Wind power: Working with Farmers to create a new green-energy economy

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is extremely disappointed that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) last week called for a suspension of wind energy development at a time when thousands of farmers across the province are actively participating in, and seeking to participate in, wind energy developments. In fact, many of the issues that the OFA has identified as areas of concern are already being reviewed and examined through the Ontario Government’s Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) Review process.

2011 was a record year for wind energy development in Ontario with the installation of 522 MW across the province. Farmers have always looked for new ways to use their land and resources productively, and wind energy provides a new economic opportunity to landowners in the form of stable revenue from land lease agreements. According to a report from ClearSky Advisors, The Economic Impacts of the Wind Energy Sector in Ontario 2011-2018, a typical lease agreement can provide a farmer with up to $20,000 per year per turbine. If Ontario fully implements the government’s Long-Term Energy Plan, it is expected that over $313 million will be paid to landowners in lease payments from the wind energy sector in Ontario from 2011 to 2018 alone.

The OFA statement blames wind energy for impacting consumer rates in Ontario, ignoring the fact that the addition of any new generation (all more expensive than existing generation) and badly needed investments in electricity infrastructure guarantee significantly increased rates for consumers going forward. A Pembina Institute report, Behind the Switch: Pricing Ontario Electricity Options, finds that Ontario consumers would see virtually no relief from high electricity prices if the province cancelled its support for renewable energy under the Green Energy Act.

‘Stray voltage’ is a complex and often poorly understood electrical issue but is not one that is directly related to wind energy. In fact, stray voltage occurs due to the general nature, design and age of the electricity distribution system, both on and off homes and farms, and occurs everywhere from downtown Vancouver to Ontario milk parlours. If a resident or business in Ontario suspects a stray voltage issue they should contact Hydro One, which has both the expertise and capacity to investigate the issue, and identify the cause.

With respect to wind integration, although some challenges exist with managing a variable energy source such as wind, utilities all around the world continue to recognize the value wind energy can play within a larger interconnected electrical transmission system. In Ontario, the sustainable and economic integration of wind energy is being addressed by organizations such as the IESO, OPA and Ministry of Energy, who continue to review and consider options such as: new and reinforced transmission, energy forecasting, modernized energy markets and the future role of energy storage.

The wind energy industry has a long history of working with the agricultural community and sees farmers as a key partner in wind energy development. CanWEA continues to work with leaders within the OFA and other agricultural associations to inform our best practices in stakeholder engagement and to ensure the industry continues to be a good partner as thousands of Ontario farmers participate in Ontario’s clean energy economy through FIT and microFIT programs.

Wind energy is broadly recognized as a preferred method of electricity generation from a human health perspective. The scientific and medical evidence to date clearly concludes that sound from wind turbines does not adversely impact human health and this was reaffirmed again last week by an expert panel report to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health ( The current 550m setback for wind turbines in Ontario is among the most stringent guidelines in place in North America. We will continue to encourage an open dialogue and provide fact-based information to ensure Ontarians have the information they need to make informed choices as Ontario moves towards a cleaner, stronger and affordable energy system.

By Robert Hornung,