Environment Canada wins right to have turbines stop during extreme weather

Environment Canada Exeter weather radar station. (JOHN MINER, The London Free Press)

(Photo: John Miner, Exeter radar station)

Radar operations affected by the turbines

London Free Press, September 27, 2015

Environment Canada can’t block wind farms from being built close enough to throw off its weather radar readings, but it’s won the right to order turbines curtailed during severe weather in Southwestern Ontario, documents obtained by The London Free Press show.

Under a 32-page agreement negotiated with NextEra Canada, Environment Canada can order the Florida-based wind energy giant to reduce wind farm operations in extreme weather that could jeopardize public safety.

Following a call from Environment Canada to its operation centre in Juno Beach, Fla., Next­Era has 20 minutes to “feather,” or adjust, turbine blades back in Ontario so they won’t contaminate radar readings, according to the agreement provided to The Free Press under the federal Access to Information Act.

The curtailment can last up to an hour, but can be extended by Environment Canada if dangerous weather conditions — Southwestern Ontario is located in a tornado alley and heavy snow belt — persist.

Ground Zero for industrial turbines in Ontario, with the biggest and largest number of wind farms in the province, Southwestern Ontario has been a hotbed of rural opposition to the highrise-sized installations, which took off after the Liberal government began signing sweetheart deals with energy companies — paying them far more for their electricity than consumers pay — under its Green Energy Act in 2009.

But while much of the opposition to wind farms has come from activists concerned about health, land values and control over where the towers can be built, which the province took away from municipalities, the contamination of weather radar readings by spinning turbine blades — known as “clutter” — is an international concern.

Scientists in United States and Europe have shown that a weather radar signal bounced off a spinning turbine blade can appear to be a rotating cloud or tornado.

The wind farm operations can also distort precipitation estimates.

“It is an issue worldwide,” said Anne-Marie Palfreeman, manager of Environment Canada’s national radar program.

While Southwestern Ontario depends on Environment Canada’s only radar station in the region, in Exeter, north of London, for severe weather alerts, the agency has no jurisdiction over where potentially distorting wind farms are built, Palfreeman said.

“All of the decision-making as far as where wind farms are, is provincial legislation,” she said.

Wind turbines located within five kilometres would be a major concern, since the towers themselves can block the radar signals, she said.

“What we do is ask them, ‘Please, do not build within five kilometres’,” Palfreeman said.

Wind farms built within 50 km show up on the weather radar and can distort what meteorologists see on their screens, she said.

The closest wind farm to the Exeter radar station is NextEra’s Goshen Wind Energy Centre. One of the Goshen turbines is about 14 km west of the weather radar.

When Ontario’s Energy Ministry green-lighted the Goshen project, it made the approval conditional on NextEra reaching an agreement with Environment Canada on measures to reduce the wind farm’s radar interference.

In addition to Goshen, a spokesperson for NextEra said the company has now reached agreements with Environment Canada covering its Bornish, Jericho and Bluewater wind farms, all north of London and within 50 km of the radar station.

“We can assure you that in case of a severe weather event, as determined by Environment Canada, we would abide by the terms in these agreements,” Joselen Bird of NextEra said.

Palfreeman said it’s the weather forecaster’s call if the wind farms need to be curtailed during a severe weather event such as a tornado.

“If they think they need the proponent to feather their blades for us to be able to properly see what is going on, they will ask for it,” she said.

While the Goshen wind farm started operation earlier this year, none of the severe weather events since has required Environment Canada to make the call to NextEra.

Palfreeman said Environment Canada is testing two software packages to see if the distortion caused by wind turbine blades can be reduced.

As part of the agreement between Environment Canada and NextEra, NextEra was required to provide Environment Canada with a performance bond.

The amount of the bond was removed from the copy of the agreement provided to The Free Press by Environment Canada, which cited sections of the Access to Information Act that allow it to withhold financial and commercial information provided by a third party, and contractual details that could interfere with negotiations.

Ontario Tough On Nature: OK to kill endangered species for wind power

Wildlife treasured in other countries; in Ontario, OK to kill for wind power
Wildlife treasured in other countries; in Ontario, OK to kill for wind power

The Wellington Times, September 25, 2015

End to the Green Energy Act can’t come soon enough

Social media lit up. Suddenly, if you were anywhere near Ostitional Beach in Costa Rica earlier this month, you had to get down to the shoreline to observe an amazing natural phenomenon. Hundreds of thousands of olive ridley turtles were crawling out of the ocean to lay their eggs in the sand. Soon, vacationers and daytrippers lined the beach. So many in fact, there was little space left for the turtles. Gleeful tourists waded into the surf to frollick among the landing party of large turtles. They snapped selfies and filled Facebook pages with images of the determined, purposeful animals. But with virtually all of the sandy beach occupied by gawkers and pests, many of the turtles turned back, retreating into the Pacific Ocean.

The incident has served to chasten Costa Rican conservation authorities about their stewardship of the vulnerable species. They are acting swiftly to improve their protection for the animal. Another wave of turtles is expected in early October. The Tempisque Conservation Area, which covers Ostitional Beach, plans to use security guards, police and the Coast Guard to secure the shoreline for the nesting turtles. It is unknown what long term effect, if any, the disruption of olive ridley turtles nesting behaviour will have on the species.

We are a bit less queasy about destroying the habitat of vulnerable turtles in Ontario. Despite warnings by its own expert that an industrial wind project would wreak havoc on a species considered at risk, Ontario’s Minstry of Natural Resources and Forestry issued the developer a permit to ‘harm, harass and kill’ the Blanding’s turtle.

Why is wildlife expendable?

The question we all must ask is: Why? Why does the Ontario government consider this vulnerable turtle to be expendable? Is it money? Can’t we afford to protect species at risk in this province? Costa Ricans earn about $10,000 per capita annually. In Canada, gross national income is about five times greater. Why is Costa Rica poised to act to protect its species at risk, while Ontario grants permits to kill them?

The town hall in Demorestville was expected to be full this morning as the Environmental Review Tribunal was scheduled to resume with Joe Crowley in the witness chair. On Tuesday the hearings were cancelled and rescheduled for the end of October.

Crowley is an at-risk specialist with the MNRF. He is the ministry’s turtle and snake expert. The Tribunal was nearing the end of a two-year-long appeal with the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN), a small but devoted group of conservationists arrayed against the province and a developer hoping to construct nine 50- storey-high industrial wind turbines and carve a road network into a rare alvar habitat on Crown land at Ostrander Point on Prince Edward County’s south shore.

This Tribunal had, after 40 days of hearings in 2013, revoked the developer’s permit because it was persuaded that the Blanding’s turtle would suffer serious and irreversible harm. A series of court court challenges has put the matter back on the Tribunal’s table.

In three days of hearings earlier this month, the Tribunal heard evidence regarding the developer’s proposal to erect gates on the service roads. This, they argued, would ensure only the company’s vehicles would use these roads. It would train its technicians to look for turtles and all would be fine. That was their pitch.

The hearing plodded through three days of evidence and testimony. Then came Joe Crowley’s bombshell. Not only did he dismiss the artificial habitat proposed by the developer as futile—the road system, in his expert opinion, would prove too attractive to the nesting Blanding’s turtle— he revealed that he had advised his masters at the ministry against issuing a permit to ‘harm, harass and kill’ the species to the developer in the first place.

Crowley’s revelation brought the hearing to a standstill. The Tribunal ordered Crowley to find and produce all correspondence and documents related to this recommendation.

Next month, perhaps, we will learn what Crowley found. We should learn who knew what and when.

PECFN’s lawyer Eric Gillespie will want to know who Crowley told. Was it written down? With whom did he correspond or discuss the matter? What did they do with the recommendation? Why was Crowley’s advice ignored? On whose authority? One can imagine the questions blossoming like buttercups on the alvar.

Attacking the Green Energy Act

While that drama plays out in Demorestville, elsewhere in the County and at Osgoode Hall Law School, a handful of folks are preparing an full-on assault of the Green Energy Act. The County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Energy (CCSAGE) intend to show that the GEA is an offensive piece of legislation designed specifically to enable renewable energy developers to override regulations erected to protect and safeguard our communities, environment and economy. See story here.

The GEA strips communities of their right to decide how many and where such projects will be permitted. It compels grid operators to take the intermittent power these projects produce, despite the risks and cost to their systems. It obscures the examination of the impact of these projects on heritage, the local economy and the environment behind closed doors. And then it restricts the sole public review of these massive and complex projects to two absurd questions: will the project cause serious harm to human health and will it cause serious and irreversible harm to plant, animal and habitat?

The World Trade Organization has already struck down illegal protectionist provisions in the GEA. Now a brave group is putting the rest of this foul legislation on trial. Bit by bit the Green Energy Act is unravelling. For the Blanding’s turtle, other species at risk, the residents of South Marysburgh and Amherst Island and many other communities in rural Ontario—the unwinding of this destructive and oppressive law cannot come soon enough.

rick@wellingtontimes.ca

Maine wind developer sets up conservation fund: strong message to Big Wind

Portland Press Herald, September 25, 2015

A $2.5 million fund for conservation projects across western, central and northern Maine has been set up as part of an agreement between the company building a wind farm in Bingham and a group that had sued to stop it.

SunEdison, a renewable energy development company, and Friends of Maine’s Mountains announced details of the deal in a statement Friday.

The first $1.5 million of the fund will go to projects being done by Maine conservation and environmental groups including the Trust for Public Land, Appalachian Mountain Club, Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, Forest Society of Maine, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Mahoosuc Land Trust.

Projects are spread across the state, from the western mountains through the Moosehead and Hundred Mile Wilderness regions to Katahdin. A second round of awards from the conservation fund will be disbursed in 2017.

The fund was created as part of the agreement reached by SunEdison and the Friends of Maine’s Mountains after the Bingham project got approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection last year. The Friends group later dropped its lawsuit to stop the project.

The agreement also stipulates that SunEdison will not use some sections of Maine for wind farms, that $250,000 will be dedicated to research for turbine bat deterrent technology and SunEdison will increase the decommissioning fund for the Bingham project by 50 percent.

In an telephone interview, Friends spokesman Chris O’Neil said the exclusion zone covers more than half of the state, including a 15-mile buffer on either side of the Appalachian Trail and around Baxter State Park.

“It sends a powerful message to any other wind developer that comes to Maine,” O’Neil said, adding that while this contractual agreement is only between the Friends and SunEdison, his organization is seeking to embed such restrictions in state law to preserve Maine’s scenic mountain vistas.

Construction of the $420 million 56-turbine Bingham wind farm started in July and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. The project is designed to generate 185 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the equivalent of 60,000 homes.

According to the statement, the Friends agreed to stop litigation against the wind farm in exchange for the provisions of the agreement.

“FMM is committed to preserving Maine’s unique natural resources, particularly its prized mountains,” Rand Stowell, founder and board chairman of Friends of Maine’s Mountains, said in the release. “Working with SunEdison on this agreement has allowed us to advance those efforts and fund important conservation projects in the state.”

The Friends group doesn’t benefit from the conservation fund, according to the statement.

“We have deep roots in Maine, many of us live here and we value the state as a special place that is worthy of protection,” Kurt Adams, SunEdison’s senior vice president and chief development officer, said in the release. “With the creation of the fund, we are excited to be able to work together with Friends of Maine’s Mountains and a number of Maine conservation and environmental organizations to preserve the state’s open spaces so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Wynne gov’t tough on nature says Save The Eagles International

ToughonNature

September 24, 2015

This Open Letter was sent to the Ontario government by Mark Duchamp, president of Save The Eagles International, and was published in today’s Financial Post.

On of our members, the Association to Protect Amherst Island, has advised us of the approval of a wind project that will cause a 25-year running massacre of protected wildlife.

Amherst Island, as you know, is an internationally important migration stopover fro Monarch butterflies and many threatened bird and bat species. It is also a famous wintering area for 11 species of owls, all of which are protected by law, and all of which are particularly in danger where wind turbines happen to be erected.

Words fail us to express our dismay at this abominable decision, which relies on an environmental impact study (EIS) authored by a consultant hired by the promoter. Experience shows that such studies are so biased as to be worthless. The Wolfe Island wind farm proves the point: its EIS (written by the same consultant Stantec Inc., did not predict the turbines would be killing so many birds and bats, including eagles, ospreys, and dozens of other protected species. They will keep doing it for another 20 years, in numbers at least ten times higher than the official figures, taking a high toll on the protected wildlife of Ontario, Quebec, the United States and Mexico, a toll which is all the more unsustainable when considered cumulatively with other wind farms.

Dead eagle: a crime
Dead eagle: a crime

Amherst and Wolfe Islands are only separated by 8 km of water. In the highly developed industrial and commercial development along the shores of Lake Ontario, they stand as largely preserved natural habitats. They are essential to the survival of increasingly endangered migrating species, which need staging posts along their way.

Wind turbines produce intermittent energy, which independent engineers denounce as useless for a modern economy, and immensely costly to boot. This makes the crime of destroying rare wildlife, ruining natural areas as well as the life of wind farm neighbours, a particularly odious one.

What is most remarkable about the approval of the Amherst Island wind scam, is the cynicism it reflects. The Ontario government obviously doesn’t mind about the slaughter of protected eagles, ospreys and other species that is occurring year after year on Wolfe Island: it is willing to repeat the same mistake on Amherst.

Let the record show that we have condemned the political decision to convert Amherst Island into a population sink for owls, ospreys, eagles and other rare birds, rapidly declining populations of bats, and Monarch butterflies.

 

Ostrander Point hearings postponed

ToughonNature

In a surprise and almost last minute move, the Environmental Review Tribunal announced this afternoon that the hearings scheduled for tomorrow and the rest of the week on the appeal of the Ostrander Point wind power project, have been postponed until the end of October.

The hearings were adjourned abruptly following testimony from Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry at-risk species expert Joe Crowley, that he had recommended a permit NOT be granted for the power project due to danger to the Blanding turtle, and other wildlife.

This statement comes from the appellant, the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists:

PECFN’s lawyer Eric Gillespie said that it is a big step forward in learning what the MNR experts thought about the development of this site.  He has been able to read some of Joe Crowley’s documents which show the degree to which the habitat of several Species at Risk was discussed.  There are many more documents to read.  He has also requested disclosure from Gilead Power.

“PECFN is disappointed at yet another adjournment”, said Myrna Wood, President, “in our ongoing fight to protect the PEC South Shore. However, we feel that we are beginning to get to the bottom of why and how this important natural site was threatened with destruction. We welcome full disclosure no matter how long it takes.

For more information or to help with legal fees, please visit www.saveostranderpoint.org

 

Ostrander Point appeal resumes tomorrow

ToughonNature

The appeal of the Ostrander Point wind power project approval resumes tomorrow in Demorestville at 10 a.m. The hearings halted abruptly several weeks ago, when at-risk species expert Joe Crowley testified that it was his opinion a permit not be granted for the project due to the danger to the Blandings turtle.

When the Environmental Review Tribunal resumes tomorrow, it will be expecting a response to its direction to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to produce documentation on the permit process and Mr Crowley’s recommendation. The Ministry has already telegraphed to the media that its process is “nuanced” and approvals are not based on the opinion of just one staff member.

The appeal will be heard September 23-25 in Demorestville at the community hall. The appellant is the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists who are in need of funding to cover legal costs for this multi-year fight. For more information go to www.saveostranderpoint.org

For more information on efforts to protect the entire area of Prince Edward County, go to Point2Point Foundation here.

 

Report: corporate interests rule at the Environmental Protection Agency

Big Green rules at the EPA in the U.S.; in Ontario, endangered species sacrificed to wind power development
Big Green rules at the EPA in the U.S.; in Ontario, endangered species sacrificed to wind power development

This report is fascinating; it confirms that ideology and profit–not science–may be driving energy  and environment policy. In Ontario, we have the resumption of the Ostrander Point appeal tomorrow where a wildlife expert’s recommendation to NOT build a wind power plant because of the danger to wildlife was over-ruled by the government actively pursuing an environmental ideology.

Forbes.com September 18, 2015

The Energy & Environmental Legal Institute is a D.C.-based advocacy group dedicated to “free market environmentalism through strategic litigation.”

Recently, E&E has been examining environmental policy by searching public records and filing FOIA requests with state and federal agencies, and then tenaciously litigating over the resulting efforts at obfuscation. The strategy requires patience, given government’s endless capacity for stalling and mendacity, but it is producing results, and E&E has issued a series of reports (listed at the end of this post).

The tale told is appalling. The demarcation between the EPA and the major environmental groups is blurred to the point of non-existence. The revolving door spins like a top, and the meetings, memoranda, and plotting are continuous, with NGO staff acting as de facto agency staff, and vice versa.

Read more