July 11, 2011

Wind turbines, property values and the need for a moratorium

What follows is a letter to the Commissioners in Maine looking into the effects of industrial wind power generation projects in that state, written by U.S. real estate appraiser Michael McCann. Note the setbacks he is recommending—Ontario’s setback (which the government claims is among the most stringent in the world—not true) is 550 meters or a quarter-mile, roughly.

Kenneth Kimmell, Commissioner, DEP
John Auerbach, Commissioner, DPH
MassDEP Wind Turbine Docket
1 Winter Street 4th Floor Mailroom
Boston, MA 02108

Dear Commissioners,

I am responding to your inquiry into health effects from industrial wind turbines. Since there is a noticeable correlation between reported health impacts and significant impacts on real estate values, as well as the real estate rights issue of peaceful use and enjoyment of one’s home, I believe the documented diminution of property values caused by improper turbine siting is an objective measure of this secondary impact.

I do not write as a medical expert; however, in 6 years of reviewing industry funded and independent reports, inspecting project locations, researching empirical prima facie sale price evidence and interviewing residents, I have found that there is a tremendous market aversion of the “market” to buying homes within visible and audible (or sub-audible) proximity to industrial scale turbines.

My value studies have included submissions to Massachusetts Towns of Wareham and Brewster, and have been written to address zoning compliance evaluation of proposed projects in those locales. (I am sure either Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals would be able to provide a copy of my submitted report or presentation, but if interested in reviewing these documents, feel free to contact me directly for a copy.)

I would note for your consideration that wind project developers in Massachusetts typically seek to obtain setback permissions that have proven to be unhealthy and so disturbing to some existing residents near other wind energy projects worldwide, that dozens of people have abandoned their family homes rather than continue to try to cope with an untenable level of impact. Impacts from noise, shadow flicker and the unhealthy physical and/or physiological reactions to same.

Industry prefers to couch their applications for approval with their self defined limits of how many hours of shadow flicker are acceptable, or with “modeled” rather than measured noise studies. They also prefer to discuss setbacks in terms of feet and meters, when projects broadcast their impacts on a scale measured in miles and kilometers. I have personally seen more official scrutiny of public officials hearing zoning requests for fast-food drive through lanes or lighted parking lots than what is often rubber stamped approval of wind applications, with no serious consideration of the multitude of actual impacts from wind turbines.

It is my belief that peaceful use and enjoyment of a residential property is simply a measure of the other side of the same coin; namely, health impacts. If both ways of describing people’s rights are to be adequately protected, then it is my recommendation that Massachusetts develop rules that require:

1. Setbacks be scaled to the size of turbines, i.e., 2+ miles for the 400-500 foot turbines typically proposed, reduced to perhaps ½ mile for turbines of 125 feet in height.

2. Mandatory shutdown of turbines during nightime sleeping hours.

3. Mandatory shutdown of turbines that generate noise complaints, until such time that actual noise levels can be MEASURED and demonstrated that background levels are not exceeded by independently determined health/acoustic study levels, including low frequency and infrasound levels.

4. Mandatory homeowner option to sell to developers at market value, if and when inadequate (i.e., 1,000 feet – 1,500 feet) setbacks are approved by any unit of government.

5. A moratorium on any further turbine construction within 2 miles of any residence, until such time that there are reliable studies addressing low frequency and infrasound impacts from turbines on human health. Claims made by industry put the burden of proof on homeowners, and it is the appropriate role of government to end this trend and rely on credible evidence to protect the public health, safety and welfare, and, indeed, their property values.

Any homeowners that lived at ground zero of Boston’s Big Dig project were certainly bought out for the greater public good. I suggest that enforcing this concept is an appropriate use of governmental authority with the claimed public good of wind energy projects, as well. Until then, the completely lopsided scale of turbine developments will surely continue to create health impacts, and people will be either trapped within, or flee (abandon or sell at huge discounts) their family homes.

Thank you for your attention to my response to your inquiry. I remain available to discuss the related real estate issues that correlate with health effects.


Michael S. McCann
McCann Appraisal, LLC
500 North Michigan Avenue, Suite # 300
Chicago, Illinois 60611

Real Estate Appraisal & Consulting
cell (312) 961-1601

April 29, 2011

Playing the electricity “blame game” in Ontario

As the opponents of the unreliable, inefficient and expensive industrial wind power generation business alert the public to the money being wasted by industrial wind power on the windy spring days when demand for power is low, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty employs his usual diffident style to deflect criticism, claiming he’d rather have surpluses than the “blackouts and brownouts” under the former Conservative government.

Fact is, there’s plenty of blame to go around, and Mr McGuinty must think people are swooning from seeing their latest electricity bills and can’t recall the promises he made in his last election campaign.

In their interesting book* Hydro: the decline and fall of Ontario’s electric empire, Jamie Smith and Keith Stewart recall the great blackout of 2003 and the efforts to examine the cause. The most obvious, of course, was deregulation in the U.S. which led to a destabilized grid (and an unscrupulous private power company in Ohio). But Ontario was at fault, too in some ways. The authors write:

Neither the ruling Conservatives nor the Liberals, who were ahead in the polls, wanted to talk about electricity during the campaign of 2003. For the Tories, it was a topic too painful to contemplate. Instead, the [Conservative] government used the time-honoured political dodge, appointing a task force to study the issue. The Electricity Conservation and Supply Task Force, packed with privatization boosters, was co-chaired by Peter Budd, the principal spokesperson for the private power producers in Ontario.

For the Liberals, raising the electricity issue might remind voters of their various policy reversals and embarrassments. They had voted with the government on the Electricity Competition Act and had at one time supported the sale of Hydro One. On the same day that leader Dalton McGuinty was proclaiming his opposition to privatization in a media scrum, the party sent out a fundraising letter to electricity companies saying that only the Liberals could be trusted to follow through on electricity privatization.

The Liberals did make a number of ambitious campaign pledges vis-a-vis the electricity system. Things would be better by the end of a Liberal government’s first term in 2007, they promised. They would shut down the province’s five coal-fired generating stations, reduce electricity consumption 5 per cent, and provide enough “green” power to meet five per cent of the province’s energy needs—all within four years. These clean-air commitments were driven personally by McGuinty, somewhat to the dismay of his advisors. He was knowledgeable about the issue and keen on doing something about climate change. The coal phase-out promised raised the environmental stakes while setting the Liberals apart from the Conservatives.

…Seemingly in keeping with McGuinty’s conversion to public power during the election campaign, the Liberal government would oversee no sale of Ontario Power Generation or Hydro One assets. The publicly owned plants would feed power onto the grid on a “power at cost” basis except that this time the cost would be determined by a stronger and more independent Ontario Energy Board rather than by the government or the utility. The idea was to remove politics from electricity-pricing. [Editor: THAT didn’t happen…]

The future rested in creating ” a climate that welcomes private investment.” New generators would be privately owned and would be able to charge whatever price came out of the interplay of market forces. [Editor: THAT didn’t happen…] To soften the blow, consumers would have the option of payng a fixed rate, set annually by the Ontario Energy Board, or playing the market. In any event, because 70 per cent of the power was being supplied by the public sector at a fixed rate, prices were expected to be less volatile than they were under a completely open market. The old hydro dams that cost about a penny a kilowatt-hour could offset the seven cents per kilowatt-hour being demanded by the private sector as a prerequisite for investment. [Editor: current contracted FiT rates for onshore wind are 13.5 cents per KwH, and for solar 80 cents, to be reduced to 58 cents sometime.]

In many ways, this approach was not that different from the Tory model…the Liberals were simply capping the price beforehand and blending the cheaper “heritage” power from Niagara Falls with the higher priced private power. This was no renewed public power system, but a recipe for slow motion privatization. Many publicly owned generating stations would be phased out by attrition, gradually replaced by private, for-profit stations as coal generators were closed and nuclear plants came to the end of their lives. If the Liberals did manage to shut coal down by the end of their mandate, private operators would be supplying over half of Ontario’s power within four years. … profits from building and operating new plants–whether nuclear or fossil—would be concentrated among a few corporations. [Editor: THAT is happening–natural gas and industrial wind power generators are profiting by the billion.]

In short, the McGuinty government uses power outages—something the average consumer can relate to—to scare voters and to deflect from its real agenda: creating a power boom for a select few corporate entities. But their history of “policy reversals” and “embarrassments” continues.

*The book is interesting for its interpretation of Ontario’s history but falls apart in the last chapter with its slavish devotion to “renewables” especially wind power. The reality of wind power is that it can never replace fossil-fuel power generation (in fact it REQUIRES fossil fuel). It has not in any jurisdiction on earth, and it never will.

April 20, 2011

Ontario’s Green Energy Act: Case for Repeal

It’s all here: the phoney economic forecasts, the effect on property values, the McGuinty government’s betrayal of democracy in this province. Take 14 minutes, and listen.

Ontario’s Green Energy Act: Case for Repeal.

April 19, 2011

Wind power: taking advantage of youthful good intentions

One of the most attractive television commercials being screened currently is for Chevrolet’s Cruze, which is billed as an “eco-friendly” car. They also have an electric car option (the Volt), but the commercial being seen most often is the regular gas-powered Cruze.

The visuals are of young people out and about, enjoying their life in their cars; at one point there is a scene of industrial wind turbines and then later, a shot of a gas pump. The message, we think, is: buy the eco-friendly gas-miserly Cruze, and you can enjoy life without guilt. Want a car? Get one! You won’t need to buy much gas and if you do, don’t worry because clean, green wind power is there for your other needs. Or, for power if you buy the electric Cruze and have to plug it in.

Young people, we believe, want to do the “right thing” but they are being led down a garden path by advertisers such as Chevrolet and worse, by organizations such as Bullfrog Power. Bullfrog provides signage for organizations like the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata, which boast that the power in the lobby is clean and green and provided by Bullfrog Power.

No, it isn’t.

It’s the same power we all use, coming off the same grid. Bullfrog however, is investing in some of the industrial wind turbine projects that are scarring the landscape in Ontario and ruining the health of dozens of people forced to live next to the power generation developments, but the company also buys hydro power from Quebec. Their newest initiative is to provide “green natural gas” which they “inject” into the natural gas transmission system to “displace” dirty fossil fuel gas.

It doesn’t matter what kind of gas you’re burning, whether gas from gas wells or “green natural gas” from biomass and garbage dumps, you’re still burning something. Note too that despite the Ontario government’s spurious claims that thousands of people are dying in this province every year due to pollution from coal-fired power generation plants, the truth is that most of Ontario’s air pollution is from CARS, and also from pollutants coming from industry south of the border.

OK, so you don’t drive a gas-powered car. But, then, if you’re plugging in your virtuous electric car, where is the electric power coming from?

Questions need to be asked. But in the meantime, young people and consumer everywhere, ought to look critically at the messaging.

Chevy Cruze Exterior Go ahead: drive, drive, drive…you’re not hurting anything.

March 8, 2011

Wolfe Island: not a turbine paradise

Recently, the corporate wind development lobby paid for an ad in Farmers’ Forum in which it was claimed by a restaurant owner on Wolfe Island, that life was great, profits were flowing, and tourists were flocking to Wolfe Island to see the turbines. The truth, of course, was that the restaurant mentioned is in fact closed and for sale, as is the hotel on the island, and two bed-and-breakfast establishments.

Nor, Farmers’ Forum has done a survey of Wolfe Island residents. We’re not entirely happy with the methodology and in fact the authors recognize and document their limitations, but the results are enough to show that Wolfe Island is no paradise of happiness with the 86 industrial wind turbines that now inhabit the island, near Kingston. Note especially the concerns about property values, and the 11 percent of people who say their health has been affected by the turbines.

It would have been better to survey people who spend ALL DAY and all night on the island, but…next time?

The story is here. Thank you, Farmers’ Forum.

February 24, 2011

Gone with the wind: message to Queen’s Park

February 21, 2011

A stormy week ahead

We’re predicting a stormy week for the opponents of poorly sited industrial wind turbine projects.

It appears that the “environmental” groups have been encouraged to speak out against the community groups that have been formed throughout Ontario, with the goal of labelling them minority activists, “NIMBYs” and–amazingly—“bullies.”

With all the environmental impact of industrial wind turbine projects, we’re amazed that organizations like Environmental Defence to name one (which is funded by taxpayer dollars and donations) supports the industrialization of Ontario, and that they clearly have not done thorough research.

That’s because they have bought the spurious argument that people–10,000 a year, the government claims (which is a rounding up of the equally false 9,500 statistic promoted by the Ontario Medical Association)–are dying from air pollution produced by Ontario’s coal-fired power generation plants.

Here are the facts:

-Ontario’s air quality is generally good

-the pollution we do have is from industry south of the border, and from cars and trucks

-closing Ontario’s coal plants completely will do nothing

-wind cannot ever replace traditional forms of power generation

-industrial-scale wind development is high impact on the environment for very little benefit

-industrial-scale wind turbines NEED fossil-fuel back-up to function, because the wind is intermittent and unreliable.

Air quality in Ontario today, February 21: GOOD.

Wind power production as of 9 a.m.: 916 MW

Ontario’s projected demand at 11 a.m. today: 17,829 MW; actual at 10 a.m.: 17,271 MW

Who is really speaking out for the environment?

January 17, 2011

Confessions of a Greenpeace founder

From today’s Vancouver Sun, an opinion from Patrick Moore, one of the founders of environmental group, Greenpeace.

Hair short now, and a little grey, he realizes a number of the beliefs his organization held, and evolved, are not correct. Here is what he believes today, some of which has relevance to Ontario’s incredible rush to wind energy development, to the detriment of Ontario’s rural communities.

I believe:

– We should be growing more trees and using more wood, not cutting fewer trees and using less wood as Greenpeace and its allies contend. Wood is the most important renewable material and energy resource.

– Those countries that have reserves of potential hydroelectric energy should build the dams required to deliver that energy. There is nothing wrong with creating more lakes in this world.

– Nuclear energy is essential for our future energy supply, especially if we wish to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. It has proven to be clean safe, reliable, and cost-effective.

– Geothermal heat pumps, which too few people know about, are far more important and cost-effective than either solar panels or wind mills as a source of renewable energy. They should be required in all new buildings unless there is a good reason to use some other technology for heating, cooling, and making hot water.

– The most effective way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is to encourage the development of technologies that require less or no fossil fuels to operate. Electric cars, heat pumps, nuclear and hydroelectric energy, and biofuels are the answer, not cumbersome regulatory systems that stifle economic activity.

– Genetic science, including genetic engineering, will improve nutrition and end malnutrition, improve crop yields, reduce the environmental impact of farming, and make people and the environment healthier.

– Many activist campaigns designed to make us fear useful chemicals are based on misinformation and unwarranted fear.

– Aquaculture, including salmon and shrimp farming, will be one of our most important future sources of healthy food. It will also take pressure off depleted wild fish stocks and will employ millions of people productively.

– There is no cause for alarm about climate change. The climate is always changing. Some of the proposed “solutions” would be far worse than any imaginable consequence of global warming, which will likely be mostly positive. Cooling is what we should fear.

– Poverty is the worst environmental problem. Wealth and urbanization will stabilize the human population. Agriculture should be mechanized throughout the developing world. Disease and malnutrition can be largely eliminated by the application of modern technology. Health care, sanitation, literacy and electrification should be provided to everyone.

– No whale or dolphin should be killed or captured anywhere, ever. This is one of my few religious beliefs. They are the only species on earth whose brains are larger than ours and it is impossible to kill or capture them humanely.

Dr. Patrick Moore is a co-founder and former leader of Greenpeace and chair and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. in Vancouver. His new book, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist, is available at

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Read more:

January 7, 2011

Ontario Liberals play connect-the-dots

On Global TV last evening, January 6, there was a promo for an upcoming news story about how people in the Greater Toronto Area or GTA are very upset about the daily traffic gridlock, and how much time they are spending in their (idling) cars, getting to and from work each day.

We will leave aside any discussion about the transit system, flexible work hours, living close to where one works etc., to make these observations:

-the Ontario Liberals’ voter base is in Toronto

-Toronto is concerned about traffic and air pollution (they are right to do so: Ontario’s air pollution is from cars and to a lesser degree, pollutants coming up from the U.S. due to industry and coal power plants there)

So, when the Liberals defend their egregious subsidies for wind and solar they chant “Coal is killing people” and “Closing the coal plants will be the equivalent of taking 7 million cars off the road.”

Except, it won’t. Economist and university professor Ross McKitrick has observed that: closing Ontario’s two biggest coal power plants won’t make the slightest difference in air quality; our air quality is already pretty good; and last but most important, the kind of pollutants produced by the coal plants and cars are DIFFERENT.

In other words, the only equal to taking seven million cars off the road IS taking seven million cars off the road.

But the Ontario government persists.

While we’re playing with numbers and ideas, here’s another one: rural communities represent about 20 percent of Ontario’s population. So, if only a certain percentage of those people are exposed to industrial wind turbines, and of those if only 15 percent are bothered or made ill, that’s an acceptable risk, politically, isn’t it? Especially when you have three million people in Toronto breathing car exhaust, and being told that closing the coal plants will help with that.

As for the rurals, just get rid of their ability to say or do anything. Thomas Pawlick wrote in The War in the Country, well before the Green Energy Act which removed planning powers for renewable energy projects from municipalities, that “The goal also appears to be to weaken or eliminate the very basis of democracy at its roots; that is to say, at the level of municipal government, where voters have traditionally had the greatest direct influence on and control over their communities.” (p.4) He goes on to quote Roger Epp, professor of political studies at the University of Alberta who says, to government, rural people are simply “in the way.”

Well, we keep gathering by the hundreds to protest the industrialization of our communities, especially when it is clear there is a duplicitous political agenda.


Public meeting in North Gower, Time for the truth about wind,  hosted by three area community groups: January 23rd at 2 p.m.

December 10, 2010

Jumping on the green bandwagon–bad idea

National Post columnist David Grainger has an extensive piece in today’s paper, dealing with notions of what’s “green” and what’s not. Electric cars he says, can’t replace internal combustion autos across the board and anyway, where does the electricity come from. Wind and solar he says, not such an environmentally friendly option. What is surpirsing though, is his statement that the U.S. plans to build lots more coal-fired power generation plants… if that’s true, because 90% of the precursors for what air pollution we do have in Ontario comes for the U.S., Ontario’s moves to get off “dirty coal” will all be for absolutely no result.

Here is the article:

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