity to finally have these concerns addressed.
Palmer outlined, in detail, the public safety concerns, such as ice throw, blade failure, turbine collapse, and turbine fires.
He said each of these incidents has happened in Kincardine, with the exception of a fire which occurred in a turbine south of Kincardine.
Palmer also outlined incidents throughout the world where Siemens 2300 turbines have failed. The Armow Wind project will have the same turbines.
As a professional engineer, Palmer said he knows what's involved in risk assessment.
"I signed off on the restart of a nuclear reactor," he said. "One-in-500 is not a negligible risk. It's more like one-in-10-million. Yet, a one-in-500 failure rate is acceptable for the wind industry, without taking any mitigation measures."
He said if the provincial government continues to put people at this type of risk, the result will be serious public injury or death. "You can't refuse to put protective barriers in place and expect nothing to happen."
As to noise, he described turbulence and ground attenuation as things that weren't even considered in the noise modelling for the Armow Wind project.
"In conclusion, the Municipality of Kincardine has experience with wind turbine failures," said Palmer. "There is a need to increase the setbacks between the turbines and people's homes. The MOE and Samsung Pattern have failed to respond to professionally-identified issues. And the noise assessments are flawed.
In cross-examination, Alexandria Pike, counsel for the approval holder, Samsung Pattern Armow Wind Ontario GP, asked Palmer if he could offer any design recommendations to avoid turbine failures.
"I could do so if you would like me to do so," said Palmer.
Pike continued on, questioning Palmer about the data in his reports, and Palmer gave her the sources of his data.
She asked Palmer if his concerns about the Armow Wind project are based on his obligations as a professional engineer or based on his personal interest in the Enbridge Ontario Wind Farm project.
"You have made wind turbines your personal mission, not a professional obligation," she said.
"That's not correct," said Palmer. "I am obliged under the Professional Engineers Act of Ontario to notify the responsible authorities about any risks to public safety."
"Have you called the MTO (Ministry of Transportation Ontario) about the winter driving risk over the past few days?" asked Pike.
"If they were not being properly identified," replied Palmer. "This (wind turbines) is an issue I have spent the last eight years studying."
"Your personal interest drives you," said Pike.
"If I have information that is not known by the responsible authorities, I am obliged to bring it to their attention, and to the tribunal," said Palmer.
"Your faith is also a significant part of this obligation," said Pike.
"My faith is part of who I am," said Palmer.
Also giving testimony Thursday, were Heather Pollard of the MOE's Owen Sound office, and Rick James, an acoustician.
Bill MacKenzie, a post-turbine witness, gave testimony Tuesday, regarding his experience with the Enbridge project.
The hearing was cancelled Wednesday due to the weather.
It continues Friday morning, Jan. 10, at 9 a.m.
The appeal was launched Oct. 23 by Ken and Sharon Kroeplin, against the proposed Armow Wind Class 4 wind facility, a 92-turbine, 180-megawatt industrial wind development in Kincardine. It was approved by the director of the MOE through the REA process, Oct. 9.
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Thursday, January 09, 2014