Ottawa’s Energy Evolution plan trashes city Healthy Environments policy
Industrializing rural areas and causing division among neighbours doesn’t make for a healthy, happy place [Photo Dorothea Larsen]
July 22, 2021
The City of Ottawa’s public health department has spent time putting together ideas for a healthy “built environment” which broadly includes where people live, work, and go to school, as well as areas in which “food systems” operate. The City has laid out characteristics that are important to a “healthy” built environment:
- Promote being active, eating healthy and other healthy habits;
- Encourage social connectedness;
- Prevent injuries and promote safety;
- Improve air, water and soil quality;
- Provide access to natural and green spaces;
- Ensure all members of the community have good opportunities to be healthy regardless of their age, income level, gender, ethnic background, or any other social or economic reasons.
However, there is a glitch.
The City’s Energy Evolution document, which calls for 20 megawatts of wind turbines (five or six 60-storey towers that are power generators) by 2025, 200 megawatts sometime thereafter, and a massive 3,200 megawatts (more than 700 industrial wind turbines) by 2050.
In a presentation on June 22nd, City planning staff confirmed that these renewable energy projects would be “directed” to Ottawa’s rural communities. Of course: these structures are so huge and problematic, it is impossible to locate them in the urban area, so rural citizens will get them.
Here’s the problem:
Wind turbine siting depends mostly on finding willing landowners (Eastern Ontario is a poor wind resource, so siting is not dependent on where there is more wind) which means the landowners who choose to allow them on their land are sacrificing their neighbours’ quiet enjoyment of their property—that doe not aid “social connectedness.”
There are safety concerns due to turbine blade failures, ice throw and fires; plus, the noise emissions are linked to stress or distress and can indirectly result in adverse health effects.
Next, turbines do not improve the quality of the air, water and soil: in North Kent Ontario, wind turbine construction and operation has been linked to water well failures. This is currently under a formal public health investigation. And, noise is a form of pollution.
Green spaces? Forget it: wind turbines are an industrial use of the land.
Last, wind turbines do not ensure health and equality; there will be dramatic stress as a result of the urban-rural divide, as quite rural communities will suddenly have huge industrial power generators forced on them.
So, out of six points needed for a healthy environment, the City’s plan to “direct” wind turbines to the rural communities (“That energy has to come from somewhere,” planning manager Alain Miguelez said in the June 22 presentation) violates five of them.
This plan should not even start without a cost-benefit analysis, impact analysis, public consultation and the finalization of protective zoning bylaws to regulate noise and setbacks between wind turbines and houses.