This paper is a review of reports of lived experiences of residents in rural/small-town Ontario, Canada and a comparison to the concerns raised during citizen-sponsored appeals of industrial-scale wind power project approvals. We found that the concerns leading to the decisions to appeal power projects have been borne out in real-life experience, as government documents record thousands of complaints about adverse effects on the environment and human health. These findings support the need for enforcement of regulations on wind power operations, and the need to acknowledge that community concerns about large power projects are genuine.
The goal of this review was to determine whether the citizen concerns about industrial-scale wind turbine development raised at appeals of the project approvals were borne out in any way by lived experiences after the power generation facilities began operation.
As noted, the grounds for appeals were limited and the evidentiary burden for Appellants in the appeals was substantial. Few appeals in Ontario were successful. Although witnesses currently living within wind power facilities presented evidence under oath in the appeals as to their real-life experiences, and the Tribunal accepted their testimony as “sincere,” their testimony nevertheless did not carry much weight. As explained by lawyer Albert Engel:
In Bovaird, and several subsequent decisions, the Tribunal commented as follows on why the evidence of post-turbine witnesses was unreliable:
The Tribunal does not question the sincerity of the post-turbine witnesses in giving their evidence. They acknowledge that the identification of their adverse health effects is through their own self-diagnosis. They also acknowledge that they have reached personal conclusions regarding the issue of causation. Several of them assert that they have had to do so, because they maintain that medical professionals either have no knowledge regarding the effects of wind turbines, or are skeptical or dismissive of the possibility that wind turbines can negatively affect human health. Nevertheless, none of the post-turbine witnesses adduced any medical opinion from their health practitioners which confirms that they have experienced symptoms caused by wind turbines. The Tribunal does not question that the post-turbine witnesses have experienced the symptoms they have described .
However, our review of government documents post-appeal and after commencement of facility operations indicates that there are significant complaints related to the operation of wind turbines, specifically about environmental impact in the form of noise pollution and possible disturbance of groundwater and water wells.
There is also new evidence that some Ontario property owners have been so disturbed by living within the power facilities that they contemplated leaving or did leave their homes permanently .