Bow Lake wind project. Who needs it? Do we know the risk?

By Carol Martin, SooToday.com

Kevin O’Donovan, a principal in DP Energy, was in the hot seat. But he was cool about it.

DP Energy wants to develop the Bow Lake project, a 60-megawatt wind energy development for the Goulais Bay area.  “We’ve gotten some very good and supportive comments,” O’Donovan said.

There were 170 to 180 people at an open house earlier this month in Goulais, and the 350 or so people at a similar event in Sault Ste. Marie.  O’Donovan said he believed a lot of the people who attended had issues with the project but much of that was because of incorrect information they had received.

He said the open houses were a good opportunity to correct that information.

The two open houses were part of the renewable energy approvals process for DP Energy’s 20-megawatt first phase of the two-phase proposed project to be located in the area around Bow Lake.

“Have you done a survey of area tourist camp operators to see what possible effects this development could have on the local tourism industry?” asked Al Errington, past president of the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association.

“Well, I would assume we have but I would have to go and check that out,” said O’Donovan.

“No, you haven’t,” Errington countered. “I would know. If anyone would know, it would be me.”

“And you are?” asked O’Donovan as he extended his hand.

Errington introduced himself as a remote tourist lodge operator (Errington’s Wilderness Island Resort) located about half-way between the north shore of Lake Superior and the James Bay coast.

The Erringtons offer a wilderness experience free of any industrialization and people travel from all over the world to partake of it.

For him, it comes down to the question” What can we get from this wind farm?”

“Nothing,” Errington responded to his own question. “Northern Ontario is already an exporter of power.”

What’s worse is, if the project goes forward, tax dollars from the people of Northern Ontario are going to subsidize a project Errington says many of us don’t want and no one needs.

He said the project could potentially cost tourism jobs and won’t create many long-term jobs.

All it would do is put plenty of money in the pockets of DP Energy owners.

“Our development would not impact your access to the lodge in any way,” said O’Donovan. “We won’t be closing any existing access roads.”

The view of the wind towers from the highway, the rail line and the lake would be minimal in most areas, he said, and much of the proposed development will be on Crown lands and DP Energy will be leasing those lands.

A series of photographic mock-ups of the actual area landscapes with the proposed towers superimposed on them was on display at the open house.

In some, particularly the inland view at Montreal River hill, a few towers were clearly visible.

But in most of the images, the towers were small and barely visible.

When asked whether DP Energy considered the cumulative impact of its Bow Lake project when combined with the Prince Township project, O’Donovan said the Prince development is too far away to be considered as part of the cumulative effect from the Bow Lake project.

“When the next company comes in, if one does, then you’ll probably want to talk to them about the cumulative effect of their project when combined with ours,” he said. “As far as we’re concerned there were and still are very compelling reasons to want to locate our project here.”

O’Donovan said access to existing high-voltage power lines, the relative low density of residences and cottages, access to existing roads from past logging operations and the presence of good, consistent winds were the primary factors in the decision to locate its project at Bow Lake.

“We have walked away from possible projects in the past,” he said. “Some had too many people around them, others not enough wind, or too many sensitive environmental factors.”

But in this case, he feels the company has demonstrated a high level of willingness to assess and mitigate environmental issues.

He also didn’t believe the Bow Lake project would have a significant negative impact on the tourism industry.

“We have them in Ireland and plenty of people still come,” he said.

Meanwhile in the next room, Bob Moore, a resident of Batchawana Bay and a former high school teacher, was telling people what he found out about the studies MK Ince and Associates Limited did for DP Energy.

Moore’s area of specialty since retiring from teaching is birds and bird habitats, so he limited his comments to the avian impact assessment part of the report.

Both from personal observation and from study, he’s noted that a lot of songbirds and waterfowl migrate at night.

Moore said the MK Ince study didn’t do any auditory night surveys for migratory birds and the owl studies they did wouldn’t have picked them up so it didn’t find any.

He hears them at night sometimes and worries that those birds will die on the blades of wind towers if the Bow Lake development goes ahead.

The species he’s most concerned about is the peregrine falcon.

Three of them were counted in the MK Ince study and that represents four percent of the total Ontario population, which is seriously endangered.

If those birds were lost it would mean a significant negative impact on the peregrine falcon’s genetic diversity and ability to survive the other challenges it faces in Ontario.

Moore has spent a lot of time finding out all he can about the birds he shares his home territory with and is well known in the area for his expertise.

Ontario’s renewable energy approvals process recommends that companies poll local people for anecdotal information on flora and fauna species and habits.

But MK Ince and DP Energy never came to him.

“They never came and asked me what I’ve seen,” he said. “That’s supposed to be part of the study. They’re supposed to survey residents for their knowledge of the area.”

Maybe they asked other people but Moore said he hasn’t found any of them.

DP Energy’s website says MK Ince used a document titled Wind Turbine and Birds: A Guidance Document for Environmental Assessment (July 2006) to establish the methods and parameters of its studies and assessment documents.

The MK Ince avian impact assessment is based on findings from a review of historical information sources and on field surveys conducted in 2007 and 2008.

It provides a risk assessment for birds occupying the project area.

The study fully followed the guidelines laid out by the 2006 document, which was current at the time of the study said Thomas Bernacki, MK Ince project manager for the first Bow Lake Renewable Energy Approvals document.

Bernacki said there were several species of bird (including peregrine falcons, bald eagles and other raptors) and a colony of bats discovered in the area proposed for development.

As a result MK Ince made several mitigation recommendations to DP Energy and the company incorporated those into its designs – sometimes even exceeding minimum standards to assure the least possible harm to the environment.

But Moore felt the study was essentially flawed because researchers didn’t spend enough time in the field or move around enough to accurately survey bird populations.

Moore worries that the surveys are too flawed to yield accurate and reliable data.

The study needs to have impartial, third-party peer review before it should be accepted by the Ontario government, Moore said.

It’s entirely possible the study has underestimated the environmental and social significance of the site, he said.

While his comments are limited to the bird study, he says, there there are more than 20 other studies on the DP Energy site as well.

If the bird study methods are significantly flawed, how reliable can the other studies be?

Together, these studies form DP Energy’s submission to the Ontario government for renewable energy approvals.

The government may comment on it and send it back for more work, approve it or reject it.

If DP Energy is granted a renewable energy approval on the first phase of its Bow Lake project, it will then qualify for Ontario government feed-in tariff funding and be able to go ahead with that phase of the project.

As for the approximately 25-square-kilometre Bow Lake project, O’Donovan said, DP Energy has been in the area investigating the site, conducting surveys and doing impact assessments since late 2006 or early 2007.

The full results of those surveys and assessments, including possible impacts on bird, bat, moose, fish, plant and other native flora and fauna can be viewed at the DP Energy website for Bow Lake.

The total number of wind towers that will be put up on the land around Bow Lake will likely be around 36 but it is hard to pin down right now, said O’Donovan.

DP Energy has not yet decided whether it will use 1, 2, 2.5 or 3 MW capacity generators or how many of each it will use.

In the first phase of the project DP Energy plans to erect up to 12 turbines, said O’Donovan.

The next DP Energy open house, dealing with the second phase of the project, will be held on Thursday, April 28 at Algoma’s Water Tower Inn in Sault Ste. Marie from 5 to 8 p.m.

12 thoughts on “Bow Lake wind project. Who needs it? Do we know the risk?

  1. A lot of the tourisim in Ireland is from people searching their ancestral roots. Genealogy is a BIG business in Ireland. Supports a lot of hotels and pubs from people looking through old cemeteries for long gone ancestors and church records

    These people don’t go to Ireland view the scenery and enjoy the wilderness

    Some are seeking long lost cousins and to re-connect with them.

    Dublin is where many of the genealogy records are kept so big business there.

  2. Sure we need the project….

    It will help to de-develop Canada — just like this…

    http://www.juandemariana.org/pdf/090327-employment-public-aid-renewable.pdf

    This study is important for several reasons. First is that the Spanish experience is considered a leading example to be followed by many policy advocates and politicians. This study marks the very first time a critical analysis of the actual performance and impact has been made. Most important, it demonstrates that the Spanish/EU-style “green jobs” agenda now being promoted in the U.S. in fact destroys jobs, detailing this in terms of jobs destroyed per job created and the net destruction per installed MW.

    The study’s results demonstrate how such “green jobs” policy clearly hinders Spain’s way out of the current economic crisis, even while U.S. politicians insist that rushing into such a scheme will ease their own emergence from the turmoil.

    Public investment in renewable energy has job creation as one of its explicit goals, which, given the current economic crisis, suggests an intention of seeding a future recovery with “green job” subsidies. The problem with this plan is that the resources used to create “green jobs” must be obtained from elsewhere in the economy. Therefore, this type of policy tends to create not just a crowding-out effect but also a net destruction of capital insofar as the investment necessary must be subsidized to a great extent and this is carried out by absorbing or destroying capital from the rest of the economy.

    The money spent by the government cannot, once committed to “green jobs”, be consumed or invested by private parties and therefore the jobs that would depend on such consumption and investment will disappear or not be created.
    Investment in green jobs will only prove convenient if the expense by the public sector is more efficient at generating wealth than the private sector. This would only be possible if public investment were able to be self-financing without having to resort to subsidies, i.e., without needing to absorb wealth generated by the rest of the economy in order to support a production that cannot be justified through the incurred incomes and costs. We have calculated that the total public subsidy in Spain, both spent and committed, totals 28,671 million Euros (€28.7 billion or appx. $37 billion USD), and sustains 50,200 jobs.

    No expense must be spared in destroying the economy — especially where other nations benefit…

    It is not just the USA and Spain and Europe that are engaged in self destructive practices — we take a back seat to nobody nor no country.

  3. There are different kinds of tourist businesses depending on what is offered to attract people.

    Another example is the Genealogy Library at Fort Wayne, Indiana which is second largest in the U.S. Invividuals, groups and tour buses go there from all over the U.S. Quite a thriving business for Fort Wayne. Supports hotels,motels and restuarants.

    So the fellow who is promoting IWTs at Bow Lake is misleading the people.

  4. In Northern Ontario, tourist operators know what people come to see which are not industrial wind turbines. Wilderness remoteness not kept with industrial wind developments new roads, bright lights and mechanical noises. As for what is being called bird studies or bat studies: What do they mean? For the province it is just another box to tick off in the process. Bird studies: Done. Bat studies: Done. What does it matter when there are threatened species such as the peregrine falcon? If our government can ignore the health people why would they care about wildlife impacts? A wind company could do a couple of days in the winter for migratory work and the province would say “Not the greatest, but “Done”. Nobody knows for sure how and if surveys get done or if they report the truth. Very similar to open houses and press releases. Hear and report no evils as there are no consequences to lying in their rush to support industrial wind.

  5. Exactly, Barbara,

    Every tourist area in Ontario has a specific attraction that makes them unique. It goes without saying that people are drawn to the Lake Superior coast to enjoy one of the most scenic drives in the province … not to see the industrialization of the surrounding forests.

    All those coffee table books with photos of Ontario’s most scenic locations that I’ve collected over the years … I wouldn’t be able to look at them again knowing that Industrial Wind Turbines have forever ruined the landscapes. I certainly won’t be returning to these areas for a vacation and I believe many others will feel the same way.

  6. As taken from Ice Cap http://icecap.us/
    “The John Muir Trust, which describes itself as the ‘leading wild land conservation charity in the UK’ has therefore done a valuable service by commissioning a report on the topic from Stuart Young, called (accurately but somewhat prosaically) Analysis of UK Wind Power Generation; November 2008 to December 2010. Using publicly-available information, this analyses the data to give a rather less positive assessment than we get from organisations such as Renewable UK (until recently the British Wind Energy Association, but now also covering wave and tidal power) or the Renewable Energy Association.
    Some people will see this report and its conclusions as an attack on wind power. I prefer to see it as a recognition of the reality and an aid to rational decision making. If the objective is to reduce the carbon intensity of electricity generation, it makes no sense to wilfully ignore the negative aspects of particular technologies. To do so would be to saddle the country with a power grid which is not fit for purpose.
    Even enthusiasts for renewables should take proper note of these issues. Professor David MacKay, Cambridge academic and currently Chief Scientific Adviser at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change is both a committed environmentalist and an excellent and rational scientist. For those who want to look at the broader issues of energy generation and use in more detail, the first point of call should be his extremely useful (and free in pdf form) book Sustainable energy – without the hot air. Rather than make the sort of unwarranted assumptions some are prone to do, he estimates capacities and outputs from first principles. Both he and Stuart Young have made invaluable contributions to the debate and we can only hope that they are the voices”
    Wreck wilderness, homes and divert tax money to support an industry that provides no power gains, just a feel good for a few and money to a few others who don’t care.

  7. With confirmed studies that show subsidized Renewable Generation actually destroys an economy and it’s Industry I will play the “Devil’s Advocate” here and ask the very simple question:

    “If indeed these world wide reports are true then why in heaven’s name would a person who has been placed in a position of trust and has the power to make grand decisions for the future of their country choose to force an energy policy on it’s people that will eventually lead that country to ruin?”

    I’m afraid the answers sound like “conspiracy theories”!

  8. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, I think in Ontario it’s Liberal party member’s greed. Look at how many former Liberal MP’s and MPP’s that Barbara has found that are involved with the industry.There are so many they all should declare a conflict of interest. John Manley is one that blew me away, I was so disappointed.
    Barbara, have you found any former Conservative MPP’s and MP’s in your searches?

  9. BD.

    No Conseratives so far but one that turned from Liberal to Conserative to run for office.

  10. “If indeed these world wide reports are true then why in heaven’s name would a person who has been placed in a position of trust and has the power to make grand decisions for the future of their country choose to force an energy policy on it’s people that will eventually lead that country to ruin?”

    Personal gain in the future

  11. BOW LAKE People:

    See: “New Report:Energy Policy and Economic Recovery 2010-1015” published by The Irish Academy of Engineering, Feb.28,11.

    You coud ask Mr.Kevin O’Donovan if he has read this report? This report was prepared in Ireland.

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