Green Energy Versus Greenheads

By Jeff Helsdon
Ontario Out of Doors, February, 2011 Issue

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) added its voice to the growing outcry against Ontario’s Green Energy Act (GEA). The national conservation organization raised concerns over wind turbines being built without consideration for migratory birds, noting that some are planned near important waterfowl staging habitat.

DUC called for a moratorium on these and other green-energy projects adjacent to continentally significant staging habitat until impacts are better known.

“The science is pretty clear for the species of waterfowl we have in Ontario” said Own Steel, DUC’s Manager of Conservation. “It isn’t direct mortality; it’s the indirect impacts wind turbines pose for waterfowl.”

Turbines, he says could result in habitat fragmentation, reduced foraging, and increased disease and predation, due to concentrating waterfowl at higher densities in foraging areas.

The GEA changed the approval process and removed much of the local input that was formerly part of it, says Steele, adding more transparency is needed regarding the construction of wind turbines and he would like to see more scientific monitoring associated with approvals.

Dr. Scott Petrie, Executive Director of Long Point Waterfowl, has been involved in the debate since a development was planned near a foraging area next to Long Point in 2005. While a compromise benefitting waterfowl was arrived at in that instance, Petrie is more concerned now because of the GEA.

“I applaud DUC and other wildlife and conservation organizations for making position statements regarding these issues,” he said.

Petrie says both onshore and possible planned offshore turbines can also be detrimental to butterflies, bats, raptors, species at risk, and fisheries. Comments through the Environmental Bill of Rights on a new set of guidelines for birds and wind turbines just closed as this issue went to press. The proposals, if adopted, would set a new threshold regarding acceptable bird kills and identify potential negative effects from wind turbines on bird habitat.

The 131-yard proposed setback is not great enough and the mortality guideline is higher than in most other North American jurisdictions, says Petrie. He adds wind turbine developers need to hire independent consultants.

7 thoughts on “Green Energy Versus Greenheads

  1. “…acceptable bird kills…”

    What kind of a species comes up with a phrase like this?

  2. One of the egregious oversights of the REA is that in some cases, the employees of companies conducting the so called ‘environmental assessments’ are also investors in the wind farm project. This practice exemplifies the proverbial ‘fox tending the chicken coop’.

    Additionally, the proponent is not required to reveal its post construction findings to the public with regard to the impact on flora and fauna through habitat destruction caused by access roads and turbine bases and the bird, bat and insect kill numbers caused by the turbine blades.

    The existent MNR setback guidelines of 120 m from wetlands, significant wildlife habitats etc. never anticipated the industrialization of the rural landscape in such a short period of time by the placement of 1000s of industrial wind turbines. It is hoped the MNR will get its act together and read the recent EBR submissions on Birds and Natural Heritage.

    It has been proven time and time again, that habitat fragmentation leads to extinction.

  3. What is most troubling is how did the wind companies and the government arrive at the number of ‘acceptable bird kills’.

    Sounds like they erected a few wind farms then counted how many dead birds they could find within a time frame. This number set the standard. Frightening.

    Many common bird species are declining at alarming rates according to the Audubon Society. Hawkwatch, the organization that monitors Ontario raptor migration numbers, have recorded declines in raptors in the thousands over the past 5 years. Industrial wind turbines have been called raptomatics.

  4. As far as I know there have been no compromises with regard to waterfowl.

    From a recent article:

    The “Long Point Waterfowl,” research and advocacy group cited numerous identified concerns over the impact of wind turbines which construction is driven forward by Ontario’s “Green Energy and Green Economy” Act, without much scientific background data and foresight, ie.

    * Insufficient guidelines for the placement of wind turbines (in the Act);

    * Insufficient pre-construction monitoring of migratory bird activity at proposed wind turbine sites;

    * Inadequate use of historic (waterfowl) data;

    * Inadequate use of existing literature on migratory birds, especially European material;

    * Inadequate use of local expert knowledge during the planning process.

    Most so-called “studies” are based on casual observations over insufficient time periods, ignoring seasons and weather conditions.

    Among other things, Dr. Petrie advocates:

    * Because many bird and bat species are travelling during night time, radar studies should be undertaken near or on migration corridors of birds and bats;

    * Wind turbines should not be placed within one kilometre of coastal wetlands;

    * Off-shore wind turbines should be at least 5 km from shore;

    * Wind turbines should not be erected in open areas which separate the birds’ feeding areas from where they roost.

    The wind turbine sites proposed along the Mount St. Patrick escarpment between Dacre and Whitney are chiefly located on private properties. Consequently little, if anything, is known about migratory bird and bat activity (at nights) at these proposed sites.

    Therefore, it would stand to reason that before plunging into a monstrously-subsidized wind turbine construction frenzy, all factors which deserve attention be monitored for at least three years ahead of construction. Radar-based monitoring during night times seems to make sense.

  5. At least in the States the Audubon Society has caved in to the wind developers in exchange fro financial support. So don’t count on them for unbiased information.

    Wind turbines are supposed to be a means of making planet earth more sustainable so it dosen’t matter how many birds,bats and insects have to be killed to accomplish this end.

    Perhaps now we can also include humans as well.

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