Peter Large, on behalf of APAI, wrote a letter to the Ontario Fire Marshall going over the events of November 3. The circumstances surrounding that fire were fairly conducive to bringing it under control with little damage (immediately noticed and reported, small initial start, light winds, leftover moisture from Sandy). But still it took 19 hours and involved several departments from the mainland, and ended up burning 200 acres.
What bothers Peter, and many of us, is that Algonquin surrounds our homes with an industrial complex and then has no requirements to supply any fire protection at all, instead relying on a volunteer department that has one pumper and one tanker. What other industry is allowed, even encouraged, to put the neighbors at this level of risk?
APAI, Letter to Fire Marshall, November 23, 2012
APAI’s attorney, Eric Gillespie, has written another letter to Algonquin. This one mentions the fire hazard the turbines present to the island residents. Turbine fires are not that uncommon. I hear of maybe 10 in a year, and I’m not even paying particular attention. The fire department on Amherst is strictly volunteer and has limited equipment (see comment below, I’ll let you decide how adequate their equipment is for an industrial environment). They can’t carry very much water, and there is no water available in significant quantities on most of the interior of the island. Add to that the necessity of bringing any additional resources over via the ferry and you’ve got a recipe for a major disaster.
Eric Gillespie Letter to Algonquin, May 31, 2012
John Harrison is a retired physics professor who knows a lot about forces and vectors. He did some calculations about how far the 113-metre-diameter wind turbines planned for Amherst Island would routinely throw ice. He followed them up with some examples of real-world measurements that supported his calculations. The answer? 300 metres. The ice sheets thrown that far could well be lethal – like 1kg traveling from 100 to 200 km/h! Unfortunately there are many instances where the setbacks to neighboring properties or right-of-ways are far less than 300m.
Harrison’s paper is necessarily dense with numbers, so it is not an easy read for the general audience. But his conclusions can be understood by all, and they are a reason for concern.
Harrison, Report on Potential Ice Throw
In October 2011 SAVEAI and APAI jointly wrote a letter to the Amherst Island Mutual Insurance Company (AIMIC), posing 12 questions regarding homeowners insurance. The 12 questions covered construction, operation and claim adjusting. Overall, the most important question was whether AIMIC would insure the turbines, either from a casualty or a liability perspective.
SAVEAI/APAI Letter to AIMIC
Of the 12 questions, AIMIC responded pretty well to most of them – or at least as well as they could at this point. The most important part of the response was that AIMIC wasn’t insuring the turbines and had no interest in doing so, and wished to remain concentrated on their servicing the homeowners on the Island. What was left unanswered is the case where a turbine causes a problem (like excessive noise or ice throw) and the AIMIC-insured homeowner gets added to a lawsuit against the project developer. To my knowledge AIMIC has not sent a clarifying letter to the project participants (and likely doesn’t even know who they are). The developer, according to the contracts I have seen, is supposed to keep a $2M liability policy in place to protect the participant. One wonders what happens if the $2M isn’t enough or the policy lapses. Also left unsaid is what might happen to existing rates if losses start to mount.
At the end of AIMIC’s response is the statement that the Insurance Industry is still studying the types of questions that were posed in the letter. I’ll bet they are. Overlaying a residential area with an industrial use creates all sorts of potential issues, issues that ought to have been settled before it ever got to this point. My prediction is that these issues will end up being settled in court after an incident, making this area of the law a lucrative one for the lawyers.