Zero-Coal State Strategy and the ethical dilemma: wind power project in Canada

Mohammad Masoud Azimi

In Ontario, the Ripley Wind power project ran into ethical and social confrontation with local communities

Inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, the government of Canada set up its strategy for sustainable development in terms of clean energy as: “All Canadians have access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy”. The state of Ontario stood as a prominent example of this strategy’s projection by taking large paces to become the first state in North America to eliminate coal in electricity generation. Ontario strived to facilitate the investment in the field of clean energy mainly focused on wind energy to reach their target. The schedule to adapting universalized clean energy carries a charge of universal ethics, situating urban planners in a position to skip over or disregard a comprehensive analysis toward maintaining local ethics in their decisions.

The case of Ripley Wind Power Project, a 76-megawatt (MW) wind power project near Ripley, Ontario, is a distinct example of this ethical dilemma. The project includes 38 two-megawatt wind turbines and its installments, and the wind farm is located in Huron-Kinloss Township, in the northwest of Toronto.

Since the initiation of the Ripley project, communities living nearby the are experiencing severe health problem of wind turbine syndrome, which is due to the buzzing sound and vibration emit by the mega turbines.

The whole scenario is filmed in a documentary Down Wind  by a media organization. The featured documentary investigates Ontario’s wind energy industry and how some local communities were affected when the industrial wind turbines went up. Down Wind exposes how  green energy dream turned into a nightmare for rural residents forced to live among the towering 50 storey turbines.

The green energy act for the state of Ontario adapts a feed in tariff scheme to expedite investments in green energy as a policy to reach the SDG targets. In particular, targets 7.1 and 7.1a argue for access to clean energy and promoting investment in clean energy technology and infrastructure by 2030. The act is criticized by many local community activists, energy analyst, and economist, for not considering a comprehensive study, and collaborating with local community demands and rights. “They don’t run on wind they run on subsidies.” asserts Ross McKitrick, a local economist.

“The wind companies are side by side with the liberal government, the government does not listen to us” Esther Wightman, another local environment activist, claims in her interview with Surge Media.

Universal ethics in planning mainly originated in the context and knowledge of developed world, but collide with situated ethics in some dimensions when it comes to practice in these countries. This is due to the radical expansion of urbanization process, and thirst for growth that is feed from the neoliberalism ideologies reservoir. Planning practice in developed countries puts its ethics aside such that in some cases it results in hidden victims that are not able to raise a voice as loud as a continuous buzzing sound of a wind turbine irritating an old woman.

Further reading

Environment and Climate Change Canada, (2016). Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada, Gatinea QC: Environment and Climate Change Canada

Down Wind: A Sun News Documentary. (2015). [Documentary Film] Toronto: Surge Media. Available at: http://www.surgemedia.ca/documentaries  (accessed 2.19.17)

Energy Saving Trust, (2017). The Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) scheme. Available at: http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/renewable-energy/electricity/solar-panels/feed-tariffs (accessed 2.27.17)

Harvey, D., 2008. The right to the city. The City Reader, 6, pp.23-40.

Hulse, C. (2017). Acciona and Suncor Energy begin construction on Ontario wind power project. Canada News Wire. Available at URL http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/acciona-and-suncor-energy-begin-construction-on-ontario-wind-power-project-533357731.html  (accessed 2.22.17).

McConnell, C. (2013). People from all over rural Ontario showed up in Toronto to protest wind turbines. [Image] Available at: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/06/05/kathleen_wynnes_grudging_wind_turbine_reforms_unlikely_to_end_rural_anger_walkom.html (accessed 2.20.17)

United Nations, (2015). Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (A/RES/70/1), New York.

Watson, V., 2003. Conflicting rationalities: Implications for planning theory and ethics. Planning theory & practice4(4), pp.395-407.


Mohammad Masoud Azimi, has a bachelor degree in civil engineering from Kabul University. He is under DAAD scholarship pursuing master’s degree in urban management program at Technical University of Berlin.



This is the second of a series of articles from research students at the Technical University Berlin. SixDegrees welcomes articles from research students working on sustainable development issues.



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