Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.
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.
(L-R) Lawyers Andrew Lokan and Chris Paliare, representing the South Shore Conservancy, and Graham Andrews and Eric Gillespie, representing the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, work together to argue the Ostrander Point project would have devastating effects on the Blanding’s turtle.
Ministry expert warned that Ostrander Point wind project posed a high risk to Blanding’s turtles before it issued permit to developer to “harm, harass and kill” the endangered species
It was three days into eye-wateringly dull expert testimony, technical language and lawyer-speak. Three days in a hot, humid room with three ineffectual fans lazily turning above a wilting crowd, with barristers in their shirtsleeves as jackets hung over chairs. Then, without warning, the room was seized by high drama. Suddenly, the very credibility of Ontario’s Renewable Energy Approvals process was thrust into the spotlight.
Last Wednesday morning, as far as the eye could see, Demorestville was lined with parked cars. The town hall of the tiny hamlet was hosting the second Environmental Review Tribunal for the proposed wind turbine project at Ostrander Point.
Although the original Tribunal ruled against the turbines, Gilead Power Corporation and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) had appealed the ruling, arguing that the Tribunal did not have the chance to see their updated plan, one that would mitigate damage to the endangered Blanding’s turtle, which makes its home at the point.
More than 100 people crammed into the hall to hear the Tribunal, scheduled over three days and set to end on Friday.
Each day brought new expert testimony. On day one, Dr. Fred Beaudry, an expert on Blanding’s turtles, testified that he did not believe Gilead’s mitigation plan of building artificial turtle habitat would be effective. On day two, researcher Kari Gunson, an expert on road migration, cast a doubt on the company’s plan to prevent damage to turtles by gating the project site.
On day three, the MOECC introduced their witness, but the heat, the flies, tedious expert testimony and other commitments caused folks to slowly drift away, leaving a half-empty gallery, some jotting notes, others knitting or shuffling papers to pass the time.
Joe Crowley is a researcher for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). He began the day with his testimony, discussing Gilead’s mitigation plan of building a gate around the site. It wasn’t until the afternoon, near the end of the day, when the Tribunal had aimed to wrap up that Eric Gillespie’s examination suddenly erupted with a dramatic turn of events.
Gillespie questioned Crowley on his involvement in the project earlier, when the MNRF was deciding whether to grant a permit to “kill, harm and harass” endangered species. Crowley, a herpetologist with both a personal and professional interest in turtles, seemed, according to Gillespie, an unlikely candidate to recommend such a permit if he thought serious harm would come to the Blanding’s turtle. Something didn’t fit.
Gillespie questioned Crowley’s report on artificial nesting habitats studied for the project, which saw a total of four turtles over two years use the site. Gillespie referred to Dr. Beaudry’s testimony, that Blanding’s turtles are not predictable in their nesting habitat, and it would be hard to entice them to artificial sites.
“Two turtles is not strong evidence. If that was strong evidence in science, we would save a lot of time with some of these human health hearings that we have to go through,” said Gillespie.
“Two turtles in one year using a mound, I’m going to suggest to you, very clearly is not strong scientific evidence,” said the PECFN lawyer.
When Gillespie confronted him on the fault in his logic, Crowley paused a long time before responding.
“I never stated that the Fournyea study shows that Blanding’s turtles will use artificially created habitat, I was speaking to all freshwater turtle populations,” Crowley answered carefully. “It was a general statement.”
Crowley went further. He said he didn’t think the artificial nesting sites would attract the endangered turtles, just that they would use the sites if they found them.
Gillespie asked if that meant that the roads being created by the project would be attractive to the turtles, increasing the risk to the endangered species. Crowley said it did. Then Gillespie asked if Crowley had recommended the project be allowed to go ahead. Crowley said he hadn’t.
That was the showstopper.
“I expressed significant concerns with the fact the roads, because they were open to the public, would have a relatively high risk of road mortality for Blanding’s turtle, comparatively to the current risk now,” Crowley admitted. “So I did express concerns about the potential level of mortality on the road.”
There was a noticeable stirring as the revelation come out. Suddenly everyone was sitting straighter and leaning in to listen.
Where was the documentation, Gillespie wanted to know.
When Gillespie asked where his recommendation was, Crowley answered that it had been given orally in a meeting or via email at the MNRF. It was not available. Gillespie turned to the Tribunal adjudicators, Heather Gibbs and Robert Wright, insisting that documentation referring to Crowley’s recommendation be made available.
MOECC lawyer Sylvia Davis protested, arguing Gillespie was on a fishing trip, that his request was unreasonable. She argued that the information Gillespie was seeking was based on the original project, not the subject of the current phase of the Tribunal hearing and was, in any case, in the past.
Gillespie responded by saying the revelation from Crowley called the whole process into question.
“You’ve just been told that you conducted a 40- day and 40-night hearing, and it went through all of that exercise two and a half years ago, and this matter went to the divisional court, it went to the court of appeal, and the Ministry of the Environment concealed the fact that one of their key reviewers was recommending against this project,” Gillespie told the Tribunal adjudicators. “The parties didn’t know that, and the Tribunal didn’t know that.”
The adjudicators agreed with Gillespie, ordering the MNRF to produce any written or typed documents, including emails, connected to the project and to the turtles. The Tribunal was put on hiatus, and will resume on September 23.
A few kilometres west of the eastern Ontario village of Consecon in Prince Edward County, on a narrow but busy stretch of road known as the Loyalist Parkway, there is a yellow road sign. It warns of turtles crossing the main automobile route to the popular Sandbanks Provincial Park — the Blanding’s turtle, to be precise.
The medium-sized turtle, with bright yellow throat and chin and domed shell, is classified as a threatened species in Ontario. It also has another distinction. So far, it is the only species, including humans, to derail at least temporarily a proposed wind energy project in the province.
There have been nearly 30 hearings before the Environmental Review Tribunal, seeking to stop so-called wind farms, since the enactment of the Green Energy Act in Ontario in 2009. Each time, local residents, usually in rural areas, have been unsuccessful in meeting the legal test to revoke or change the terms of a permit issued by the province for a wind energy project.
The one exception is the Ostrander Point plan to construct nine wind turbines in an area on the south shore of the county. The Ontario Court of Appeal earlier this year overturned a Divisional Court decision that would have approved the project. The appeal court sent the matter back to the tribunal for a second hearing because of concerns about threats to the safety of the Blanding’s turtle.
The case has also highlighted a statutory framework in Ontario that makes it difficult to stop a wind-energy project because of health and other concerns by local residents yet is arguably easier to block if certain species of wildlife are threatened.
Eric Gillespie, a Toronto lawyer who is representing the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists in the Ostrander hearing and has acted for many residents’ groups in other wind cases, says the circumstances are somewhat unique in Ontario.
Wind developments in other provinces have generally been constructed in areas without any nearby communities. In Ontario, most of the projects so far have been along the “highway 401 corridor,” says Gillespie, near a number of small municipalities. “When you mix wind projects with people, you get litigation,” he explains.
Many of the court cases have involved residents’ groups in rural communities. They have argued about the potential health hazards as a result of the sounds from wind turbines and other issues, including decreased property values. As well, there are concerns about what will happen to the large structures when they must be decommissioned in the next 20 or 25 years.
The provincial Environment Protection Act states that once a renewable energy approval has been granted by the government, the ERT’s jurisdiction is limited to deciding if the project will cause “serious harm to human health” or “serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.” The onus is also on the party challenging the project to present the evidence that shows the harm will occur.
Gillespie says that, in terms of the requirements to gather the evidence, the renewable energy provisions are similar to other environment-related statutes. “What is different is that the Ontario government has created legal tests that are almost impossible to meet. The test requires you to show that there will be harm, unlike almost any other area of environmental harm,” he says.
For opponents of wind projects, the legal test is more difficult than that of pipelines, says Stephen Hazell, general counsel for Nature Canada, which was an intervener in the Ostrander case at the Court of Appeal.
Section 52 of the National Energy Board Act requires consideration of whether a pipeline project is desirable in the public interest. “It is a totally different standard,” says Hazell of the Ontario renewable energy test. “It is the toughest standard I have ever seen.”
It is not that Nature Canada is opposed to wind developments, says Hazell. It is the process in place if there are objections that is the problem. “We need more wind projects. But it depends on where they are located,” he says.
The opposition to the Ostrander Point project is because “it is right on an important wetland” and could impact wildlife beyond that of the Blanding’s turtle, says Hazell.
Albert Engel, a partner at Fogler Rubinoff LLP in Toronto, who has represented a number of developers in the renewable-energy sector, agrees it is a “high test” for opponents of the projects. “It is a test that the legislature has decided is appropriate,” says Engel. At the same time, he explains there is a rigorous process to receive approval from the province and there are other provisions, such as setbacks of 550 metres from any dwelling that is not part of a wind project.
There is also an automatic right of appeal to the ERT, which a resident can file once a wind project permit has been granted, Engel explains. As well, “costs have never been awarded” against an unsuccessful party before the tribunal, he adds. For opponents, the process is relatively inexpensive to take a case to the tribunal, suggests Engel.
Opposition to wind projects has been loudest in rural communities in Ontario and is potentially a political issue for the provincial Liberal government. It is also facing an ongoing $500-million legal action related to a moratorium it put in place in 2011 on offshore wind developments.
In terms of the framework in place for challenges to approval of onshore projects, though, that is unlikely to be changed. “There are no plans to amend the EPA to expand the scope of issues that can be raised,” says Lindsay Davidson, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
Last fall, a study released by Health Canada concluded the noise from wind turbines could be an “annoyance”* to nearby residents but stated there was not sufficient evidence to link it to other conditions such as stress, nausea, or fatigue. The health implications “are a matter of great debate,” says Gillespie, although he agrees these arguments have not been successful in tribunal cases. Still, he questions whether wind projects are a good economic choice. “There are transmission and storage issues. Green energy is probably the most heavily subsidized in the world,” says Gillespie.
The industry organization for the wind sector in Canada agrees that it probably could have done a better job in responding to the criticisms in recent years. “That has been a lesson learned for the industry,” says Brandy Giannetta, Ontario director of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
A new procurement process put in place by the province that requires community consultations when applying for an energy contract will help address concerns about public involvement, says Giannetta. The process should lead to contracts awarded later this year at prices about half of the ones already in place. The new process requires at least one community meeting when applying for an energy contract. It also includes the “Aboriginal Price Adder,” which can permit a developer to increase prices by about 10 per cent if there is a First Nations stake in the project.
The changes may potentially reduce the amount of litigation over wind projects, initiated by residents’ groups, says Engel. “The hope is that the process will result in the awarding of contracts in locations where the developments are welcomed,” he says.
However, these changes are unlikely to impact disputes over potential threats to wildlife, even when the developers have taken steps to try to mitigate the impact of a wind project.
In the Ostrander case, the company obtained an Endangered Species Act permit from the Ministry of Natural Resources. It permitted some harm to the turtles subject to certain conditions, which included setting aside a large area of land outside the project for a natural habitat. The permit also requires an “overall benefit” to the species so it is better off in the province than before the project started.
In the first tribunal hearing, the panel focused only on the impact to the turtle on the project site and the surrounding landscape in deciding there was serious and irreversible harm.
The legislative framework involving wind energy projects “does not sit well with the Endangered Species Act,” says Douglas Hamilton, who is representing Ostrander Point GP Inc. Obtaining a permit under the ESA “may potentially hurt you in front of the tribunal,” says Hamilton, a partner at McCarthy Tetrault LLP in Toronto.
In its ruling that sent the matter back to the tribunal, the Court of Appeal upheld the original decision that the project will cause serious and irreversible harm to the turtles. But it also permitted Ostrander to present fresh evidence at the new hearing and for the panel to address the issue of remedy. Hamilton says Ostrander is asking for the project to be approved, with conditions.
The tribunal’s ultimate decision could result in protections to the Blanding turtle far beyond that of a road sign on a heavily travelled route in one of Ontario’s popular vacation destinations.
*Editor’s Note: “annoyance” is a medical term denoting distress, and is itself an adverse health effect.
One of ten species of owl that may be found on Amherst Island, in world-famous Owl Woods.
Harming the environment to “save it” is the Ontario government’s apparent credo
NEWS RELEASE August 27, 2015
Ontario green energy program to damage Amherst Island environment
STELLA, ON, Aug. 27, 2015 /CNW/ – The Ontario government claims to be a leader in environmental action but this week’s approval of a huge wind power project on Amherst Island will harm, not help the environment, say community leaders.
“Approval of this power project indicates the hypocrisy of the government’s wind power program,” says Michele Le Lay, spokesperson for Association to Protect Amherst Island. “Constructing and operating wind turbines here will do great harm to the natural environment.”
The island, a short ferry ride from Millhaven, is home to endangered species of wildlife and a known resting place for migrating birds each spring and fall. Heritage Canada’s National Trust named it one of Canada’s Top Ten Endangered Places in 2014 due to the threat of the power project.
The government placed 27 conditions on the power project’s approval, including a requirement that the power developer report on damage to the environment.
“There are places where wind turbines just shouldn’t go,” says Le Lay. “This is one of them.”
SOURCE Wind Concerns Ontario
Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson said the Amherst Island power project is “at the core of what we’ve been saying about the Ontario Liberal government’s wind power program—everyone wants to do what’s best for the environment, but invasive, destructive wind power projects, which actually produce power on an intermittent basis out of phase with demand, is not the way to help the environment.
“Amherst Island is an emblem of the government’s failed green energy program: it will harm the natural environment, it will cause distress to people in the community, and it will add to Ontario’s economic woes.”
For more information on Amherst Island, go to the Association to Protect Amherst Island website here.
With school children arrayed at his feet, Ontario’s environment minister, Glenn Murray, announced last week his government was giving $1 million to an organization dedicated to educating children aged five to 11, about how to help protect animals and their habitats.
His advice to the children assembled at the ROM for the press event was predictable, if somewhat ham-handed: Go home and tell your parents and grandparents to use less carbon.
Murray isn’t the first to employ children to market his wares. Cereal makers, burger sellers and dictators have all used children to influence decision-makers. The Ontario government isn’t above using an effective marketing technique to sell its message, even when the moral and ethical turf is a bit squishy.
Earth Rangers formed in 2001. The funding from the province will help the organization expand its school assembly program and develop a new Grade 6 class visit program.
For Murray, this is an investment in the minds of young and impressionable children— a recruiting drive for foot soldiers in his campaign to restore his government’s credibility on environmental matters.
“The most thoughtful discussions that move people to change are discussions between children and their parents, and children and each other,” noted Murray to the children before him.
Eventually, however, Murray will be challenged to square his government’s words with its actions. Rather than educate children about nature, he risks teaching them about the nature of government.
Earth Rangers is indeed a well-respected education and conservancy organization— very much in tune with the sensitivity of the animals and plants around us, particularly those species that are struggling to survive.
Among these is the Blanding’s turtle. Last year, Earth Rangers launched a project and mission to enhance awareness of the plight of this endangered turtle species. Its Protect the Blanding’s Turtle program brought schoolchildren from across the province to the Toronto Zoo to incubate dozens of Blanding’s turtle eggs.
“Together we will watch as our turtles grow in our nursery and, as Earth Rangers, we are working together to respect wetlands and honour the ancient creatures that live there,” writes researcher Bob Johnson on the Blanding’s turtle page of the Earth Rangers website.
Later the project released 21 turtles into the creeks and marsh in the Rouge Valley.
For those who have invested time, money and heartache in protecting the Blanding’s turtle in Prince Edward County, the irony is particularly cruel.
From one desk the Ministry of Environment is paving the way for the destruction of the Blanding’s turtle. From another it is funding education programs urging our children to protect it.
Since the advent of the Green Energy Act, the province has methodically removed protections and regulatory hurdles that safeguard the environment and species at risk like the Blanding’s turtle. They have lowered, and in some cases eliminated, regulatory protections in order to streamline the path enabling wind and solar developers to transform pastoral lands into vast industrial tracts of electricity production. Almost all of which is sold at discount prices to Michigan and New York.
In Prince Edward County, the province granted a developer a permit to “harm, harass and kill” the Blanding’s turtle. Let us ponder this a moment: A provincial permit granting a developer the right to kill an endangered species. Let that sink in.
Of course, the developer has promised it will take steps to minimize the destruction of turtles and its habitat ,and that its actions will result in a benefit to the species. But a provincially appointed review panel didn’t believe it. The found the developer’s plans to protect the species simply weren’t credible. After 40 days of hearings, the review panel concluded the project would cause “serious and irreversible harm” to the endangered species.
How did the Ministry of Environment respond? It fought back with all its legal might, striving to reverse the decision and repudiate its environmental guardians.
So twisted has this ministry become, it is seeking to simultaneously save and destroy the Blanding’s turtle.
Meanwhile, the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists have waged an expensive, multi-year battle to prevent the destruction of the turtle’s vulnerable habitat at Ostrander Point. Their efforts and successes have been funded by donations and from their own pockets. No big Ontario cheques have come their way.
With fresh new funding, Earth Rangers will fan out to schools across Ontario this fall urging children to protect the Blanding’s turtle, the bobolink and other endangered species. Meanwhile, PECFN will be back in a courtroom trying to stop the same government and its agents from bulldozing the turtle’s dwindling habitat.
Listen up children, there is a lesson in this.
The best way to protect Blanding’s turtle is to give generously to the Save Ostrander Point project at saveostranderpoint.org.
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.
A 27-turbine wind power project proposed for internationally recognized Amherst Island, an Important Bird Area near Kingston Ontario, may be approved soon by the Ontario government.
The many Species at Risk on Amherst Island include birds (Short-eared Owl, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Whip-poo-rwill, Barn Swallow, Golden Eagle, Least Bittern, and Red Knot), Blanding’s Turtles, and Milk and Ribbon Snakes.
Amherst Island has an international reputation as one of the most outstanding places in North America to see concentrations of northern owls and is an important stopover for bats on their migratory path across Lake Ontario. Bats are becoming endangered in many places and in April 2015, Canada, the United States and Mexico signed an agreement to protect the pathways of migratory bats.
A wind turbine installation on this small island, as learned from the nearby Wolfe Island installation, would result in loss of habitat for Short-eared Owl and serious and irreversible harm to local populations of Bobolinks, Barn Swallows and Eastern Meadowlarks, and to breeding population of Red-tailed Hawk, breeding and roosting Purple Martins, and Osprey. Additionally significant breeding population of Blanding’s Turtle, Wilson’s Phalarope and Whip-poor-wills are also at risk. No one is considering the cumulative impact of this project and the many others that are operational or proposed for this important migration route on the vulnerable populations of birds and other wildlife.
More information about the Project and the Island can be found at: www.protectamherstisland.ca
This might the last opportunity to convince the Province to make the right decision and put an end to this project before it enters the expensive and draining cycle of legal challenges. It is time that Ontario’s green energy policy is balanced with its international obligations to protect biodiversity and that decision makers demonstrate genuine respect for the wishes of the overwhelming majority of community members. Please send letters to those listed below, asking that the wind-turbine project for Amherst Island be stopped completely – and permanently:
CC Association to Protect Amherst Island firstname.lastname@example.org
Kingston Field Naturalists and Nature Canada
WCO note: we suggest also sending a note to your local field naturalists’ organization to alert them to this situation, if they are not already aware, and to any nature/wildlife/birding columnists in your local newspaper
Jenna Iacurci, Nature World News, November 19, 2014
It’s come to the public’s attention that a wind farm company operating in the United States filed a lawsuit last month in an attempt to hide the number of bird deaths that occurred from their energy-saving turbines.
Pacificorp of Portland, Oregon, is seeking an injunction in US District Court in Utah to prevent the Interior Department from releasing this confidential information, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Wind farms contain clusters of turbines that can reach 30 stories tall and spin up to 170 mph. With spinning rotors creating tornado-like vortexes, it’s no wonder that migratory birds, including protected species like the bald eagle, get caught in their line of fire.
Last year, a study surfaced revealing that 573,000 birds and 888,000 bats were being killed each year by wind turbines, more than 30 percent higher than federal government estimates.
This latest lawsuit suggests that that may be in part due to companies like Pacificorp trying to keep their real wind farm birds deaths under wraps.
When the government informed Pacificorp and other similar companies last month of their intent to release this information, Pacificorp then retaliated with a lawsuit filed on Oct. 17. It argued that keeping the number of bird deaths secret was actually in the public’s best interest because it will promote “open communication,” the AP reports, between it and the government.
However, the government deemed this excuse as “insufficiently convincing.”
It’s been reported that at least 20 eagle carcasses have been found on Pacificcorp wind farms in Wyoming in recent years – and that’s just on one farm. Dozens more deaths have occurred in California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Nevada as well.
The dangers of wind turbines to birds – as well as bats, which confuse them for trees – is not a new issue. Back in May the American Bird Conservatory announced its intent to file a lawsuit when the federal government granted wind farm companies 30-year permits to kill eagles without legal repercussions.
EAGLES, falcons and other raptors make up to a third of the estimated 1500 birds killed each year at Australia’s biggest wind farm.
Graham Lloyd, Environment Editor, The Australian, September 22, 2014
The finding of an independent report for Macarthur Wind Farm operator AGL follows 12 monthly searches of 48 turbines at the 140-turbine operation in Victoria that found 576 bird carcasses.
After adjusting for birds eaten by scavengers between searches and the total 140 turbines, Australian Ecological Research Services estimated each turbine killed about 10 birds a year.
The analysis said this would include 500 raptors a year.
AGL has confirmed that 64 bird fatalities were found during the official searches and an additional 10 carcasses were found near turbines by maintenance personnel, landowners or ecologists when not undertaking scheduled carcass searches.
The total included eight brown falcons, seven nankeen kestrels, six wedge-tailed eagles, one black falcon, two black-shouldered kites and one spotted harrier.
But an AGL spokesman said the report had “shown no significant impact on threatened species”. The company said overall estimates of bird and bat mortality “are subject to several sources of bias which may result in inaccurate estimates”.
The report recommended more frequent searches of a smaller number of turbines to get a more accurate assessment.
Australian Ecological Research Services said there were several reasons for the high percentage of raptors killed. They were at higher risk of collision with turbine blades possibly due to a combination of factors such as the altitude they mostly fly at, the proportion of time spent flying and flying behaviour.
“Raptors tend to glide slowly and are constantly looking downward for potential prey, rather than flying in a single direction and looking where they are heading,” the report said. “This may increase their risk of flying through the rotor-swept area of turbines.
“Other studies have also suggested that raptors are more likely to collide with turbine blades than many other avian species due to their morphology and foraging behaviour.”
Anti-windfarm campaigner Hamish Cumming said: “If someone shot this many birds they’d be fined and jailed and there would be public outrage.
“But, somehow, we’re expected to just accept it if they are killed by a wind farm.
“And before anyone rolls out the tired old mantra of ‘statistics show more birds get killed flying into suburban windows’, just tell me when was the last time a wedge-tailed eagle flew into your lounge room window?”
Farmers Forum surveyed a big chunk of Wolfe Island residents and found that 75 per cent approve of or are indifferent toward the 86 wind turbines they’ve been living with for five years.
There are only two wind turbine projects in Eastern Ontario–one in Wolfe Island and one near Brinston, south of Ottawa. But Wolfe Island, surrounded by the St. Lawrence River at one end and Lake Ontario at the other, is a captive crowd. We easily surveyed 200 of the 1,400 residents lining up for the Kingston ferry or working in the hamlet of Marysville.
With such a high proportion of residents surveyed–one in seven–we captured a fairly good picture of how people feel about those gigantic white gosal posts with their three imposing blades. Of course, having a visual of a turbine makes a huge difference. On many properties on the 29-kilometer long island, you can’t even see the turbines.* From other vantage points, you can see more than 10.
We found that money makes a difference. Those landowners (many of them farmers) hosting one or more turbines, are delighted with the $10,000 to $14,000 they earn each year per turbine just to look at them. The wind turbine company hands over another $100,000 to the island annually. Improvements to the local outdoor rink are one of the many benefits. It’s like getting paid twice for having the good luck of living at the right place on the right island at the right time.
Not surprisingly, wind power companies in other areas of the province are now offering “hush” money to Ontarians living near a proposed wind turbine project. As I’ve said before, if a company wants to pay me $14,000 a year to put a wind turbine on my property, I’d move the garage in order to accommodate them. Change their mind and offer the turbine to my neighbour and suddenly that turbine doesn’t look so good. It’s kind of an eyesore and doesn’t it affect bird migration? Could this be the health issues that we hear about or am I just sick at the thought that I just lost $280,000 of free money over 20 years? I think I know the answer. But when you offer to cut me in on the monetary benefits of my neighbour’s turbine, I’m suddenly all sunshine and happy thoughts.
This is not to say there aren’t honest-to-goodness health risks. Farmers Forum has no reason to disbelieve those survey respondents who complain of low-level noise when the wind changes direction.
We’re losing $24,000 an hour on wind
This brings me to my only real beef against wind power. As happy as I thought I would be to have a turbine, I don’t want one.
They are the biggest money losers in the history of the province. Not for Wolfe Islanders or anyone else who gets a wind turbine contract. But for everyone else forced to pay an electricity bill. Electricity costs have already risen 12.5 per cent each year for the past five years. There are more than 1,000 operating wind turbines and another more than 4,000 to go up in the province. Ontario’s auditor general says we can expect another 40 per cent price hike over the next few years in our electricity bills. By 2018, every Ontario family will be paying an extra $636 per year to go green. And why? So the province can claim to be the first green province or state in North America? Big deal.
Wind turbines are incredibly inefficient. In a major report last year, the Fraser Institute noted that 80 per cent of the power generated by wind turbines occur when Ontario doesn’t need the power. So, while the province pays 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour, it often resells is for 2.5 cents south of the border. The report, Environmental and Economic Consequences of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, observed that data from the Independent Electricity System Operator show Ontario loses, on average, $24,000 per operating hour on wind power sales. Numerous companies, including Kelloggs and Heinz, have closed plants because Ontario companies pay more for power than any other jurisdiction in North America.
To make matters worse, a wind turbine can contain more than 200 tonnes of steel and Chinese factories need the mining of even more tonnes of coal and iron to make them. Writes David Hughes in his book Carbon Shift, “A windmill could spin until it falls apart and never generate as much energy as was invested in building it.”
So, you can’t even call wind turbines green energy. It’s appalling that farmers have been lied to about the benefits. We’re wasting billions on a phoney cause.
Patrick Meagher is editor of Farmers Forum and can be reached at email@example.com
WCO editor’s note: Although Farmers Forum was clear on the limitations of their survey they missed several key points: one, by surveying only people at the ferry dock and in a coffee shop, they may have missed people who stay on the island all day, but more important, as the Island has turbines on one half and none on the other, it would have been absolutely critical to define where the survey respondents actually live. They didn’t. Another key factor in any survey of community residents living with turbines is the fact that many turbine contracts force landowners to sign a non-disclosure agreement—in other words, if they have anything negative to say about the turbines, they can’t talk.