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.

Fears for aviation safety at wind farm near Woodstock Ontario

Woodstock Sentinel, June 30, 2015

Concerns raised over flight paths around proposed turbine site during second day of wind farm appeal

By Bruce Chessell, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

A map outlining the proposed turbines (marked by T*) in relation to the flight paths of Curries Aerodrome in Norwich. (Submitted)

A map outlining the proposed turbines (marked by T*) in relation to the flight paths of Curries Aerodrome in Norwich. (Submitted)

Five witnesses for the East Oxford Community Alliance (EOCA) took the stand during the second day of the Environmental Review Tribunal regarding the proposed Gunn’s Hill wind farm, bringing forward further concerns regarding health and the airways above the proposed turbine site.

The first three witnesses to take the stand on Tuesday all brought forward the same concern regarding Prowind’s proposed wind farm: How the turbines will affect the Curries Aerodrome and the planes that fly out of there.

Keith McKay, a pilot for 32 years and member of the EOCA, said he was concerned with flight safety around wind turbines.

“We are very concerned about the safety of ourselves… but also for commercial flights going overhead,” McKay said. “We don’t know if all the mitigating options that (Prowind) are proposing will work, we don’t know the time span. So any commercial flights flying over, we are concerned about their safety as well as ours.”

McKay added that Prowind is in negotiations with NAV Canada to put in mitigation standard to solve the problem, but he isn’t convinced this will work in an appropriate time.

“Prowind has decided that if this goes ahead, they will put up the turbines,” he said. “We are opposed to that for safety reasons.”

Michelle Poulin-McKay appeared with McKay on the stand, and said the safety concerns they have on a local level are due to unsafe distances between turbines, as indicated from a flight study.

“(As for) our concerns on a bigger scale, NAV Canada has said that there can be interference with radar in London and Hamilton international airports from the turbines,” Poulin-McKay said. “So mitigation measures are being put into place to mitigate that interference, but as those mitigation measures are being put into place and being tested, what risk does that put to the public until there’s assurance that all mitigation measures are in place and that they’re all working.”

George Rand, who owns and operated Curries Aerodrome, was next to appear on the stand. Rand brought forward more concerns regarding the airspace above his aerodrome, mostly in regards to fertilizing and seeding his crops from the sky.

“I was talking to my crop duster, and he doesn’t spray amongst (the turbines) at all,” Rand said.

Another concern Rand raised was in regards to turning left in aircraft with turbines. If the turbines were constructed, turning left would be near impossible in most areas above the Curries Aerodrome, forcing pilots to turn right, which is not regular procedure..

“The general rule is take off, turn left and come around,” Rand said. “That’s the worldwide standard. And sure you can turn the other way, but a stranger coming in isn’t going to know that.”

The fourth witness to take the stand was John Eacott, a member of the EOCA who lives near where the proposed turbines will go on a private property that he has converted into a nature reserve.

Eacott raised a number of concerns regarding the health of animals surrounding the area, as well as the lack of research and standards on the part of the ministry.

“I thought I would take a look at what the impact is of all of this,” he said. “What’s the impact of 7,000 turbines on wildlife. When the ministry says you can take up to 10 bats, or up to 14 birds without having to report anything… How many bats, how many birds can you start knocking down and say, ‘Ok now that they’re not going to come back?’ That’s serious and that’s irreversible.

“I think to accept the material that I had to plow through and say where does this apply,” Eacott added, “and then after they got their approval, they then came up with a clarification document, which came after the approval. It was a hodge-podge of material that was approved. Some of which was not even relevant anymore and not even taken out.”

The final witness called to the stand by the EOCA was Karen Wesseling who lives on a dairy farm with her husband in the proposed site.

Wesseling brought forward many concerns regarding her family as well as her cattle herd, noting specific issues that her vet told her about cattle that already live near wind farms in Middlesex and Huron counties.

“The problems ranged from an increase in somatic cell counts, which then leads to a disease called mastitis. Which is an udder disease and has to be treated with penicillin. Because we live in Canada, that milk cannot be sold to the milk board, so it’s wasted milk,” Wesseling said. “The cow, once she has mastitis, is prone to have it again, so it affects her quality of life because she is wrought with disease for the rest of her life.”

Other effects Wesseling sighted were an increase in abortions among cows, a harder time giving birth and infertility.

“Because their behaviour is more erratic with the introduction of the turbines, farmers are unable to identify if a cow is in heat or acting erratically due to the turbine,” she said.

Wesseling also brought forward concerns regarding her family, as one of the proposed turbines would be 86 metres from her farm.

Some of these concerns include falling debris, ice throw from the turbine and negative health affects that would force them to move. Wesseling says if she is forced to move it would be crippling to her family.

“(My husband) has to stay on the dairy farm,” she said. “He will come home for meals and to sleep. There’s no down time. I chose to not work off the farm. I did have a career before I married him and I chose to give that up to have children and raise them with him. Otherwise we’d not see him, unless our hands are in the operation as well.

“So we can have a chance to spend time with him,” she added. “So his children can bond with him, so I can have a relationship with him.”

The tribunal will resume next Tuesday, July 7 at 9 a.m., where the EOCA will bring forward expert witness Bill Palmer. The Township of Norwich will make a presentation and the director for the Ministry of the Environment will bring forward its first expert witness Denton Miller.

bruce.chessell@sunmedia.ca