bill-palmerMr. Bill Palmer has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, is a Professional Engineer, and worked for Bruce Nuclear, a Canadian nuclear power generating station, as a shift supervisor and trainer. He took early retirement to oppose wind energy development, and has been attempting to introduce evidence at Canadian ERTs with little success.

In a 2011, the Ontario Erickson ERT discussed his  qualifications at length. In the end, the Tribunal said it did not matter if he were rendered expert status as his evidence was unconvincing and irrelevant compared to that of the acknowledged experts in his areas of concern:

It is quite clear that, even if the Tribunal were to accord Mr. Palmer’s evidence full status as expert evidence, there is no question that the Tribunal heard much more detailed and convincing evidence on the issues raised by Mr. Palmer from the other relevant witnesses… 

In sum, even if the Tribunal were to treat Mr. Palmer’s evidence as expert evidence, the best that can be said of it is that Mr. Palmer provided evidence of some “risks” of harm that fall well below the statutory test applicable to this proceeding.

In October of 2013, Palmer attempted to serve as an expert witness again, this time at the Adelaide ERT in Ontario. This time he was limited in his testimony only to his areas of expertise, which ultimately eliminated most of his submitted evidence and testimony.

Palmer has often ignored the constraints. In this case, the Tribunal judgment stated:

…in his evidence, Mr. Palmer baldly states that shadow flicker will occur and states his opinion that it will distract drivers. However, Mr. Palmer was not qualified to give opinion evidence on the impact of shadow flicker.

Mr. Palmer does not provide any explanation, nor was he qualified to give opinion evidence, on how a driver might respond to such flicker, and, to the extent it caused distraction, whether the nature of the distraction could interfere with a driver’s ability to safely drive the vehicle.

In light of the deficiency in Mr. Palmer’s assessment and the un-contradicted opinion evidence of Mr. Dokouzian, the Tribunal finds that the Appellants have not established that shadow flicker will cause serious harm to drivers on Highway 402.

In summary, due to the numerous deficiencies in Mr. Palmer’s assessment, and limitations respecting the evidence adduced in response to Mr. Palmer’s evidence, the Tribunal finds that it has received insufficient evidence to make any definitive findings regarding the probability that blade throw, tower collapse, and damage resulting from a tower fire, would cause harm to human health. 

Despite being told at least twice that he is not an expert and that his evidence failed every test of relevance applied to it, Palmer attempted to gain expert status on multiple subjects at the ERT in Ontario regarding the Arnow wind project.

Mr. Palmer gave evidence as a participant. He asked to be qualified to give opinion evidence as a professional engineer with expertise on acoustics and several matters related to public safety. Following submissions from the parties, the Tribunal qualified Mr. Palmer as a professional engineer with expertise in public safety risks due to turbine failure and some experience in the acoustics of wind turbines. The Tribunal directed Mr. Palmer to confine his testimony to public safety and acoustical assessment and to not speak to topics outside his area of qualification, such as health effects or shadow flicker along highways.

His evidence created conflicts, with actual experts pointing out numerous faults in the topics he was allowed to present to the Tribunal:

It was his [Mr. Dokouzian] position that Mr. Palmer selectively referred to a few statements in that study and used them out of context, while ignoring the overall conclusion of the study, that is, that the wakes of adjacent turbines did not increase the level of noise from a wind farm.

Mr. Dokouzian repeated the approach he used to calculate maximum sound power levels and took issue with Mr. Palmer’s approach. He criticized him for “cherry-picking” the highest sound power level at each octave band, adding them and adjusting them to reach a figure that is higher than the maximum possible sound power level. He stated that such an approach is not indicated in any standard or guideline and is not justified with wind turbines. He explained that the specifications Mr. Palmer found for the Siemens models that were used in a wind farm in Nova Scotia were specifications from the 2009 models of those turbines, whereas for the Project, he used the specifications from the 2013 models, which indicate evolution in the certainty of their measurements, and somewhat lower sound levels as a result.

Mr. Coulson commented on the noise measurements undertaken by Mr. Palmer that were reported in the papers he has presented at conferences. Mr. Coulson identified a concern with the instrumentation used by Mr. Palmer as being not of high quality for acoustical measurements and having a large degree of noise associated with the equipment that Mr. Palmer did not account for. He also expressed concern about Mr. Palmer’s lack of familiarity with the noise measurement standards and with some of the aspects of the locations he chose for carrying out his measurements.

Mr. Palmer was questioned about the papers he has prepared and presented at  conferences. These papers were largely based on noise measurements he carried out at existing wind farms in Ontario. He asserted that his measurements were conducted in accordance with international standards, but was unable to identify the particular standard to which they conform and was unable to state the confidence limits with his data, although he suggested it might be around +/- 1.5 dB.

Mr. Palmer identified his concern that the Project was within the minimum setback from 500 kV power lines established by Hydro One so that a turbine failure could lead to a failure in the electrical system corridor. When questioned, he admitted that he had never seen a Hydro One standard or technical guideline and did not know whether his concern was the basis for a setback between turbines and power lines.

Palmer has been accused of cherry-picking and using discredited data, using inaccurate instruments inappropriately, being unfamiliar with regulations, and not accepting the variance in amplitude modulation. Yet, he continues to attempt to testify against wind turbines. The Approval Holder noted:

Regarding the evidence of Mr. Palmer on the risk to public safety due to turbine collapse, blade failure, fire and ice throw, the Approval Holder submits that his evidence is unreliable, unscientific, provides no meaningful analysis of risk and is misleading.

Posted by Energy and Policy Institute