PCs demand Ontario Liberals conduct safety audits on all industrial wind turbines
'There could be debris flying at a significant speed for a significant distance,' PC MPP says
Ontario's Progressive Conservatives want the provincial government to conduct safety audits of all industrial wind turbines across the province amid incidents in which debris has fallen from some of them.
Lisa Thompson, the environment critic for the Progressive Conservatives, said residents in the Municipality of Bluewater have reported that parts have been falling.
Thompson said the implications for public safety are obvious.
"As you can well imagine, with the speed of those blades, there could be debris flying at a significant speed for a significant distance," Thompson told CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive in a telephone interview.
Thompson said the province must ensure "due diligence has been done and safety has not been neglected."
The MPP for Huron-Bruce said she has seen a photo of one of the parts that have fallen. Thompson said she has also heard of a report of a similar incident in the Chatham-Kent area.
Thompson declined to share the photo with CBC. She said it was sent to her in confidence.
Thompson said the piece that fell is more than a metre long.
NextEra Energy Canada told CBC News in an email the part in question is "a non-moving plastic device on a wind turbine blade designed to help the blades capture more wind. Generally, they are plastic, about a ¼ inch thick."
The company said the turbines affected by this problem were manufactured by General Electric and "we are aggressively working to develop a long-term solution."
It also said has inspected each one of its General Electric-made turbines across Ontario "to ensure safe operations."
Any turbines that were affected were shut down and repaired, the company said.
The company did not provide a specific number of the turbines that have had repairs made.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change told CBC News that it was aware of 20 pieces that had fallen off wind turbines.
It said the pieces that have fallen have ended up next to the base of the turbines.
As Minister Glen Murray had said Tuesday, the ministry will not be conducting safety audits of the turbines. However it is following up with the company.
'A glaring gap'
Thompson raised the issue in the legislature this week. She wants to know what the provincial standards are for the safety of these turbines and what kind of audits are conducted on them.
She said the provincial environment minister has signalled his intention to work on this issue with her party, but Thompson said the public safety issue must be addressed.
"I think we have identified a glaring gap and safety should always come first and clearly we have seen a vulnerable spot in this particular turbine," Thompson said.
Murray has said it is premature to suggest that a problem exists with wind turbines.
Murray said Tuesday that the province would look into the complaints about the turbines that have been brought forward.
But the minister dismissed Thompson's call for a safety audit of industrial wind turbines.
"There are sometimes issues with every form of energy and we always send out inspectors," he said. "We've had issues before where people have attributed things to wind turbines that were in fact not to be the case."
With files from The Canadian Press and the CBC's Joel Ashak