Mad Rush to Wind Energy Puts Ecosystem at Risk

Two Red Kites were found agonising at the foot of wind turbines in Navarre, Spain, Feb 14th, 2010.

By Chris Vander Doelen,

The people pushing industrial wind farms won’t be too happy once this gets out, but one of their machines killed a bald eagle in Ontario last summer.

The official cause of death: “Blunt force trauma,” according to Scott Petrie, a PhD waterfowl biologist who says he was “privy to the results” of the autopsy. “They’re trying to keep it hush-hush,” he says of government biologists.

Petrie says the bird was killed in the Erie Shores Wind Farm, a installation of 66 land-based turbines south of Tillsonburg, 10 kilometres from where he works as staff biologist with the non-profit education group, Long Point Waterfowl.

The wind farm, completed in 2006, is owned by the Macquarie Power and Infrastructure Income Fund and is one of Ontario’s largest, so far.

Petrie, 43, who is also an adjunct professor at the University of Western Ontario, doesn’t believe the death of one endangered bird means turbines should be banned — even though he calls the loss of the eagle “very significant. If I was an eagle biologist I’d be screaming from the rooftops.”

But he does think the casualty should convince the province and its swarm of eager wind farm developers to slow down their mad rush to remake the electrical grid.

He’d like some research done before thousands of wind towers form a barrier of whirling blades across the south end of the province.

Without some some sober second thought about wind farms, Petrie warns, Ontario might be committing the province’s ecosystem to cascading and unpredictable long term changes.

“I don’t want to sound like an alarmist … they won’t cause extinctions,” he says of wind farms. “But I think this is biggest threat to waterfowl in Ontario. And everybody’s in such a rush to put them up,” Petrie groused in an interview this week.

“Nobody is talking about the cumulative effects of these things. Nobody is talking about siting them properly. There are some places they should never be built — such as Lake St. Clair.”

Wind farms would be very destructive to the huge populations of waterfowl which feed and live offshore on that lake, Petrie says.

The big worry for Ontario’s valuable bird populations is “displacement of waterfowl from their key foraging and staging areas.”

North America’s migrating waterfowl have been flying the same routes for up to 13,000 years, back to when there was just one enormous lake of glacial meltwater feeding the St. Lawrence River: Lake Iroquois.

A few dozen turbines wouldn’t make much of a difference to the ancient feeding areas and flight paths. But with 1,500 turbines now proposed for Lake Erie on the Canadian side alone – and those are just the ones planned in the water — that could be more than enough machinery to frighten migratory birds out of their habits.

That’s what happened in Denmark after that country installed 25,000 turbines, Petrie says: A “barrier effect” caused by the forest of steel towers.

Even if the blades don’t kill many birds, wind farms spook the skittish species into moving away. What happens then to Ontario’s multibillion-dollar tourism and hunting industries?

People travel from around the world to see migratory phenomena such as the recent arrival of tens of thousands of huge tundra swans on the shore of Lake Erie along Highway 3. A thrilling sight, if you haven’t caught it yet.

As a scientist, Petrie doesn’t believe wind farms are a solution to any of our energy problems anyway. “And as a taxpayer I’m totally opposed to wind turbines because they’re subsidized. Without subsidies there would be no wind turbines.

“You know we will never shut down a single fossil fuel plant due to wind turbines. Never.” Denmark hasn’t shut any of its fossil-fuel generators despite almost carpeting the country with wind turbines — and doubling the cost of their electricity.

The trick will be convincing the McGuinty government to budge from any of its stubborn beliefs about climate change, and its hell-bent-for-leather plans to convert the province to wind and solar power.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, MPP for Windsor-Tecumseh, tried to soothe local opposition to wind farms last week by saying “nothing’s been approved yet … but we need to get to 20 per cent on our renewables.”

Why 20 per cent? Global warming — another theory Petrie, like many of us, thinks is more political than scientific.

Sadly, it’s going to take a lot more than one dead bird to change the Liberals’ strangely fixed environmental views. They’ve made a crackpot theory a provincial religion, while plugging their ears to the real worries.

16 thoughts on “Mad Rush to Wind Energy Puts Ecosystem at Risk

  1. Mr. Petrie is right about the MNR trying to keep this quiet. I called both the Ontario MNR and the Aylmer offices. Just get voice mail. Will not return my calls.

  2. When the turbines at Harrow start up what’s going to happen to the eagles that’s we see flying overhead? We never got a satisfactory answer from AIM. Everybody needs to be on the lookout for these birds.

  3. 1 eagle dead from 1 wind farm (and maybe more). Now multiply that by the huge increase in wind farms expected in SW Ontario in the next couple years, smack in the middle of migration routes. ‘Careless birds’ the MNR says? I don’t think so. Cheers to Scott for saying it like it is!!

  4. The Endangered Species Act trumps all By Laws and Provincial guidelines and should be applied here.
    Unless Harper has de-regulated it.

    These Wind Companies and Provincial Politicians have to start abiding by the Law of the Land now!

  5. Actually, the Canadian Wildlife Services recently wanted the law changed so that any “incidental” bird kills from industry are considered legal. I’m sure this was done on the request of CanWEA.

    The web page about this seems to have disappeared. Remember how the wind industry works now…if a law goes against them, they just have it changed. It’s worked for them so far.

  6. The biggest threat to migrating wildlife that use the air is displacement from traditional routes and staging areas. The gory kills get all the press but the CUMULATIVE IMPACT of the aerial gauntlet that the birds, bats and other migrants must negotiate across the entire continent is being ignored.

    For further details, please read “Location, Location, Location….Migration, Migration, Migration” in the Wildlife Section of this site.

  7. One of the main reasons the government is supporting these machines is because they will supposedly contribute to helping stop climate change by replacing fossil fuel generated electricity. In reality, the turbines will have no impact whatsoever on climate. I wonder if there isn’t some way I can help by pointing this out to the public? The government won’t listen at all unless enough citizens understand that this, one of the main reasons for wind turbines, is generally baseless.


    Tom Harris
    Executive Director
    International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)
    P.O. Box 23013
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K2A 4E2


  8. Tom, except for MR. Thumbs Down, most people that read this site know turbines are not the be all to end all. The problem is our gov’t is controlled by the wind industry,they are liberals with fundraising abilities

  9. The problem is the McGuinty government has staked their entire platform on it. They won’t admit they made a mistake.

    We must expose their negligence, lack of due diligence, the criminal waste of taxpayer money and disregard for health and safety.


    Spanish Solar-Panel Trade Group Calls for Fraud Investigation

    Preliminary evidence shows some solar stations may have run diesel-burning generators and sold the output as solar power, which earns several times more than electricity from fossil fuels, El Mundo said, citing unidentified people from the energy industry. The power grid received 4,500 megawatt-hours of power from midnight to 7 a.m. in the months audited, El Mundo said.
    (end snip)

    IMO, this whole green energy con is a massive Enron in the making.

  11. Governments routinely fund NGO’s (like Suzuki Fdn, WWF, Sierra, OSEA, Env. Defense, Community Power Fund, Pembina etc.) knowing that these groups will then lobby, in return, to institute policy initiatives which may otherwise be too unpopular to achieve. If you want a large pot of cash – offer to lobby the Government to do something they already want to do. (they will always take help with the polls!!)

    The NGO’s become advertising agents for the Government, then they all get together in a big Kumbaya circle and form groups like the Green Energy Alliance.

    This group then takes tax dollars – gifts from the Trillium Fund and other convenient government piggy banks and uses them to create slick promotional campaigns, to purchase goodwill and favours at various political levels, to pay-off landowners and business interests and to pad their own self-serving “non-profit” bankrolls in support of an otherwise indefensible Government policy.

    “We had to do it to save the world!!!”

    It is the way they govern in the 21st Century – create artificial public pressure and then give in to it – unfortunately, too many voters are a little too busy to notice the special interest groups are the squeaky wheels, getting the grease.

    Remember when the Trillium Fund used to help build local hockey arenas???

    Every Ontario lottery ticket helps build an Industrial Wind Turbine!

  12. Tom Harris: The message that industrial turbines are a waste of effort, from as many sources as possible, will assist in getting politicians to realize they cannot lie to us anymore.

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