The Ministry of the Environment inspects, investigates and enforces to ensure businesses and individuals in Ontario comply with environmental legislation.
Provincial officers, as well as staff in our regional and district offices, routinely work with industry members to help them understand and comply with their legal requirements.
The ministry is committed to enforcing compliance with environment legislation.
If you believe that a renewable energy facility is not satisfying its legal requirements, you can report this to the ministry by calling the Spills Action Centre at (1-800-268-6060).
Responding to wind turbine noise complaints
The ministry assesses all complaints about wind turbine noise using a consistent protocol. A wind-turbine specific measurement methodology allows us to determine whether noise under various meteorological conditions is exceeding our limits.
Environmental officers collect information from the complainant about the nature of the noise, timing and its impact, for example, is it disturbing sleep. Officers also visit the site of the wind facility to collect additional information such as:
Based on the information collected, environmental officers may take noise measurements. Environmental officers are trained to use hand-held noise meters approved by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to monitor wind turbine noise, determine sound levels where people live, and assess background sound levels.
These measurements, along with observations, provide useful information about the problem at the complainant location and help in understanding what the general sound levels are at these locations. Also, the complainant could be asked to monitor the noise by triggering a 10 minute recording of the noise at times when the noise is considered to be a disturbance. When a minimum of three recordings are available, the ministry asks the wind farm operator to provide information about observed weather conditions, wind speeds, and power output of the nearest turbine for the periods recorded.
Ensuring sound compliance
Once the data has been obtained, ministry staff will evaluate the findings and determine if there is a reasonable indication that the ministry limit is being exceeded. If so, the ministry may require that long term measurements be performed following the ministry’s detailed measurement procedure to determine the sound level produced by the wind turbines at different wind speeds. If not, the ministry will address the complaint in an appropriate manner.
The ministry has and uses a progressive suite of enforcement tools to ensure wind farms operate in compliance with approval conditions. We use both voluntary and mandatory abatement measures to address non-compliance. The manner in which the complaint is addressed may vary from site to site and can include continued noise monitoring, a noise reduction plan and shutting down turbines.
The ministry also regularly inspects projects to ensure compliance. If these proactive inspections trigger the need for additional noise monitoring, the ministry will use the tools in the new protocol to ensure noise limits are adhered to by wind farms.