Posted By Paul Schliesmann Today’s Farmer
An American bird specialist says no one should be surprised by the numbers of bats and birds being killed by wind turbines on Wolfe Island.
“Environment Canada ranked the site as their highest level of concern for raptors. It’s an internationally recognized site for waterfowl,” said Bill Evans, an ornithologist with Old Bird Inc. in Ithaca, N.Y.
“This was probably not a good place to build and that was said before it was even started.”
Evans was invited by Wolfe Island Residents for the Environment to sit in on a meeting with various government officials as well as representatives from TransAlta, the company that runs the 86-turbine wind farm.
TransAlta environmental services manager Scott Hossie said all parties agreed Tuesday that six more months of testing will give everyone a better idea of what’s happening to birds and bats around the facility.
“The results we’re seeing (are) within the range we’re seeing elsewhere,” said Hossie. “The consensus is we’re looking forward to gathering another six months of statistics.”
TransAlta hired a consulting firm from Guelph to run the study for three years.
Several weeks ago, a six-month report was released showing mortality rates of nearly seven birds per turbine and 14.7 bats per turbine. The same report, by the conservation group Nature Canada, said studies at other wind farms have turned up kill rates of one to two birds per turbine annually.
A total of 100 bird carcasses were found beneath the turbines from July 1 to Dec. 31 of 2009. The total number of bird deaths was estimated to be 602.
The actual number of bat carcasses collected was 180, which was adjusted to 1,270.
Evans said he went into the June 15 meeting with some new information from a radio tracking study about Indiana bats, an endangered species in the U.S., that may be using Wolfe Island for a “maternity colony.”
If that’s the case, Wolfe Island could be important for the bats’ survival. But Evans said he was told by the testing company that only bat carcasses that are in good shape get sent away for testing.
Hossie said the Indiana bat has no official status in Canada because it isn’t a native species and evidence of one tracking is not conclusive.
“It does not appear that Wolfe Island plays any role,” he said.
Hossie said the wind farm “is fitting in with the ecology of the island” and that the field monitors are finding no evidence of habitat disturbance because of the turbines.
But Evans said the next six months could provide more bad news for birds and bats.
“It’s suggested it’s going to be the highest mortality rate in North America per turbine. The first six months suggest this is going to be on the higher end,” he said.
The Maple Ridge wind farm project in New York, where Evans has also done research, is the only project registering a higher kill rate at nine birds per turbine.
Evans said the data gathered on Wolfe Island should be used by provincial and federal government agencies in Canada to prevent similar situations.
“Everything’s just going full steam ahead,” he said. “You have an area like Wolfe Island and other shoreline areas that are unique habitats. It’s like the wind companies are building in these sensitive areas first. There doesn’t seem to be a plan. It’s learn as you go.”
On his way back to Ithaca, Evans was stopping in Cape Vincent, N.Y., to present the information from the Wolfe Island meeting to a group of people concerned about wind farm proposals in their area.
“There’s a tendency to sweep these things under the rug,” he said. “I’m all for wind power and green energy. The siting is a big issue. What is missing here is co-ordination between the Canadian and U.S. governments on siting of wind turbine projects.”