Development done badly: conservationist on Alberta bird deaths

Global News July 3, 2015

CALGARY – John Campbell has worked with falcons, eagles and hawks in the wild for decades, all over Western Canada.

He has monitored nests near Pincher Creek since the 1970s, and banded thousands of baby raptors, long before the area became the birthplace of wind power in Canada.

Campbell has been finding more and more empty nests in the area.

“Currently there are 10 sites that could be occupied; only five are producing young right now,” Campbell said.

In Alberta, several species of raptors are considered sensitive, or at risk.

The birds aren’t dying from turbine strikes, Campbell said.

They are abandoning high-quality nests because of the pressure of turbine development.

Wind turbines mess up the birds’ lives, much in the same way drivers would be stressed if a busy freeway suddenly closed.

The raptors move to lower quality sites, where fewer chicks survive.

Watch [here]: John Campbell has single-handedly banded thousands of falcons, hawks and eagles across Alberta. Global’s Mia Sosiak and photographer Bruce Aalhus recently tagged along for a peek at his work on July 2.

The wind energy industry said it’s working hard to prevent that.

“There’s extensive upfront work — two years of monitoring where raptor nests are,” said Tim Weis, director of policy for the Canadian Wind Energy Association. “The wind farms are planned around those areas.”

Companies must allow for large setbacks from nests in order to receive regulatory approval for wind farms.

If there is an impact on a nest site that no one expected, Alberta Environment has the power to force companies to make changes after the fact.

But Campbell says the problem is compounded by other nearby developments.

A communications tower built during breeding season and new housing above a nest site have also driven birds away from the area.

“It’s just development done badly,” he said.

Campbell insists he is not anti-development, and some nest sites in the area remain successful, where neighbouring wind farms were properly planned.

“What also horrifies me is they’re going to double the number of developments,” he said.

There are 292 turbines now in the M.D. of Pincher Creek, with 180 more approved and on the way.

The raptor expert, who received the province’s highest conservation award this year, is now asking hard questions of Alberta Environment.

He wants to know who is looking at the cumulative effect of wind power generation on raptors in the Pincher Creek area, and who should be. Perhaps the most difficult question is, “How much is too much?”

It’s something Alberta Environment and Parks can’t answer at this time.

“It’s something we’re working with industry to look at,” said Brandy Downey, senior species-at-risk biologist with the provincial government.

“Right now there is no research to say what is too much and what is too little; that decision hasn’t been made,” Downey added.

There are also no studies underway to understand the cumulative effect of turbines on birds of prey, just monitoring of individual projects on a one-off basis.

“I think it’s short-sighted and I’m hoping that the (new NDP) government will have a look at that,” Campbell said.

He hopes it’s possible to strike the right balance between wind energy development and the birds that also call the area home.

© Shaw Media, 2015

Time for the TRUTH on wind turbine health effects

Scientific knowledge of wind turbine noise emissions is advancing rapidly. [Photo: Bloomberg]
Scientific knowledge of wind turbine noise emissions is advancing rapidly. [Photo: Bloomberg]
July 3, 2015

Wind Concerns Ontario has prepared a brochure on the question of health impacts from the noise and sound emissions from utility-scale or large-scale wind turbines used to generate power.

Scientific knowledge of the emissions from these turbines is advancing rapidly, the coalition of community groups and individuals says; it is now time for the wind industry to stop using outdated studies like the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s 2010 report to deny the adverse health impacts  that occur as a result of exposure to wind turbines.

“The Health Canada study is being used in Open Houses for wind farm proposals throughout Ontario right now as developers try to assure communities there are no health impacts from their power developments,” says Jane Wilson, president, Wind Concerns Ontario. “The truth is, the Health Canada study did report a significant response relationship between wind turbine noise and high annoyance–annoyance meaning stress or distress, which is an adverse effect in itself.”

These and other studies mean that the Ontario setback of 550 metres is not adequate to protect health, and neither is the regulated noise level of 40 dBA.

“It’s time to act to protect health in Ontario,” Wilson said.

The Wind Concerns Ontario brochure is WCO-BrochureFINAL.


Electricity policy in Ontario: meets the definition of insanity

Einstein's definition of insanity: Ontario's electricity policy fits
Einstein’s definition of insanity: Ontario’s electricity policy fits


Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

Unfortunately in Ontario, our present and past Energy ministers keep doing the same thing over and over, with results that are particularly painful for residential and small commercial enterprises.  We have now seen the May 2015 results posted by the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) and can say without hesitation, it’s the same thing — again.

Ontario exported 1,984,992 megawatts (MW) in May 2015 which represented 18.8% of total Ontario Demand. That brings electricity exports in the first five months of the current year to 10.63 terawatts1. or enough to power the cities of Mississauga, Oakville and Sudbury for all of 2013.

The 2 terawatts exported in May generated $15.4 million each in the wholesale market, generating revenue of $30.8 million, but the cost to produce those same 2 terawatts was $265.4 million meaning Ontario lost $234.6 million.

The losses of $234 million in May brings the total losses in the first five months of the current year to $862 million (an average loss per month of $172.4 million). By the end of June 2015, losses will be in excess of $1 billion dollars, or about what it cost ratepayers to move those two gas plants from Mississauga and Oakville.

We are heading for total losses in 2015 of well over $2 billion. So why is our current Minister of Energy, Bob Chiarelli seeking another 500 MW of wind and solar generation? Unless he is out to disprove Einstein’s theory of insanity!

©Parker Gallant,

June 30, 2015

1.  One terawatt is equal to 1 million megawatts which is equal to 1 billion kilowatts.

Ontario Teachers Pension Plan expands stake in wind power developer

North American Windpower, June 26, 2015

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan has acquired all of the outstanding shares of BluEarth Renewables.
The pension plan, through its Teachers’ Private Capital group, has been a lead investor in BluEarth since the developer was established in 2010. Terms of the transaction are not being disclosed. Closing is expected by the end of July.
Calgary-based BluEarth is a private independent renewable power producer focused on the acquisition, development, construction and operation of wind, hydro and solar projects. BluEarth’s portfolio currently includes interests in 18 projects across Canada totaling 174 MW, with a pipeline of earlier-stage development projects. BluEarth will continue to focus on growth through the acquisition and development of renewable energy projects in Canada and other markets globally.

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan – with $154.5 billion in net assets – is the largest single-profession pension plan in Canada. It has earned a 10.2% annualized rate of return since its founding in 1990.