Designed to fail: biologist criticizes wind farm environmental assessments
An independent wildlife researcher with a degree in wildlife biology and 50 years experience tracking raptors, has written a critique of the wildlife assessment done by consulting firm Stantec, for a New York wind power project in St. Lawrence County.
Stantec has also been the consultant of record for environmental assessments done by many wind power developers hoping for approval of projects in Ontario.
While it is unfortunate that the researcher felt he/she had to choose not to attach his/her name to the document, the comments in it are interesting, and may point to an approval process that is geared toward success for the power developers.
Speaking generally on the surveys of raptors (hawks, eagles) to be used by Stantec for the wind power project, the author of the paper said, “they [defy] logic and are not based upon sound scientific research. These Stantec surveys are supposed to identify bird, bat and raptor usage in and around the North Ridge Wind Energy project, yet these surveys are designed to miss much of this species usage by breeding and migratory species. Stantec gives no reasoning for choosing the flawed and inadequate methodology planned for these studies.”
The author accuses Stantec of choosing to do a survey only of spring migration for the birds while birds are actually at greater risk in the fall because they are moving more slowly (there is not the push to build a nest and raise this year’s offspring), and because there are young birds making the trip for the first time. “It defies all logic,” the writer says.
As to surveys of breeding birds, Stantec’s timing is several months too late, and is very limited — a “keyhole” approach, the writer says. “This keyhole approach will miss most of the opportunities to observe nesting activities because nesting activities for some species start in January. For adult geese, this activity begins in late winter as soon as waters open up. This keyhole approach will also miss or eliminate all the vital migratory bird species data and site usage in the fall.”
Bats and the mounting kills seen at turbine sites are a concern but Stantec again designed its work for this power project to find no risk, the author says. “After all this lengthy Stantec discussion and distorted reasoning, this planned bat survey was designed to miss what is probably the most utilized and most important bat habitat located in the project site. Bats are attracted to wetlands and bodies of water because of the abundance of insects. Look at the image below and note the two reds circles. ”
The author provides a map that shows where the bat habitat is, and the study area done by Stantec.
The company’s post-operational survey work is deeply flawed too, the author says, and refers to work done at Wolfe Island, which is now known as a wind power project with one of the highest kill rates for birds in North America. But could the numbers be higher still?
The author of this paper says Stantec’s insistence on checking for carcasses very near to the turbines is giving false numbers: “The Wolfe Island studies conducted by Stantec reported hundreds of carcasses with just several reported beyond 50 meters. I believe the furthest carcasses distance reported was 59 meters. For 400 ft tall turbines this is not reality and it is simply not possible. What is possible is that 50-80% of the carcasses were not reported and this was never disclosed. The wind industry’s own data proves that any carcass hit by a turbine blade has a much better than 50/50 odds or 1 of 2 chance of this carcass landing at a distance beyond a turbines blade length.
Community groups who know their environment well have insisted that the wildlife studies being done are not realistic. On Amherst Island, for example, where more than 30 endangered or at-risk species shelter and where many thousands of migratory birds stop, the risk was determined to be negligible. In the Niagara area, the presence of a known Blandings Turtle habitat was dismissed, and the power project approved.
Once again, it appears that Ontario and the wind power industry — both well funded — are counting on citizens not to have the expertise or the resources to present the truth about wind power projects, and danger to the natural environment.
Read the paper here.